As it turned out, the first chance McClendon had to use the system worked out very well for the Mariners. With an assist from bench coach Trent Jewett, McClendon used his one challenge for the game to get a call overturned in his team's favor, a positive first step into the system for the new Seattle skipper as Major League Baseball puts expanded instant replay to use in select Spring Training games this March.
McClendon became the first manager to have a call overturned in favor of his club during testing of the new system.
With one out in the eighth inning and the Mariners rallying, McClendon questioned a call by second-base umpire Chad Whitson -- a Minor League umpire called up for exhibition games -- that second baseman Andrew Romine had successfully forced out Tyler Smith before clearly bobbling the ball. The review -- which lasted approximately 2 minutes, 30 seconds -- reversed the forceout call, with umpire Dale Scott receiving word on a headset from fellow veteran Kerwin Danley in the television truck watching the game that the call should be overturned, granting Smith second base. A run scored on the play, and the Mariners wound up taking a 6-5 lead later in the inning.
"Trent told me he thought it was a bobble, and I said, 'I agree, let's go out and see what happens,'" McClendon said afterward.
After the call was overturned, the Mariners caught and passed the Angels for a 10-6 victory -- and McClendon knew before the game was over that the replay would be a postgame topic of discussion with the media.
"I also told Trent we'd be talking more about this … replay than we will about the game. But that's the way it is," McClendon said.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, while noting that managers and umpires are still working out the parameters of the new system, said it's that type of play -- a transfer of the ball from glove to bare hand at second on a potential double play -- that could come under higher scrutiny going forward.
"Before, it was called really loosely, where if you had the ball in your glove and you moved your glove to get it to your bare hand, it was [called an out]," said Scioscia, who briefly got an explanation of the reversed call once it was made. "That's going to change the mechanics of how you turn a double play. A lot of guys are really adept at closing their glove and flipping it to their bare hand for a quick transfer. If there's a bobble on that, it's going to be called safe."
McClendon was set up with a walkie-talkie so he could communicate with team video coordinator Jimmy Hartley, who would be monitoring the game via the television feed and responsible for tipping off McClendon to a reviewable call. But in this case, McClendon didn't need the help, other than conferring with Jewett.
McClendon will get another chance to use the system in the Mariners' home game Wednesday night against the Cubs.
It's a lot to learn. McClendon said he plans to have the new rules posted in the dugout for reference, now and during the regular season, to ensure he's on the right track.
Saying with a chuckle that it's "another tool that managers can be second-guessed with," McClendon is embracing the new system while learning its nuances the best he can during Spring Training.
"Ultimately, they want to get it right. You'd hope that would be the case," McClendon said.