New rules converge in reviewed play at plate
OAKLAND -- Major League Baseball made changes to its instant-replay system and instituted new rules covering home-plate collisions for this season. Both aspects of the game came together on a single play in the Indians' 2-0 win over the A's on Monday night.
In the sixth inning, Michael Brantley was called out at home plate after sliding into the legs of Oakland catcher John Jaso. To make sure he got the ruling correct, home-plate umpire and crew chief Mike Winters made the decision to contact the Replay Operations Center in New York.
Winters' initial out call was confirmed after multiple angles were reviewed.
"With the new rule," Winters told a pool reporter, "I just wanted to confirm what I saw on the field that the catcher did not block the plate unnecessarily. ... He was in fair territory. He gave the runner plenty of plate to go to, and so I just wanted to be sure."
With runners on first and third base and one out, Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera lined a pitch up the middle, where it struck A's pitcher Sonny Gray. Brantley attempted to score from third on the play, during which Gray retrieved the ball and quickly relayed it to Jaso.
Brantley slid into Jaso, the catcher held firmly onto the ball and Winters immediately called Cleveland's left fielder out on the play.
Brantley held his arms up in confusion, because he felt Jaso had blocked home plate before having the baseball in hand. Under the new rules covering collisions at the plate, a catcher must give the runner a path to the dish prior to having possession of the ball.
"I did not have a lane," Brantley said. "As you could see, I slid into both of his legs with my shins. It's a tough call. There's a gray area in there, but at the same time, hopefully next time we'll get that call."
Indians manager Terry Francona headed to the field and discussed the play with Winters, but it was not Francona who officially requested the replay. Winters had to call for the review himself, because managers can only challenge a safe or out call. Only the umpire can decide whether to examine if a catcher was blocking the plate in accordance with the new rules.
"I just wanted to check and see if Jaso had blocked the plate early," Francona said. "I just asked him if he'd look, because I thought maybe he got there a little too early. He said he'd check, and they did. Once they check, I have no idea what they're saying. I just appreciated him checking."
Naturally, the new replay and home-plate rules came together on the first game of the season.
"Right? The first day out. Opening Day. Shocker," Brantley said with a laugh. "That's fun, though. Hey, it's something new. It's exciting. Hopefully, next time, it'll go our way."