When Matt Williams was recently asked about MLB's use of instant replay for the 2014 season, a smile immediately flashed across his face.
As a first-time manager for the Washington Nationals, Williams will at least be on even ground when it comes to that new component of the game.
"I'm not the rookie, anymore," Williams said, referring to how all managers will be dealing with the new rule for the first time. "Everybody is now in my boat. So, it's going to be interesting to understand at what point do we want to do it, how it impacts our team and our game at that point. It's going to be interesting."
MLB owners unanimously approved the use of instant replay Jan. 16. The Major League Baseball Players Association and World Umpires Association followed that lead and also approved the new rule.
As a result, managers are awarded at least one challenge per game. If the challenge is upheld, then the team will retain the opportunity to question one more call (MLB imposed a maximum of two challenges per game). Beginning in the seventh inning, the crew chief reserves the right to invoke instant replay to review a call made on the field. The same replay rules from last season apply with home runs and any boundary calls.
All replays will be monitored at the league's headquarters in New York.
Williams said teams had to be careful with how they request a replay because of the restrictions. He offered at least one scenario in which he would take advantage of the new rule.
"It could be a [Stephen] Strasburg-[Clay] Kershaw matchup where there may be very few [runs] scored," Williams said. "And, we have a scoring opportunity with a man on third base and a have a ground ball to the infield, which we think [the runner] potentially beat to score us a run. That's a scenario. But there's a million of those."
Williams said another issue would be if managers tried to stall while other team officials monitored the play to determine whether the play was worthy of instant replay. The rules say a manager must react in a timely manner, meaning before the pitcher and catcher are set to face the next batter, if he wants to officially review a call.
"There's some cagey managers in this game," Williams said with a sheepish grin.