As we mentioned earlier, the Arizona Fall League is serving as a testing grounds for baseball’s new replay challenge system. Last night was the first game with the system in place. It went pretty well.
There were four challenges. None on controversial or even particularly close calls (managers have been encouraged to use it liberally for testing purposes). All of the challenges went smoothly. Baseball has imposed a three-minute time limit for challenges for the testing period and none of them came close.
So that’s good, I guess. This is less good:
Tuesday’s challenges were issued verbally, simple enough in front of a few hundred fans. When there are tens of thousands screaming, objects such as waved flags or tossed beanbags will be employed.
Salt River and Mesa players demonstratively enjoyed participating in the landmark game. In fact, they thought it was a hoot — loudly and emphatically urging for replays from their respective dugouts after every even remotely close play on the field.
Still waiting for some explanation of why a challenge system is the best or why it even makes sense if the goal is to get calls right rather than to create a silly distraction. Maybe the players urging challenges are jokes now, but wait until it’s games with major leaguers in high stress situations. Managers totally need that kind of pressure, right?
Here are the Rangers and Blue Jays lineups for Game 1 of the ALDS in Toronto:
CF Delino DeShields
RF Shin-Soo Choo
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Prince Fielder
1B Mike Napoli
LF Josh Hamilton
SS Elvis Andrus
2B Rougned Odor
C Robinson Chirinos
SP Yovani Gallardo
With left-hander David Price on the mound for Toronto the Rangers are going with Mike Napoli at first base over Mitch Moreland. Beyond that it’s a pretty standard lineup for Texas, or at least standard for what manager Jeff Banister used down the stretch once Josh Hamilton was healthy enough to play left field.
LF Ben Revere
3B Josh Donaldson
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Justin Smoak
C Russell Martin
2B Ryan Goins
CF Kevin Pillar
SP David Price
After returning from the disabled list for the final weekend of the regular season Troy Tulowitzki is in the lineup and batting fifth. That allows Ryan Goins to play second base in place of the injured Devon Travis. Justin Smoak gets the nod over Chris Colabello at first base against a right-hander.
Houston made one unexpected change to the roster for the ALDS, leaving off veteran reliever Chad Qualls.
Qualls warmed up but never appeared in the Wild Card game win over the Yankees and during the regular season the 36-year-old right-hander logged 49 innings with a 4.38 ERA and 46/9 K/BB ratio. Qualls was on the Astros’ last playoff team in 2005.
Utility man Jonathan Villar has been bumped off the roster in favor of outfielder Preston Tucker, as the Astros opted for a good left-handed bat off the bench versus the Royals rather than Villar’s speed.