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MLB managers get ready to test expanded video replay system in spring training

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PHOENIX - Major League Baseball managers are getting ready to test the expanded instant replay system.

While most seem to embrace the idea, they acknowledge it's uncharted territory and yet another strategic tool to employ during games.

"I think there's some anxiety because we don't fully understand it yet," Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona said.

The issue was a consistent line of questioning when managers and general managers of the 15 teams that hold spring training in Arizona gathered for MLB media day on Tuesday.

"It's going to be baptism under fire," San Diego Padres skipper Bud Black said.

All clubs will get a chance to test the new system in a handful of spring training games, although details of that schedule had not been determined.

Each team will get at least a minimum number of games this spring to test the rules. Teams with more spring training games that are televised probably will have more opportunities to try out the new procedure.

"They're going to take a day next week and give us a learning session, then one again in March, and there'll be some games later in the spring," Francona said. "The more we learn, the better I'm sure we're all going to feel because we're used to doing things one way. Especially in our sport, we're kind of creatures of habit, and it's going to be an important part of the game. ... So you want to be good at it."

Under the new rules, each manager will get to challenge at least one call per game. If the challenge is upheld, the manager gets another one. From the seventh inning on, if the manager has used up his challenge, umpires can call for a review. All video reviews will be overseen by umpires in New York.

"I don't think anything is going to be real hard," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "I think it's going to be real interesting. We're still learning, we're still trying to understand the process and we don't really get much room to practice in spring training because there's not that many games televised. But I don't see it being a huge challenge. It's going to be another tough decision to make."

Oakland manager Bob Melvin said the Athletics already are analyzing statistics that would help him determine which calls to challenge.

"We're a statistical organization. We look at numbers," he said. "Our people are looking at it now."

Melvin said one of his main concerns is how much time a manager will have to decide whether to challenge.

"I'm glad we're going to test this thing out," he said. "We'll all have a better feeling once the season starts."

It will take time for managers to decide just how to use the tool in terms of strategy, whether to avoid challenging early in a game so the opportunity will still exist later.

"The idea is really solid," Francona said. "They're trying to get to where the game isn't decided by a bad call. Every other sport is trying to do it, and with technology the way it is, umpires are really the only ones who don't have the use of it. The game's going fast, and everybody else has the ability to slow it down except for the umpire."

There is less certainty over a proposed ban on home plate collisions.

San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said that according to a recent conference call, the rule is close to being written. Melvin, though, said he's heard it might not be in place this year.

"I would like to see what the details of this are, because I think there are going to be some growing pains and a learning curve with it," Melvin said. "Whether it's the runner has to slide, the catcher can't block the plate — those are such instinctive things that just to say, 'Hey, you can't do this anymore,' there's going to be some problems."

One manager didn't make the media session. Colorado's Walt Weiss was absent because of a medical issue involving his son.

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