VIERA, Fla. - When Matt Williams strolled out of the first base dugout in the seventh inning of Sunday's game to challenge a safe call by first base umpire Gary Cederstrom, the Nationals manager knew that the initial call was correct.
So why did he endure a 1:56 replay review to confirm what he already knew?
"At some point during the game, you have to practice and we want to work the process as much as we can. ... It wouldn't be right for us to go through the whole game and not use one if there was something closer we could use it on," Williams explained after the Nationals' 2-1 loss to the Tigers.
Detroit's Ezequiel Carrera had lined a single to left with two down in the seventh, and strayed a little far around the bag at first. Left fielder Bryce Harper alertly noticed the play in front of him and fired a strike to Ryan Zimmerman at first. The tag Zimmerman slapped on Carrera's leg appeared to the naked eye to be late.
But Williams figured that if the Nats had replay at their disposal, and if they were going to have to get used to using the technology for its implementation during the regular season, why not go ahead and test the process?
"It's all practice at this point," the manager said. "We have here an eight-second delay, so we sit it with our eyes and we have an eight-second delay, which means about 20 seconds in real time). I sent the catcher out there to talk to the pitcher so we could get a view of it. It's the seventh inning and I don't know if we're going to get another chance, so it's a question of process and doing it again."
The eight-second delay merely delayed the inevitable.
"During the season, we'll have real time," Williams said. "It'll be instantaneous, quicker."
But don't be surprised if Williams continues to make use of replay challenges during the remainder of spring training. Even if something hasn't passed the eye test, he still needs to develop a comfort level with the process and technology behind it.
As for Zimmerman's long-awaited debut at first base, Williams was pleased - and hinted that he won't hesitate to use Zimmerman at the position again. He hopes to give Zimmerman a start at first base before spring training ends.
"We have to get him in there, and this won't be the last time. ... It's important for him to get innings over there," Williams said.
Right-hander Doug Fister, who hasn't pitched in a game since March 2, finally knows what the next step in his comeback from right elbow inflammation will be.
Williams said Fister, who came out of three days of throwing on flat ground followed by a Thursday bullpen session without any issues, will pitch two innings Monday in a minor league game while the Nationals travel to Lakeland for a rematch with the Tigers.
Wilson Ramos is scheduled to catch Fister, who should throw about 30 pitches.