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Red Sox try 'Call the Count' over PA system

Red Sox try 'Call the Count' over PA system

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The first pitch was delivered by John Lackey at 1:06 p.m. ET on Tuesday, another in a long line of sunny, pleasant days at JetBlue Park. Shortly after catcher David Ross gloved the pitch, public address announcer Ted Fitzgeorge announced subtly to the crowd, "Ball, 1-0."

This was an experiment by the Red Sox that might gain steam. Then again, it might not.

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"That's a bad idea," said Lackey. "Whoever did that hasn't been between the lines."

"Call the count" was the name of the gimmick, which has been debated around by some Red Sox executives for a while. The Red Sox deployed it throughout Tuesday's game.

"It's based on a point of view that so much of baseball, especially in recent years, focuses on the count," said Red Sox executive vice president Charles Steinberg. "Is it a 1-2 pitch? Is it a 3-2 pitch? And you want to achieve the balance of information, this time in an aural form that complements the visual form to which you're accustomed."

It didn't seem to be a huge hit with the players, but bench coach Torey Lovullo, who managed the split-squad game at home, was understanding of the process.

"We know it's an experimental process," Lovullo said. "This is the time to try it while we're down here. I don't think everyone's going to have the same opinion. I'm very traditional and it was a little bit different from what we're used to. This is the time to try it, and if it works for the fans and their entertainment value, that's what it's all about. Moving forward, I don't know which direction we're going to go with that, but all in all, it could have been a distraction for different guys depending on where they are and what they're doing during the course of the day."

"There's been spirited debate about this for more than a year at Fenway Park," said Steinberg. "Rather than continue to debate it in the abstract, you recognize that a Spring Training game might be the ideal place to give it a try. Now whether it's well received, that may be evaluated on a one-day basis, one-inning basis. We'll have to see whether it makes it until "Sweet Caroline."

Even though the idea didn't seem to take off, the Red Sox might give it one more try.

"If it's overwhelmingly negative, we'll have colleagues who say, 'Well, that was too small a sample size. Let's try it again.' It's light, it's informal, it's intended to be, ironically, a traditionalist's move," Steinberg said. "In my opinion, the degree to which it works is the degree to which it is a gentle zephyr that taps you on the shoulder and whispers to you versus an interrupted, unwelcomed vocal intrusion.

"And part of that may depend on the PA announcer's deliver. That may vary PA announcer to PA announcer. If you imagine Dick Flavin with his avuncular or grandfatherly texture, it may be a gentle touch. If the late Bob Casey from Minnesota were announcing it in Minnesota, I don't know. We'll see if, like Brussels sprouts, it's an acquired taste."

Before going through with it, the Red Sox checked in with Major League Baseball.

"The clubs know and Major League Baseball knows," said Steinberg said. "Their main point was to make sure the umpire has made his call first."

Lackey said it didn't distract him personally, but he could see how it could be annoying in a certain type of situation.

"For me, it's not that big of a deal, because I'm not that worried about throwing strikes," Lackey said. "But I could foresee a situation someone that's struggling to throw strikes, that's pretty much beating the guy over the head. He realized it was a ball. He doesn't want to hear it again. That's a bad idea."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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