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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Tales of the tape: Instant replay will be a different beast once the real games start

Los Angeles Angels' David Freese waits to bat

Los Angeles Angels' David Freese waits to bat as umpires Hal Gibson and Gerry Davis, right, check an instant replay during an exhibition spring training baseball game Thursday, March 6, 2014, in Tempe, Ariz. Credit: AP / Morry Gash

LAKELAND, Fla. - Upon further review . . . the first five days of expanded instant replay in baseball demonstrated that a few bugs still have to be worked out before the regular season gets underway.

Major League Baseball is testing the new system at selected spring training games. From Monday to Friday, there were nine replay reviews. All dealt with safe/out calls on the bases. There were no reversals.

In all nine cases, the replay umpire either upheld the original call or determined there was not enough visual evidence to overturn it.

No one argued.

Everyone from managers to players to umpires is being very cordial about the replay tests in spring training. Why not? There's nothing at stake and everyone is aware that the technology that is going to be used during the season is not in place in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.

That's why Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg didn't go bonkers on Thursday when his attempted challenge of an out call at third base in the seventh inning against the Yankees couldn't be completed because of a brief power outage at Clearwater's Bright House Field.

It turns out a power surge just before the pitch knocked out the video feed to replay umpire Phil Cuzzi, who was monitoring the action from a television truck in the stadium parking lot.

So when Sandberg tried to challenge the out call, there was no replay available to Cuzzi.

No replay, no review.

This shouldn't be a problem during the season unless Manhattan has a power outage. The replay umpire will be stationed at MLB's Advanced Media offices on Ninth Avenue and will have access to multiple video feeds.

One issue that cropped up the first time Mets manager Terry Collins tried to challenge a call on Friday could carry over to the regular season, though. It has to do with an out call for the final out of an inning.

Eric Young Jr. was called out at second base on an attempted steal for the third out of the third inning. As the Cardinals trotted off the field, Collins tried to get the information from the clubhouse as to whether he should challenge the close call. By rule, he said he had to pop out of the dugout within 10 seconds and decide whether to challenge within 30 seconds because it was the last out of the inning and umpires don't want to have to call a team back out onto the field. But are 10 and 30 seconds enough time to make that decision?

The Mets had determined that three starting pitchers would monitor the game's telecast on SNY in the clubhouse and use a walkie-talkie to relay their findings to the dugout.

During the season, teams likely will use a member of the video staff to watch for close calls. That person will have a special phone to the dugout and will not be limited to the TV replays but will have access to every available camera angle.

But in spring training, the technology is not available. And the pitchers were unable to give Collins an opinion on whether to challenge because SNY had gone to commercial before showing a replay. So he passed.

No replay, no review.

"There's going to be a lot more to it ," Collins said. "But it's interesting to try it down here."

Again, he did not argue. But he did say that if it had been a regular-season game, he might have gone out and tried to stall.

One problem with that: MLB has told managers it doesn't want any stalling or other shenanigans to try to game the replay system (we're looking at you, Buck Showalter).

Rays manager and well-known innovator (and instigator) Joe Maddon is trying to add a new wrinkle to the new system, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Maddon has had the Rays working on a drill in which their infielders try to record a fourth out in an inning after a close call at first base leads to the third out. Maddon is training his fielders to go after a stray runner on the basepaths just in case the call at first base later is reversed. For example, if the play starts with a runner at second, the first baseman would throw the ball home after a third out is recorded and the catcher would attempt to tag the runner (who likely will have rounded third and will have no idea what is going on).

"I think the what-ifs are almost limitless," Maddon said. "And that's the part people don't even understand. When you open Pandora's box, it's not as cut and dried as you think."

But it should be interesting, as Collins said, and it's hoped that terribly wrong calls will be made right during the season. If that happens, baseball and its fans can live with a little -- or even a lot -- of early confusion.

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