Desmond update plus replay reactions after Nats’ 10-9 loss

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Ian Desmond was scratched from today’s game against the Astros due to a cut on the pinky finger of his throwing hand, manager Matt Williams said after the Nationals’ 10-9 loss to Houston.

Fielding grounders during batting practice, Desmond had a ball hop up on him, and the finger split open. The shortstop was taken out of the starting lineup, and was replaced by Jamey Carroll.

“He’s fine, but we just decided to hold him out today and not push it,” Williams said of Desmond.

Williams said Desmond did not get the finger X-rayed, and the Nats don’t seem to think it will be something that lingers for too long.

“He’s probably (out) a couple days,” Williams said. “They put some ... superglue stuff on it to put it together and let it heal up. He’s good, though. If it was during the season, he’d play. But not today.”

The main talk after today’s game was about the new instant replay system, which the Nationals got to put into action for the first time.

Williams came out of the first base dugout in the top of the sixth inning after Jose Lobaton was called out at first base on the back end of a 6-4-3 double play. Williams looked behind him to get confirmation from bench coach Randy Knorr that he should challenge, then he walked out of the dugout and briefly talked with first base umpire Ryan Blakney and told him he’d like to challenge the call.

“We figured we better get to it at some point because you never know when you get to it,” Williams said. “You want to practice. We figured that would be a spot to practice it. It was a little inconclusive with our guys upstairs watching it. ... It was perfect time. You don’t know if you are going to get another chance.”

The decision to challenge the call came after video coordinator Erick Dalton, who was upstairs in a booth monitoring the video feed, used a walkie-talkie to call down to Knorr on the bench. That’s how the process will go in the regular season, as well, except that teams will have a hard line phone in the dugout and somewhere in the clubhouse instead of walkie-talkies, so personnel can communicate that way.

After Williams said that he wanted to challenge, Blakney and home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom went over to the far end of the first base dugout to put on headsets and communicate with MLB headquarters in New York, where the replays are monitored. Following just a 45-second delay, Cederstrom came back onto the field and indicated that Lobaton was indeed out, meaning the Nats had lost their challenge.

The result didn’t matter all that much, but Williams was happy the Nats got a chance to give things a test run when it comes to instant replay.

“It’s like, OK, we finally get to work the system,” Williams said. “So it was good. ... You might as well (try it). Let’s practice. Let’s see what we can accomplish here. It was good. We got the first one out of the way.”

The Astros (who had previously had access to instant replay in three of their spring games) also got to challenge a call today, and they actually got their challenge right.

Delino DeShields was called out at first on a grounder in the hole between short and third to end the seventh inning, but manager Bo Porter came out to challenge the call. Umpires ended up overturning the call on the field when replay showed DeShields to be safe, putting runners on first and third with two outs instead of the inning being over. Marwin Gonzalez then singled to right, scoring Jesus Guzman, a run that wouldn’t have counted if not for replay.

“I had a pretty good idea when I left the dugout that he was safe,” Porter told reporters. “Our replay crew, they did a great job of getting it down to the dugout right away that he was safe, so it’s definitely a benefit to have that late in the game.”

On the Nats’ replay, Lobaton said he thought he was safe when he first felt his foot hit the bag, so he wasn’t sure exactly how the replay situation would play out. Williams told him he was challenging the call and to go stand on first base, assuming the call would be overturned.

“I know this is spring training (but) I got so mad, because I knew that was my last at-bat,” Lobaton said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I was so mad because I got the groundball. The manager said, ‘You got to stay.’ I was like, ‘Why?’ ‘Because we appeal. We challenged that.’ I was like, ‘Really? What is that? Oh, okay. I got you.’

“It’s weird,” Lobaton then added, with a smile. “I don’t know. I really like (the replay system). But at the same time, if that happened to me, if I got an infield hit and they called me out, I’d be so pissed. I need that hit.”

Two of the Nats’ hurlers today were asked their opinions of replay, and both seemed skeptical about it, but for different reasons.

“I think it’s gonna be a momentum-killer for opposing teams,” said Tanner Roark, who allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings today and seems concerned about the amount of time replays will consume. “But that’s just my opinion, I’m sure. I want the calls to be right, but it’s baseball, you know? You can’t get everything correct.”

Added reliever Craig Stammen: “I think the managers can play some strategy with it, stalling the game. If you challenge the call just to get somebody loose, it’s an advantage. I don’t like that aspect of it, because it can turn into a strategic piece rather than just trying to get the call right. We’ll see how it goes.”

Roark said he was fairly pleased with today’s outing, his third of spring.

“It’s windy in Florida, I’ve noticed,” the righty deadpanned. “Got to keep the ball down and pitch inside. There’s a couple hits that were helped (by the wind), but the first guy, I had him 0-2 and walked him, and leadoff walks hurt, two-out walks hurt.

“I was rushing a little bit. Tried to make too perfect of a pitch on (Dexter) Fowler to walk him. Leadoff walk for the game, not a good way to start. But settled back in and me and (pitching coach Steve) McCatty just talked about staying back a little bit more. Felt a lot better.”

Stammen had an interesting outing, going two innings and allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits. He did strike out four, however, including all three hitters he faced in the fifth.

“Today was a big step forward for me,” he said. “I felt pretty good out there, especially the second inning that I threw. I felt like my stuff was moving. My slider was a little bit better, even though I threw some pretty bad ones today, too. They had two bloop hits and three ground ball hits. I can’t really complain about that. When I faced their top five hitters, in between the first, second and third inning, I struck four out of the five out. It’s a positive I can take away.”

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