Challenged for the first time under Major League Baseball’s expanded replay system, umpires got it right.
The umps went 3 for 3 on Monday as MLB tried out the new format at three spring training games.
The first test came at 3:06 p.m. EST in Fort Myers, Fla., after first base umpire Fieldin Culbreth ruled Toronto shortstop Munenori Kawasaki’s throw pulled Jared Goedert off the bag in the sixth inning.
“I’m not too sure that you’re not right here,” Culbreth said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told him, “but since we haven’t done it before, let’s go take a look.”
Culbreth answered: “OK. That’s what it’s for.”
After 2 minutes, 34 seconds, replay umpire Brian O’Nora relayed his call by headset, confirming that Minnesota batter Chris Rahl was safe. During the wait, Rahl said he realized he perhaps was part of history.
“It’s kind of funny. I was thinking, `Is this the first one?”‘ he said.
O’Nora made the final ruling from a satellite truck outside the stadium. During the regular season, umpires on the field will check with the replay booth in New York, where an MLB umpire will make the final call.
Later in the game, Culbreth rotated and took a turn in the truck, confirming another safe call at first base.
“I’m looking at this thing as, this is the future of the game. And I’m going to treat these games here the same way that I’m going to treat them during the regular season,” Culbreth said.
In the eighth inning, Doug Bernier of the Twins was called safe on a close play at first. As Culbreth studied the replay, the ballpark sound system played a Rolling Stones song with the familiar lyric, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
The call was confirmed, Bernier was safe.
Extra replay also was in place for two games in Arizona — the Los Angeles Angels vs. Arizona Diamondbacks in Scottsdale and the Chicago Cubs against Milwaukee in Phoenix.
Each team in the majors will have at least five exhibition games with the new system in place.
In January, owners approved the use of additional video replay to review most calls other than balls-and-strikes. Previously, umpires could only go to replay to review home runs and boundary calls.
Moments after the first replay call, Angels manager Mike Scioscia wasted little time in using his challenge.
In the top of the second, Luis Jimenez of the Angels tried to steal second. Catcher Bobby Wilson’s throw was high but second base umpire Bill Miller ruled that Aaron Hill tagged the runner out.
Scioscia bounded out of the dugout and charged toward Miller to argue, just like managers always have done.
Instead, though, he chose to use his challenge. After two of the umpires made a quick visit to the Angels dugout to communicate with the replay umpire, the call was upheld.
“We weren’t trying to make a mockery out of it,” Scioscia said of using the challenge so soon. “We thought it was a pretty close play.”
There was only one angle available with the limited camera work of a spring training telecast.
“If we have 15 angles of that,” Scioscia said, “there’s a possibility it gets reversed.”
That review took 2:31.
Since he lost the challenge, Scioscia had no more.
“I don’t think it’s going to take much time in the logistics. That will smooth out,” he said. “As far as the strategy of it, that’s going to take a lot. It might be something you win, but you know you need that challenge to save the big play somewhere.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Arizona’s Kirk Gibson did not use their challenge. Neither did Cubs manager Rick Renteria nor the Brewers’ Ron Roenicke.
Gibson said he thought about contesting a close play when Paul Goldschmidt nearly beat out a grounder but said he decided it was 50-50 and not worth it.
“I think it’s going to be a lot more complicated than we thought,” Gibson said. “We had a lot of conversation during the game.”
For the Angels-Diamondbacks game, the replay trailer was set up in the parking lot behind center field. Teams are allowed to have a person to watch the game on television and advise the managers via phone whether it would be worth it for the call to be challenged.
The Angels communicated via walkie talkie Monday but there will be a dedicated phone line for each team in the major league parks.
Under the new rules, each manager has one challenge. If the first challenge is successful, the manager gets a second. From the seventh inning on, if the manager is out of challenges, the umpire can decide to have the play reviewed.
Some critics of expanded replay worried that challenges would delay the game too much. Culbreth said he didn’t think that would be a problem, and pointed at the benefits.
“It will work itself out. I think time really isn’t going to be an issue in the end,” he said. “And if it is, it’s about getting the play right in the end, anyhow.”