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MLB clubs approve expansion of instant replay

Baltimore Orioles batter J.J. Hardy connects on a pitch from Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Felix Doubront and drives it for a ground rule do
Baltimore Orioles batter J.J. Hardy connects on a pitch from Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Felix Doubront and drives it for a ground rule do

(Reuters) - Major League Baseball teams have unanimously approved a wide expansion of instant replay to go into effect for the 2014 season, it was announced on Thursday in Arizona after the quarterly owners meeting.

The ability of managers to challenge plays ranging from home run calls to fan interference, fair/foul calls, trap plays and out/safe decisions, has also won consent from the Major League Baseball Players Association and the World Umpires Association.

"I am very pleased that instant replay will expand to include additional impactful plays," MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "The new system will give managers valuable recourse in potentially game-changing situations."

Baseball officials have felt pressure to expand the use of instant replay after an outcry over controversial or missed calls affected important individual records and the course of some postseason games.

One often controversial call, the so-called "neighborhood play" when a fielder sometimes fails to touch the bag after taking a force-out throw at second base on a double play, will not be subject to replay.

Managers will have at least one challenge to use per game.

If any portion of a challenged play is overturned, then the manager who challenged the play will retain the ability to challenge one more play during the game. No manager may challenge more than two plays in a game.

Once the manager has exhausted his ability to challenge plays during the game and after the beginning of the seventh inning, the umpiring crew chief may choose to invoke instant replay on any reviewable call.

Home run and other boundary calls will remain reviewable under the procedures in place last season.

On contested decisions, umpires will ask the Replay Command Center in New York to review calls. A Replay Official, who is a major league umpire, will make the ultimate decision based on the standard of whether there is clear, convincing evidence to overturn an on-field call.

As part of the expansion of instant replay, clubs will also be allowed to show all replays of all close plays on the ballpark scoreboard, regardless of whether it was reviewed.

"The opportunity for our fans to see more replays in our ballparks is also an important modification that the clubs and I favored," Selig said.

Instant replay will be utilized during some televised games in spring training for the purposes of educating on-field personnel on the rules of the new system.

(Reporting by Larry Fine, New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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