CLEVELAND -- A play at home plate in the first inning of Thursday's game between the Indians and Royals prompted an instant-replay review by umpire crew chief Bill Miller. The review came at the request of Indians manager Terry Francona, but did not count as a manager challenge.
According to the new guidelines for replay reviews and plays at the plate, a manager can only challenge a safe or out ruling. The decision to review a catcher's positioning has to come from the crew chief.
During the first inning of the Indians' 5-1 win, Miller agreed to check whether Royals catcher Brett Hayes was properly positioned in accordance to the rules.
"What I asked him to check was if he blocked the plate," Francona said. "That way, if he's willing to do that, you don't have to challenge. And then, if he is safe, they'll overturn it. So, you don't burn a challenge. There's no reason not to. It didn't cost us anything."
With one out and Asdrubal Cabrera on third base, second baseman Jason Kipnis chopped a pitch sharply to Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. After stepping on first for an out, Hosmer fired the ball to Hayes, who was in front of the plate with his left foot near the chalk line.
Cabrera sprinted home from third and slid into the plate, where Hayes received the throw, turned and applied the tag to complete an inning-ending double play.
Miller initiated a crew chief challenge to check that Hayes gave Cabrera a clear lane to the plate. After a review at the Replay Operations Center in New York, the play was ruled to stand as called by home-plate umpire Greg Gibson.
Francona may have started the review process, but he was not charged with the challenge.
Royals manager Ned Yost said that appears to be a "loophole" in the system.
"It's a way to get a free challenge," Yost said. "You can't challenge if the catcher's blocking the plate. You can ask the umpire to review it so it's an umpire's review. If you go ask and say, 'I think he was blocking the plate, could you please check it?' and the umpire says, 'Yes,' he goes and checks it and, oh by the way, if he's safe they reverse the call.
"So, he doesn't have to challenge if he' s out or safe. So you don't use a challenge on that. It's a loophole."