CLEARWATER, Fla. -- In preparing to test expanded instant replay in Spring Training, Major League Baseball covered every possible situation that could arise. Well, almost.
The Grapefruit League game between the Yankees and Phillies on Thursday at Bright House Field was designated as a practice run for the new system. Earlier in the day, a storm had passed through the area, delaying the first pitch by an hour and a half.
John Mayberry came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, with the Phils up by a run, two outs and nobody on base. Mayberry doubled to right field and decided to try for third; umpire Tom Hallion called him out on shortstop Yangervis Solarte's relay throw to third baseman Scott Sizemore.
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg came out to challenge the decision. But when replay official Phil Cuzzi went to look at the replay, the screen was blank.
Just before the pitch to Mayberry, a power surge hit the television truck where Cuzzi was monitoring the action. The stadium lights flickered. And in a freakish coincidence, the feed was knocked out for precisely the time when Mayberry was sliding into the base.
"The lights went out, and they lost everything," Sandberg said. "I went out and he was giving me an inkling that he had missed it, so he had no hesitation. He said, 'Do you want to challenge it?' And I said, 'Absolutely.' And then we get over there and nobody has anything. He showed a little frustration with that."
The odds of that happening at just the wrong time again during the regular season are astronomical. But it does demonstrate that it's impossible to plan for every contingency.
Much of the focus as MLB has rolled out its new system has been on the umpires and the mechanics of their communication. In the regular season, all replays will be viewed at MLB Advanced Media headquarters in New York, and there will be more angles with better access to close-up shots and slow motion.
But these games also provide an opportunity for teams to figure out the best way to decide whether to challenge a call. For example, Phils batter Kevin Frandsen opened the bottom of the sixth by grounding out to second base on a close play.
As Sandberg went to first base to talk to umpire Vic Carapazza, video manager Kevin Camiscioli quickly cued up the replay and saw that Frandsen had, indeed, been out. He relayed that information to coach Larry Bowa via walkie-talkie and Bowa then gave Sandberg a thumbs down. The manager returned to the dugout, and the whole incident was over so quickly that few fans seemed to notice what had happened.
"I said, 'What have you got?'" Bowa said. "And [Camiscioli] said he was out. He got me right away. So it worked good."
The Phillies plan to use the same system when the season starts, although Bowa and Camiscioli will communicate by phone at Citizens Bank Park.
"Close play over there," Sandberg said. "I wanted to test that out. So I went out and talked about it, and was able to look in and get the information from Bowa. And that was it. It should work really well."
Managers get one challenge per game. If they use it and it is upheld, they get one more. That makes it even more important not to waste one, because they can now challenge a call even after the sixth inning.
"That was a change from the Winter Meetings to about two weeks ago," Sandberg said.
If a manager is out of challenges, the umpires still have the right to look at a replay if they choose.
"If they gather up and I ask them to talk about it, get different angles -- and if they feel like they want to use it -- they can," Sandberg said.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less