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Druley: Replay push unlikely to spread in minors

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 5:32 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 10:41 a.m. CDT
(Sean King for Shaw Media)
Controversial calls such as the one that recently sent Cougars third baseman Jeimer Candelario (left) into a frenzy still should be in play in the minors despite Major League Baseball's 2014 expansion of instant replay.

Major League Baseball’s recent decision to implement expanded instant replay in 2014 won’t trickle down to the minor leagues.

Where most other big league rules apply at each park in the minors, MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s Aug. 15 replay announcement did not pertain to any clubs’ affiliates.

“There’s not enough funds and all that. It takes a lot of money to do that,” Cougars manager Mark Johnson said. “You’re talking about 30 [MLB] teams struggling to think that they can do it with the owners and all that, then you figure how many minor league teams there are.”

That’s a time-consuming exercise, no doubt, and perhaps even a potential pastime for fans waiting through the next fair/foul or home run/not a home run dispute.

Under the new system, which is expected to be finalized at the next round of MLB owners meetings in mid-November, managers would be allotted three challenges a game, and just about everything other than the strike zone would be under the microscope.

A dry run in the minors, though, apparently isn’t under review.

“It’ll probably go in phases if it ever did, you know,” Johnson said. “It would start at Triple-A and do Triple-A, and that might be the extent of it, I would think, for a while.”

Cougars players aspiring to reach the big lights of “The Show” now can fathom a world with even more camera time. Given the parent Cubs’ penchant for video analysis, most are already accustomed to the equipment hanging from the outer roof of the press box at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark this season.

“I guess it would be hard to have the cameras down here at all the games and get all the angles,” reliever Sheldon McDonald said, “but I think it’s definitely a good idea in the big leagues for close plays, game-changing plays that need to be reviewed to make sure they have everything right.”

See you in the fall: The Cougars were eliminated from playoff contention over the weekend, but two of their one-time 2013 members still will experience postseason ball.

The Cubs on Tuesday announced center fielder Albert Almora and right-hander Armando Rivero will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox of the prestiguious Arizona Fall League that begins Oct. 8.

Mesa plays its home games at Hohokam Stadium, the Cubs’ spring training home, and also includes prospects from the Angels, A’s, Nationals and Tigers organizations.

Johnson, a catcher drafted 26th overall by the White Sox in 1994, played in the AFL twice. The league often brands itself as a “finishing school” for big leaguers.

“Not too many people in the stands, except for GMs and front office people and scouts, which is what matters [in evaluation], anyways,” Johnson said, “but it’s a really competitive league and usually 80 percent of the people who play in that league are in the big leagues the next year or two. It’s an exciting league for young prospects to play in.”

Almora, who has been shut down for the season as he battles a bone bruise in his groin, will be part of the “taxi squad” that’s eligible to play only twice a week.

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

Who's hot
Entering Wednesday, outfielder Trevor Gretzky was batting .370 (10 for 27) in eight games as a Cougar. His five-game hitting streak ended Monday.
Who's not
Infielder Brad Zapenas is hitting .176 (3 for 17) since rejoining the Cougars from Advanced-A Daytona earlier this month.
Star watch
The parent Minnesota Twins have promoted their share of top prospects from Cedar Rapids this season, but right fielder Adam Brett Walker II, a third-round pick in 2012, has stuck around. As the visiting Cougars prepared to open a three-game series against the Kernels Wednesday, Walker led the Midwest League in home runs (26) and RBIs (106) while batting .280.
With only a Saturday-Sunday-Monday series against Peoria remaining on the home schedule, the Cougars' attendance average of 5,994 fans per game – second in the Midwest League – is about a 7 percent increase over last season's 5,587. … The Cougars must attract 22,355 fans in the last three games to reach 400,000 spectators for the season. Last season's gate of 391,102 snapped a streak of 18 successive summers of at least 400,000 fans. Because of weather postponements, Fifth Third Bank Ballpark will have at least four fewer openings this season than in 2012. … First baseman/designated hitter Rock Shoulders is batting .224 (74 for 331) since April, when he hit .370 and earned honors as the parent Cubs' organizational player of the month. ... Infielder Giuseppe Papaccio is in the running for the "Moniker Madness" title awarded for the best name in minor league baseball after online fan voting at Voting ends today. Shoulders won the award last season, while former Cougar Dusty Napoleon was the recipient in 2009.

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