Expanded instant replay is off and running

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There was a little bit of history this afternoon, as MLB’s new expanded instant replay made its debut in a game between the Blue Jays and Twins.

We saw it in the bottom of the sixth inning after Twins outfielder Chris Rahl was called safe at first base when a throw from Blue Jays shortstop Munenori Kawasaki pulled Jared Goedert off the bag. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons challenged the call, which was eventually upheld. The whole process took an estimated two minutes and 34 seconds.

Check out the video below:

It should be said that this isn’t exactly how things will go during the season. In the Twins-Blue Jays game, there was a video truck outside the stadium with an umpire on duty to review calls. During the season, there will be a challenge umpire at the MLBAM office in New York.

Expanded instant replay was used again later in the very same game, but this time it was initiated by the umpires, which is allowed after the seventh inning under the new system. The original call, that Twins pinch-hitter Doug Bernier beat out a grounder for an infield hit, was also upheld. We also saw replay used this afternoon in a Cactus League game between the Angels and Diamondbacks. Angels manager Mike Scioscia challenged a call after Luis Jimenez was called out at second base after a botched hit-and-run play. However, the umpire’s original call was also confirmed. Paul Hagan of MLB.com reports that the wait was around two minutes and 31 seconds.

So far, so good.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.