FORT MYERS, Fla. — Major League Baseball’s implementation of expanded instant replay has been a big storyline during spring training. In addition to the new system being used for the first time, managers across baseball are figuring out the best strategies to use when it comes to challenging plays.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell discussed his expected strategy before Monday’s Grapefruit League game against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park. The Sox skipper said several factors will play into his decision-making and that the new responsibility of challenging questionable calls isn’t all that different from some in-game choices he’s already forced to make.
“I think you have to assess the situation as it unfolds. If you’re talking about an inning-ending play versus the first out of an inning, those are some things you’re going to factor in,” Farrell said. “In some ways, it’s almost like when do you use a pinch hitter (or) when do you go to the bullpen? This is a very similar dynamic or mindset that you use to make sure that when you use it, hopefully you’re right, particularly if it’s early in the game (when) you’ve got the ability to have a second (challenge) in those first six innings, or really for the remainder of the game. It’s going to be how we assess what goes on in the game situation. If it’s a blatant challenge, certainly we’re going to challenge it.”
Managers are allotted one challenge for the first six innings under the new system, but receive a second challenge if their first challenge leads to an overturned call. The umpiring crew chief then has the power to call for a challenge after the sixth inning. This means managers will need to pick their spots over the first six innings of each game, although, as Farrell said Monday, there are some instances in which calling for a review will be far more obvious than others, thus eliminating some of the extra stress. It’s up to the umpires to police the process to make sure it’s used in the correct manner.
“It’s going depend on the game situation and how we use it,” Farrell said. “I can’t say the timing is something that might not influence when to use it — the timing inside of a given game if you’re trying to buy some extra time in some way. I think the gamesmanship is one thing that is really going to be looked at closely by the umpires to keep the flow of the game going.”
The Red Sox have yet to challenge a play in spring training. It’s only a matter of time before Farrell breaks the ice, though, and the use of challenges inevitably will become a new wrinkle in how major league managers are assessed.