The White Sox can feel somewhat fortunate about their first endeavor with instant replay -- they didn’t pay full price for what could have been a costly lesson.
Five batters into the seventh inning of Wednesday’s game, one the White Sox later won 7-6, Minnesota Twins batter Oswaldo Arcia hit a routine fly ball to shallow center field that White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton appeared to catch. Even though replays appeared to show Eaton dropped the ball while transferring it to his throwing hand, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire challenged the call -- the first managerial challenge of the season for either team.
More than five minutes after Gardenhire hit the field, umpires reversed the call and awarded Arcia first base and allowed Trevor Plouffe, who started the play on first, to advance to second. At the conclusion of the play, the White Sox never threw the ball in and touched second base, which would have been a force out.
“(Eaton) bobbled it enough to call it no-catch, and we didn’t do a good enough job even if he dropped it to try to get him at second base so they awarded him second base,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
Eaton’s throw to the infield got away from cutoff man Leury Garcia, who instead of tagging second base or flipping to shortstop Alexei Ramirez at the bag, tossed it back to pitcher Daniel Webb. Had they thrown it to second, Ventura thinks the White Sox would have had a better argument. Still, the gaffe, which was ruled an E-8 on Eaton, didn’t hurt the White Sox other than to cost Webb a few more pitches.
One out later, Aaron Hicks singled to left field but Alejandro De Aza nailed Plouffe at home for the second out of the inning. Webb then struck out Pedro Florimon to end the inning.
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While the play and the reversal from league headquarters in New York were a bit stunning, the White Sox got a free example of how to handlte situations in the future. Similar to NFL defenders picking up loose balls in football and playing until the whistle, the White Sox need to finish the play. Ventura said the coaching staff has talked to players about the situation but similar to telling his children, the manager thinks they may have needed to experience it firsthand to get a better understanding of the new rule.
“That’s going to be new for a lot of players on how they react when something like that happens,” Ventura said. “You just have to finish it. You have to act like you didn’t catch it, which is unusual and it will be different for the players from here on out. Your natural reaction is you go with how the call is because that’s how everybody grew up. It’s just changed. You have to get used to it and they have to change their mindset on how they react to those situations.”
Asked for his take, Eaton believes he caught it but also needs to do a better job convincing the umpires.
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“My take is I sucked and I need to catch the ball and take it back in the other hand in a timely manner,” Eaton said. “I thought I had it caught, but with the new replay, they go by the rule book let's put it that way. When we didn't have the replay every now and again, not get away with stuff, but it's not as slowed down in a minuscule second. I just need to catch it and make sure I transfer it. I thought I caught it. They're right. I just work here and I just go by what they say.”
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said the five-minute delay meant he had to remove pitcher Kevin Correia from the game. Ventura knows that’s an unintended consequence for which all teams now must prepare.
“I’m sure every other sport that started replay it was an annoyance and now it’s part of the game,” Ventura said. “In the end it’s to get calls right and that’s the main thing. … That comes up, that’s part of it. That will happen to us I’m sure at some point, but you better be prepared for it.”