05/05/11 6:42 PM ET
Maddon in support of expanded instant replay
By Dawn Klemish / MLB.com
Even more convinced the initial call was the correct one, and fueled by first-base umpire Joe West's partial admittance of guilt ("We may have erred ..."), Maddon used some time during Thursday's pregame interviews to highlight the importance of expanded instant replay.
Currently, instant replay is used solely for home runs and fan interference, and Maddon was adamant that wasn't enough.
"If you want to incorporate technology, it's just like the ball at the wall in a home run. It's hard to tell," Maddon said Thursday. "To change calls from a distance when you have technology, I think should be considered."
There were runners at first and second and one out when Rays left fielder Sam Fuld hit a chopper up the left side. Toronto third baseman Edwin Encarnacion stepped on the bag for the force, then fired the ball to first for the second leg of the double play.
His throw pulled Adam Lind off first base and up the line, from where he had to spin to tag Fuld.
West originally ruled Fuld safe, which would have again put runners at first and second with two outs. After Blue Jays bench coach Don Wakamatsu requested West confer with his crewmates, though, West overturned the call, ruling Lind had tagged Fuld before he reached first base.
For the Rays, who were down 3-1 at that time, the turning point was pivotal and not at all in their favor. Maddon rushed out to argue the call and was tossed. It wasn't until later that West admitted to being confused over second-base umpire Angel Hernandez's answer to the initial question, "Did you have the tag?"
West, apparently, was asking whether Hernandez saw the tag before Fuld reached the bag, while Hernandez figured he was being asked if the tag was applied. West, who readily admitted he didn't see a tag, then took Hernandez's word to mean Fuld was out.
"All I asked Angel was 'Did he tag him?' and Angel told me, 'I thought you had him safe for being on the bag,'" West said Wednesday night. "I didn't heed that warning. I made the judgment based on what I had at first base. So it appears that we may have erred, but we did everything protocol right by the book. I don't know what else we could have done."
"My point is, if you've got a distance play like that working, it's really hard for anybody to say unequivocally that they absolutely know a tag was applied in advance of the base," he said. "That is a perfect example of how to morph in other plays regarding instant replay. What else can we do with instant replay? There's an example."
Maddon was ejected Wednesday for arguing the overturned call after the umpires' group had convened on the field, not, he said, due to language or disrespect to the officiators. Though the skipper maintained that instant replay would've saved everyone a whole lot of grief, he was also complimentary of how the umpires handled the situation.
"I did hear, I think, that the umpires considered they may have messed the play up, and if that's the case, I have even more respect for them," Maddon said Thursday. "You don't hear that often from officiating crews, whether it's in baseball, basketball or football. When a group comes out and actually says something like that, my respect just jumps for that group.
"It's not easy to admit you're wrong in those moments. It's a profession that they take pride in being right almost all of the time. If in fact that's what was said and they are accountable for that moment, I think that's great and have even more respect for this crew."
Wednesday's incident marked the second time this season the Rays have fallen victim to an overturned call by the second-base umpire regarding a play at first base. During an early-April series at Chicago, umpires first ruled Rays hitter Dan Johnson safe at first base, because pitcher Gavin Floyd juggled the catch.
The play was overturned when the second-base umpire said Floyd had possession.
Rays to decide Niemann's fate after MRI results
ST. PETERSBURG -- Right-hander Jeff Niemann appears to be headed to the disabled list in the near future, although the Rays have not confirmed anything just yet.
Just after Thursday afternoon's 3-1 win over Toronto, the team's unofficial position on Niemann was "most likely headed to the disabled list," with an announcement on the matter to come as early as Thursday evening.
Niemann, 28, left Wednesday's start after four innings with back stiffness, an issue he said afterward was "gradually getting worse and worse out there." He visited team doctor Tom Tolli on Thursday morning and underwent an MRI, but results were not in before Thursday's matinee finale against the Blue Jays.
"We're still waiting to see ... what the diagnosis is," Niemann added. "We're going to find out pretty quick, I think.
"I'm still pretty sore, so we're just going to wait and see."
Niemann expected to hear word Thursday afternoon and said a decision will likely be made at that point. Manager Joe Maddon didn't confirm a move, but he sounded convinced his starter was headed to the DL. Tampa Bay has typically erred on the side of caution when it comes to its pitching staff, and Maddon said they'll handle Niemann no differently.
"He's hurting a little bit," Maddon said. "It'd be hard to imagine that he's going to come back and be well all of a sudden. ... I'd almost have to believe or anticipate that it's going to be more to the DL side."
It was a frustrating blow for Niemann, who earned his first win of the season April 28 at Minnesota after holding the Twins to one run over seven innings. He had struggled prior to that, with a 7.08 ERA and an 0-3 record, but had begun to turn in the right direction until suffering Wednesday's setback.
Maddon said that should Niemann be sent to the disabled list, shifting reliever Andy Sonnanstine to the rotation was a viable option. Another included recalling righty Alex Cobb, who threw in Sunday's loss to the Angels, from Triple-A Durham. Maddon sounded as though the team was leaning more toward Sonnanstine, who has a 2.19 ERA in 12 1/3 innings pitched (six appearances) with Tampa Bay this season.
Brignac gets breather, but available for Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Reid Brignac won't start Thursday or Friday this week, mostly to give the young shortstop a little breather.
Manager Joe Maddon said Brignac has been "noticeably pressing" and wants the 25-year-old to relax a bit to see if it will alleviate some stress. Brignac's batting average hit a season-high .262 on April 22 at Toronto, but has been on a steady decline since.
"I'm fine with Reid, I just think he's totally pressing, getting an opportunity to be an everyday shortstop, pretty much," Maddon said. "In my history with him, he's not one to normally press in those moments, meaning that he's normally reacted well to any kind of situation we've thrown at him."
Entering Thursday's game against Toronto, Brignac's average had dipped to .206 (14-for-68), with six strikeouts over his last 12 at-bats. Second baseman Sean Rodriguez slid over to cover for Brignac in the field Thursday, while Ben Zobrist took over at second.
"Right now, I just think that he is applying a little bit too much to himself," Maddon said. "The offensive side is really getting to him a bit, and I've asked him to back off."
Brignac will return to starting on Saturday, but will be available to enter the game at any point Thursday or Friday should the situation call for it, Maddon said.
Dawn Klemish is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.