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Manfred praises challenge system over fully automated strike zone

Patrick Smith / Getty Images Sport / Getty

SEATTLE (AP) — A challenge system allowing appeals to a computer appears to be Major League Baseball's preference over a sole robot umpire.

MLB is testing the Automated Ball-Strike System at Triple-A this year. The computer makes determinations for half the games and in the other half, batters, pitchers and catchers can challenge human calls to the robot.

The challenge system was used at T-Mobile Park for Saturday's All-Star Futures Game. The human umpire was upheld on three of four calls.

“The people’s reaction to it was really positive, really positive,” Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. “The challenge system in terms of the reaction in the minor leagues, people are more comfortable with the challenge system than the full ABS.”

MLB launched several innovations this season, including a pitch clock, limits on defensive shifts and pickoff throws and larger bases. Manfred said last month the computer was not likely to be ready for the major leagues in 2024. The shape of a computer strike zone is still a subject of debate.

A decision would be up to an 11-man competition committee that includes six management representatives, four players and one umpire.

“Pleased that it’s gone well in the minor leagues,” Manfred said. “We had a lot of change this year. The joint committee is going to have to get to some sort of consensus on whether and when.”


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