FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Yankees narrowly beat the Twins, 5-4, but if not for baseball's newest wrinkle, the replay rule, the ending might have been quite different for them and their starter, Masahiro Tanaka.
With one out and a runner on first in the third inning, Francisco Cervelli's throw, and more importantly, Dean Anna's tag, seemed to nip Aaron Hicks, who seemed to slide short heading into second on a steal attempt. Hicks was called safe by second base umpire Marvin Hudson, but Joe Girardi knew that didn't look right to his eye, and ambled slowly out to discuss it while waiting for Brett Weber, a coaching assistant whose responsibility it is to monitor replays, to relay the signal to bench coach Tony Pena and on to Girardi to challenge the call.
This was done with surprising alacrity, and the entire process, from the time Girardi alerted the umpires he wanted the call challenged, to the time the call was (rightly) overturned and Hicks ruled out, took all of 44 seconds.
More importantly for the Yankees, it erased a baserunner and added a second out, two factors that became vital when Brian Dozier singled and Kurt Suzuki reached on an error by Scott Sizemore at third. Hicks no doubt would have scored on one of those plays, but Tanaka -- who walked Joe Mauer to load the bases -- not only escaped that, but total disaster when Josh Willingham just missed clubbing his fastball out of the park for a grand slam. Zelous Wheeler caught the ball just in front of the left-field fence and a spring training catastrophe was narrowly averted.
"Worked out pretty good," Girardi said. "The great thing about it is, no one wants to be wrong, whether it’s me or them. There have been a lot of times I’ve argued calls that I thought for sure I was right, and I was wrong. But now we have replay to reassure everyone.”
This was Girardi's second challenge of the spring, and first successful one -- he challenged a call at first, knowing Brian Roberts was out, just to test the system in a home game versus Detroit on March 12.
"There will be some glitches every once in a while, and some things might take longer than they want, but I actually think it’s going to work good," Girardi said.
Meanwhile, back in Tampa: Girardi said Jacoby Ellsbury had "a good day," but provided no other details. Ellsbury was scheduled to take part in a full workout, including batting practice, fielding drills and some running. Girardi is still saying Ellsbury is not likely to return until Tuesday, and maybe in a minor league game. ... Girardi had no details on Hiroki Kuroda, who was pitching in a minor league game at the player development complex while the Yankees were playing the Twins. ... Like all the starters, Tanaka's workload will be cut back, to about 50 pitches, for his final spring training start next week. Girardi hasn't told us which game he will pitch yet.
There's always tomorrow: Another chance to see Michael Pineda, who should be named the No. 5 starter, in action, against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon at The Boss. LHP Mark Buehrle goes for the Jays. First pitch is at 1:05 p.m. YES, MLB Network and WFAN will carry the game live.