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MLB approves expanded instant replay

Major League Baseball teams have unanimously approved a wide expansion of instant replay to go into effect for the 2014 season, it was announced on Thursday in Arizona after the quarterly owners meeting.

The ability of managers to challenge plays ranging from home run calls to fan interference, fair/foul calls, trap plays and out/safe decisions, has also won consent from the Major League Baseball Players Association and the World Umpires Association.

“I am very pleased that instant replay will expand to include additional impactful plays,” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “The new system will give managers valuable recourse in potentially game-changing situations.”

Baseball officials have felt pressure to expand the use of instant replay after an outcry over controversial or missed calls affected important individual records and the course of some postseason games.

One often controversial call, the so-called “neighborhood play” when a fielder sometimes fails to touch the bag after taking a force-out throw at second base on a double play, will not be subject to replay.

Managers will have at least one challenge to use per game.

If any portion of a challenged play is overturned, then the manager who challenged the play will retain the ability to challenge one more play during the game. No manager may challenge more than two plays in a game.

Once the manager has exhausted his ability to challenge plays during the game and after the beginning of the seventh inning, the umpiring crew chief may choose to invoke instant replay on any reviewable call.

Home run and other boundary calls will remain reviewable under the procedures in place last season.

On contested decisions, umpires will ask the Replay Command Center in New York to review calls. A Replay Official, who is a major league umpire, will make the ultimate decision based on the standard of whether there is clear, convincing evidence to overturn an on-field call.

As part of the expansion of instant replay, clubs will also be allowed to show all replays of all close plays on the ballpark scoreboard, regardless of whether it was reviewed.

“The opportunity for our fans to see more replays in our ballparks is also an important modification that the clubs and I favored,” Selig said.

Instant replay will be utilized during some televised games in spring training for the purposes of educating on-field personnel on the rules of the new system.

n New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, speaking publicly for the first time since his unprecedented PED-related suspension for the entire 2014 season, tried to put a positive spin on the situation during an appearance in Mexico.

“I think that the year 2014 could be a big favor that (Major League Baseball has) done for me because I’ve been playing for 20 years without a timeout,” he said, via the “I think 2014 is a good year to rest mentally and physically and prepare for the future and begin a new chapter in my life.”

In a ruling handed down by an arbitrator, Rodriguez was suspended for the entire 2014 regular season and postseason due to his involvement with banned performance-enhancing drugs.

n Left-handed starter David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration with a one-year, $14 million deal for the 2014 season.

Price, 28, is a three-time All-Star (2010-12) and in 2012 became the first pitcher in Rays history to win the American League Cy Young Award. In 2013, he went 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA in 27 starts despite missing 44 games with a left triceps strain. His 5.59 strikeout-to-walk ratio (151-27) led the AL and ranked fourth all-time among AL left-handers.

n Minor leaguers Antonio Alvarez and Daryl Thompson were suspended on Thursday for violations of baseball’s drug prevention and treatment program.

Alvarez, a shortstop in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization, received a 50-game suspension after a positive test for testosterone. Thompson, a free-agent pitcher, also was given a 50-game suspension without pay for a second violation of a drug of abuse.

n The Cleveland Indians signed free agent outfielder Nyjer Morgan to a minor league contract with a non-roster invitation to spring training camp, the club announced Thursday.

Morgan, 33, spent 2013 with the Yokohama DeNa BayStars of the Japanese Central League where he hit .294 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs in 108 games. Before his stint in Japan, Morgan played six major league seasons with Pittsburgh, Washington and Milwaukee, compiling a career mark of .280 with 11 home runs 130 RBIs in 583 games from 2007 to 2012.