It didn’t take long for Twins manager Paul Molitor and Sean Harlin, director of major league video, to deal with new instant replay rules.
In the seventh inning of the Twins’ 9-1 victory over the Royals on Opening Day, Max Kepler dropped down a bunt and raced to first base. Kansas City pitcher Matt Strahm fielded the ball and threw to first, where umpire Tony Randazzo called Kepler out when he appeared to be safe.
And the pressure was on, as Major League Baseball now demands that teams take no longer than 30 seconds to decide whether to challenge a play.
Molitor stood in front of his dugout as the clock above the bullpens in center field ran down. Harlin also saw the clock on a screen in his office as he reviewed the play.
“There’s something about when a clock is ticking,” Molitor said. “It puts everybody ill at ease.”
There were three seconds left on the clock when Molitor got the go-ahead from Harlin to challenge the call. There was no way to prepare for the first time, Molitor said.
“I’ve never really had to think about, ‘What if it gets to zero and I don’t have the information,’ ” Molitor said. “What am I going to do?”
The rule is meant to speed up the replay process, but no one is sure how much time will be saved. What the rule does is put a video coordinator on notice.
Their decisions are based on the footage that’s available to them, and different parks provide different angles. Super slow-motion replay is must-see in these situations, and there have been a few occasions when Harlin has had to make a decision without super slo-mo because it wasn’t ready.
That raises the possibility that a game-changing play could be affected by the new decision clock.
“If it was the same as last year, I would be not as confident,” Harlin said. “Knowing now that we have only 30 seconds, maybe we will start to get those angles a little quicker from them.
“They did a great job on Monday. They got it to me in 15 seconds.”
Molitor remains in see-how-it-goes mode. He wants to see how quickly the clock is started to figure out if he can buy Harlin a few extra seconds to examine replays. He also will be prepared for the times Harlin can’t get the angle he needs to arrive at a decision.
“I can see it being more challenging,” Molitor said. “Some places are going to have better camera angles than others. Some ballparks have more cameras. There’s a lot of little things in there, but this is what they want to do.”
AL CENTRAL REPORT
Indians: Carlos Santana is hitting leadoff, where he also hit 86 times for Cleveland last season. He hit 34 home runs in 2016, but he also has walked at least 91 times in six consecutive seasons and has a career on-base percentage of .366. He presents a dilemma for opponents in that he can be patient at the plate while being able to score runs with one swing of the bat.
Royals: The Kansas City bullpen gave up 14 runs while being swept in three games by the Twins. Two years ago, Royals relievers gave up eight runs during the entire month of April. No longer with a flock of power arms, the bullpen is the area where Kansas City looks markedly different, and the problems they encountered at Target Field could be the start of a long season.
Tigers: Detroit could not have picked a better person to throw out the first pitch Friday before its home opener than Pudge Rodriguez. As the Tigers also honored the recently deceased Mike Illitch, Rodriguez was Illitch’s first major free-agent signing in 2004. And Rodriguez will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.
White Sox: Chicago finally is getting a look at third baseman-designated hitter Matt Davidson, above, acquired from Arizona for Addison Reed in 2013. Davidson was called up from the minors last June but broke his foot while rounding first base. He missed the rest of the season and had to earn his spot on the roster this spring.
Three observations ...
• Uh-oh. Mets righthander Seth Lugo, who pitched for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, has a partly torn elbow ligament. That will fuel more complaints about the timing of the tournament.
• Seattle’s Safeco Field has added toasted grasshoppers to its menu. I don’t care how much protein it contains, I will not be ordering any.
• With Junior Guerra, Milwaukee’s Opening Day starter, landing on the disabled list,
Tommy Milone — a former Twin and a great guy — will get a start. But another former Twin, Matt Garza, is close to coming off the DL and could replace him soon.
... and two predictions
• Manny Machado is my pick to win AL MVP this season. The Orioles third baseman is not even 25 yet but has two 30-homer seasons under his belt and he’s awesome defensively.
• The Twins will finish April with a 12-13 record.