A's Melvin thankful for trial run with expanded replay this spring

Melvin talks A's catchers, home plate collisions

A's Melvin thankful for trial run with expanded replay this spring
February 25, 2014, 10:00 am
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The force play at second base as a middle infielder is trying to turn a double play is a non-reviewable play(AP)

Programming note: Joe Stiglich is in Arizona; check back for his coverage throughout spring training and watch SportsNet Central nightly at 6 and 10:30 p.m. for all the day’s MLB news.

PHOENIX -- The A’s will get to test out instant replay during their nine Cactus League games that will be televised, and manager Bob Melvin said that rehearsal is much needed before the regular season.

He attended a lengthy meeting Monday afternoon -- as did the other Cactus League managers -- that covered details of instant replay as well as specifics on the new home-plate collision rule that Major League Baseball announced Monday.

“I was dizzy,” Melvin said Tuesday morning. “It was a long meeting, and rightly so. There were certainly a lot of things I hadn’t thought of before. I’m glad we get spring training to have some trial and error with it.”

Instant replay challenges are allowed this season for a variety of disputed umpire calls, including tag plays, force plays, fair/foul calls in the outfield, trap plays in the outfield, ground-rule doubles, fan interference calls and hit-by-pitch calls. Final decisions will be handed down by an independent umpire crew reviewing the plays in New York, and the decisions will be relayed to the umpires at the ballpark.

Managers will get one challenge per game, but if they successfully get a call overturned, they’ll get one more challenge. From the seventh inning on, umpires can ask for a replay review.

[RELATED: MLB makes experimental home plate collision rule official]

Melvin said one thing that surprised him from the meeting was the sheer volume of plays that were discussed.

“There are reviewable plays and non-reviewable plays, and a lot of both.”

One example of a non-reviewable play: The force play at second base as a middle infielder is trying to turn a double play.

Coaches on the bench will be able to communicate with a designated person in the clubhouse who can watch replays and help determine what plays are worth challenging. The A’s have yet to hash out who that person will be, Melvin said.

[RELATED: A's mixed over new MLB collision rule]

Still a bit ambiguous is how much time managers will have after a play to decide whether to challenge it. MLB officials have stated that a decision must be made before the batter and pitcher are “ready to go” for the next pitch, but that leaves lots of gray area. Exhibitions will help shed light on how the process works.

The A's first televised exhibition is Sunday, a 12:05 p.m. (PT) game against the Los Angeles Angels on the MLB Network.

Melvin, a former catcher, said he thinks MLB did a good job of implementing new home-plate collision rules without completely outlawing contact on a close play. The rule dictates that runners can’t deviate from their direct path toward the plate to initiate contact with the catcher, and they’re not allowed to lower their shoulders or push through the catcher with their hands, elbows or arms. Catchers can only block the plate if they’ve got possession of the baseball.

“It’s that one where the ball takes (the catcher) into the line, where it’s going to be a bang-bang play (that is ambiguous and) puts it into the umpire’s judgment,” Melvin said.

Home-plate collision rulings also are open to instant replay review.


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