August 20, 2014

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Indians Notes: Manager Terry Francona iffy on new instant replay rules

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona talks with reporters before spring training baseball practice in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona talks with reporters before spring training baseball practice in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The idea behind Major League Baseball expanding instant replay is to ensure umpire rulings are correct so the game is as close to perfect as possible.

Indians manager Terry Francona isn’t convinced that’s going to happen.

“I haven’t been out there yelling for (instant replay), because I always felt like you need to have an answer for something when you’re complaining about something, and I never did,” Francona said Wednesday. “As much as we want every call to go right, the umpires are pretty good. They’re pretty good.

“It’s still human. Humans are looking at it. There’s going to be some decisions based on whether it’s inconclusive, so it will be interesting.”

Francona was among a group representing the Indians, including general manager Chris Antonetti, that met with MLB officials Tuesday to discuss replay and the new home plate collision rule. MLB officials, including executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre, will be at Indians camp today for their annual spring training visit.

“They did a really good job of explaining things,” said Francona, who indicated he would seek more clarification today. “Any time there’s something new, I think your initial thought is panic or anxiety, especially with all that’s potentially riding on it.”

As far as home plate collisions are concerned, Francona doesn’t like the ambiguity of the new rule.

“I understand what they’re trying to do and I applaud them for that,” he said. “But when a guy’s coming around third with the game on the line … It’s not going to make it perfect, but the more we know, the better we’ll feel.”

Under the new instant replay, each manager will have one challenge. If the call is overturned, the manager will get another challenge, but neither manager can review more than two plays.

Francona believes the new format adds a strategic element to the game.

“If you want to go out the first inning of every game on a foul tip, then you might lose your challenge,” Francona said. “I would say early on it wouldn’t be shocking if we were conservative, so we can save our challenges. We need to make judgments on what helps our team more.

“It’s something we’ve never had to deal with before. It’s going to be really different. We’re used to one routine. It’s going to take some time for guys to get this right.”

MLB will use spring training as a trial run, with the Indians expected to employ it at least five times during the exhibition season.

During the regular season, each club will have a member of the staff monitoring video in the clubhouse during the game. Francona said the person handling those duties is expected to arrive in Goodyear over the next few days.

Bauer power
Trevor Bauer’s new delivery was on display for the first time under game conditions Wednesday at Goodyear Ballpark. The right-hander started the exhibition opener and, after walking the first two batters, pitched a scoreless first inning.

“I felt good, body felt good,” said Bauer, who struck out Joey Votto. “It was good to get back out there in game situations. I got to work with some guys in scoring position, which I would have preferred not to, but I got it all today.”

Bauer, a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, changed his delivery in the offseason after subpar results in Cleveland and at Triple-A Columbus last year.

“I think he feels pretty good about that. He’s worked really hard at that,” Francona said.

No-shows
The majority of the Indians’ projected regulars did not appear in the exhibition opener. Center fielder Michael Bourn is expected to play today, while Carlos Santana will start at third base. First baseman Nick Swisher will miss the first few games of the exhibition season, and left fielder Michael Brantley could follow a similar path.

Comeback trail
Right-hander Vinnie Pestano threw his first live bullpen session of the spring, beginning the quest to regain his spot in the bullpen.

Pestano battled injuries and ineffectiveness last year, spending most of the season in the minors after losing his job at the back end of the relief corps.

“I think you treat everybody a little bit different, as far as where they’re at in their career,” Francona said. “Vinnie’s probably a unique case in our camp. He was a guy that two years ago locked down the eighth inning. It got to a point last year where we felt we had to send him to Triple-A and it was frustrating for everybody.

“We know Vinnie can do it, but we do have to see it. What we really want to do is get him back to throwing like he was. Then those decisions will all take care of themselves.”

Show me
According to Francona, results won’t necessarily be the deciding factor for players trying to win jobs during the exhibition season.

“I think you have to take track record, how they look and how they fit,” Francona said. “Batting average, I think that is so skewed in a small sample size and in this environment.”

Roundin’ third

  • Francona is pleased with the progress of veteran right-hander Shaun Marcum, who has thrown two bullpen sessions to open his bid to win the final spot in the rotation.
  • Indians radio announcer Tom Hamilton was not on the call Wednesday. He is still in Cleveland to watch his son Brad play for Avon Lake High School in the state basketball playoffs.
  • Today, 3:05, vs. Reds at Goodyear Ballpark, STO. Josh Tomlin (first start) vs. Homer Bailey (first start).

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.