LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers had their first tryout of baseball's new replay challenge system Thursday with mixed results, not from the replay but from their system to decide whether to challenge.
The Fox Sports Detroit broadcast gave the Tigers a chance to run through the process, albeit with a rudimentary version of the system Major League Baseball will have in place in the regular season. They ended up challenging a safe call on a sixth-inning pickoff attempt from Joe Nathan with the Marlins' Adeiny Hechavarria on first base.
Hechavarria was called safe. After a quick consultation with officials at MLB's review headquarters, the call was upheld. That part worked fine, but the Tigers' decision whether to challenge it had some glitches.
As manager Brad Ausmus went out to dispute the call, he bought time for defensive coordinator Matt Martin to check the replay back in the Tigers' clubhouse and relay an opinion via two-way radio to bench coach Gene Lamont in the dugout. That relay never came.
"[Lamont] never heard back from Matt," Ausmus said, "and kind of gave me that 50-50 [sign], so I just decided to go with it. But it turned out he really was just saying he was unsure because Matt never responded. So we added another sign, I guess.
"Keep in mind, I only have five outs left to use my challenge until the seventh, when they can check it on their own, which in my mind, I think they generally will check it on their own if there's any question on a call. So, I have five outs to use a challenge. I'm running out of outs to use it. Had there not been a communication breakdown with the radios and I got a signal from Gene Lamont that they got the call right, I wouldn't have challenged. But we had the breakdown. It's Spring Training. Let's see how the process works."
The communication system worked flawlessly earlier, when Ausmus questioned a second-inning groundout from Steven Moya. Second baseman Ed Lucas' throw forced first baseman Garrett Jones to stretch to make the catch, and Ausmus questioned whether Jones' foot might have left the bag in the process. Replays showed it did not.
"[First-base coach] Omar [Vizquel] kind of indicated he might have been safe," Ausmus said, "so I went out and talked to him. Meantime, Gene Lamont was on the phone with Matt Martin. Matt was looking at the replay. As I'm talking to the umpire, Matt tells Geno he got the call right. I'm looking at Geno out of the corner of my eye while I'm talking to the umpire. Geno gives me a thumbs down and I said, 'All right.' And I head back.