Expanded replay debuts today

Today’s Brewers-Cubs game is to be televised via FS Wisconsin, broadcast via the Brewers Radio Network and available online via MLB.tv and MLB.com’s Gameday Audio — and it will be especially worth a follow. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke revealed that today’s game is the first of three for the Brewers this spring that will feature baseball’s new system of expanded replay.

According to what my colleague Paul Hagen wrote in January, when the rule changes were approved:

Beginning this season, each manager will start a game with one challenge. If it is upheld, he retains his challenge but can never have more than two in a game. If the manager exhausts his challenges before the start of the seventh inning, he is out of luck, adding a new element of strategy to the game. Beginning in the top of the seventh, the crew chief is empowered to institute a review. …

Approximately 90 percent of all plays will be subject to review, including calls involving home runs, ground-rule doubles, fan interference, boundary calls, plays at first base, force plays, tag plays, fair-foul and trap plays in the outfield, hit by pitch, timing plays, touching the base, passing runners and any dispute involving ball-strike counts, outs, score or substitutions. All other plays, including interference and obstruction, will not be reviewable.

To initiate a review, the manager will verbally inform the umpire of his intention in a timely manner. The challenge may involve multiple portions of the same play, but each must be specified during the appeal.

Challenges must be made in a “timely manner” with discipline possible if the manager appears to be stalling.

Teams will be allowed to have a club employee monitoring video and communicating with the manager whether or not to challenge. Both the home and road teams must have equal access to all video, but no additional electronic equipment will be allowed. Camera angles in all parks will also be standardized.

Roenicke has a strategy in mind for how he will choose when to call for review of a play, and so far it appears John Shelby will be the coach stationed in the video room alerting the bench when a play should be reviewed. All of that is subject to change.

Roenicke managed his fourth Cactus League game on Sunday and said there have been two calls he would have had reviewed, including one at the plate involving Lyle Overbay in Sunday’s game against the Rockies. Overbay slid to the inside of the plate and was called out, the umpire told Roenicke, because the ump believed Overbay never touched the plate.

Overbay believes the call would have been overturned upon review.

“I didn’t get much of it, but I got enough,” said Overbay, who supports the implementation of expanded replay as long as teams do not start using it as a strategic advantage.

“The one thing I hate about football is it seems they replay anything and everything,” Overbay said. “I think ours will be different, because there won’t be a lot of plays. But I feel like sometimes it’s going to be used kind of like a time out to get pitchers ready. It won’t happen very often, but I wonder. I remember a couple of times last year in New York where we ended up going up late and Mariano [Rivera] wasn’t ready. So we’re stalling, making like something is in my eye, and some of the coaches on other teams were getting ticked. Those are things I wonder if they could come into play.

“But as long as the umpires are going along with it, I’m fine. I don’t want them to think they’re doing bad jobs. I think [the occasional close call] is part of the game. Then again, when you think about missing the playoffs by one game, [getting it right] becomes a big deal.”

Before you ask:  Cubs manager Rick Renteria said no, he will not have a flag in his pocket to throw on the field if he wants to challenge a call.

“I think the protocol will be if you want to challenge, you have to go out and talk to the umpire and either invoke it or he may ask me to invoke it depending on how long you stand out there conversing with him,” Renteria said.

Renteria said the umpires will try to resolve the disagreement first.

“I would imagine that if my gut is telling me immediately that I saw it completely different [he’ll challenge] — but you don’t want to waste it if you don’t have to,” Renteria said. “There’s going to be some availability as it’s set up to get the information that tells you if [the call] is good or not.”

When he met with the media three hours before Monday’s scheduled first pitch, Roenicke still had plenty of questions about the procedure for Monday.

“It’s our first challenge day, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to do it,” he said. “I know they don’t have as many TV cameras set up as they are going to have [during the regular season], and I don’t know who is looking at those replays, for one to tell the umpire, but also to tell me whether I should challenge it or not. I know we have walkie-talkies, but that’s all I know. … Somebody said, ‘Well, maybe it’s just a walk through,’ but what am I supposed to walk through? I’m going to go out there and say, ‘This is my practice walk out here to see if I’m going to challenge?’ I hope we have something in place that I can say, ‘Yeah, I’d like to challenge it,’ and they can take a peek at it.”

Roenicke is mostly comfortable in the knowledge of what he can challenge and what he cannot. Eighty percent of calls, Roenicke said, will be tag plays and out-safe calls on the bases.

“We’ll just pay attention to those two things,” he said. “The others, all the judgement calls are not reviewable. Hit by pitch is reviewable. I know enough of the things that are, but I don’t know every single one.”

It can be tricky. Trap calls on the infield are not reviewable, but traps in the outfield are. Foul balls along the baselines are reviewable if they are fly balls, but not if they are ground balls because of the challenge of determining the exact angle of where the baseball crosses the bag.

On Monday, the plan called for the Brewers and Cubs broadcasts to listen in on conversations between the umpires on the field and officials in the TV truck reviewing a play. During the regular season, those reviews will happen at MLB.com’s offices in New York.

Monday’s dry run was intended simply to give on-field personnel a first taste of how the process will play out, and Roenicke was on board with that.

“I think that’s good,” he said.


Follow me on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy

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