Weekend Dish

Multiple plunks trigger brawl in Reading

See also: Friday's Daily Dish

Double-A Reading has touted itself as Baseballtown since 2002. But the southeastern Pennsylvania city turned into Basebrawltown on Friday night, as nine players were ejected after a sixth-inning melee that began when Phillies righthander Scott Mathieson hit Connecticut catcher Eliezer Alfonzo in the leg.

As soon as Mathieson plunked Alfonzo--the third batter the 22-year-old righthander hit in the game--the Defenders catcher turned to Reading catcher Jeff Winchester, the two argued, and they soon ended up tussling on the ground. Winchester, who was just called up from high Class A Clearwater two weeks ago, said Alfonzo started the incident.

"He turned around and started popping off," Winchester told the Reading Eagle. "He's a catcher, and I'm sure he knows when things happen, usually it's a joint decision. I know there's a little something going back and forth between these teams, and I just kind of walked into it."

If there is some history between the two clubs, there is nothing on the record: No player had been ejected in the two clubs' six previous meetings. But there was history within the game. Mathieson hit batters in the third and fourth innings, with Connecticut second baseman Derin McCains having to leave the game after being hit in the hand, and then Reading shortstop Jesus Merchan was drilled in the fifth by righthander Matt Palmer.

When the benches cleared, Mathieson was the clear target of the Defenders. Mathieson, a Canadian native with an extensive youth hockey background, was thrown to the ground once and several Connecticut players took swings at him during the fight.

"Fighting’s never good," Mathieson told the paper. "That's the ugly side of baseball. It's unfortunate, but when stuff like that happens, you've got to stick up for teammates."

Connecticut had five players ejected--third baseman Brian Buscher, outfielder Nate Schierholtz, first baseman Tyler Von Schell, shortstop Jake Wald and Alfonzo--and Wald was taken to a local hospital to get stitches for a cut behind his ear.

It left the club so thin that manager Dave Machemer had to fill out three defensive spots with pitchers. Righthander Joe Bateman played second base, righthander R.D. Spiehs went in at first, and lefthander Jason Waddell finished the game in left field.

Mathieson, Winchester, Merchan and second baseman Tim Moss were ejected for Reading, and the Phillies went on to win the game, 3-0. Mathieson actually wound up getting the win, allowing just two hits over 5 2/3 shutout innings and striking out six.


• The Nationals called up righthander Shawn Hill from Triple-A New Orleans late Friday night. Hill, 25, returned to the big leagues for the first time since 2004, when he started three games for the Expos. He missed all of last year rehabbing after Tommy John surgery. The sixth-round pick in 2000 went 3-2, 2.64 in 44 innings at Double-A Harrisburg and made one start for the Zephyrs--allowing two earned runs over five innings last Sunday. Hill was impressive against the Dodgers, allowing just a run on five hits over seven innings of work on Saturday . . . Also in the callup department, the Devil Rays promoted righthander Jamie Shields to the big leagues after his start on Saturday for Triple-A Durham. Shields, a 16th-round pick in 2000, emerged in the Arizona Fall League last year, where the 24-year-old finished with a 1.74 ERA in 31 innings. This season, Shields was 3-2, 2.64 in 61 innings for the Bulls. He will make his major league debut on Tuesday at Baltimore . . . Padres catcher Colt Morton came off the disabled list at high Class A Lake Elsinore. Morton, a third-round pick in 2003 out of North Carolina State, had been sidelined with a groin injury since May 3. Morton was hitting .242/.384/.407 with a pair of home runs in 91 at-bats before the injury . . . The Rangers became the second club to dip into the independent Long Island Ducks pool this season, purchasing the contract of righthander Ryan Jensen. Jensen, an eighth-round pick of the Giants in 1996, spent nine seasons in San Francisco's system before signing with the Royals last season. Jensen was 2-2, 4.12 with 23 strikeouts in 26 innings for Long Island. The Nationals bought the contract of righthander Nelson Figueroa from the Ducks on May 9 . . . Twins righthander Kevin Slowey fought command problems in his Friday start against Brevard County--at least by his standards this season. Slowey, who had a 70-2 strikeout-walk ratio heading into his last start, more than doubled his season total by handing out three was in high Class A Fort Myers’ 8-2 win over the Manatees. While Slowey didn't figure in the decision, he also allowed his first home run in 51 innings. On the season, the 22-year-old righthander is 2-1, 1.48 with a 75 strikeouts (and those five walks) in 61 innings . . . The middle of high Class A Vero Beach's lineup went off in a doubleheader against Lakeland on Friday, as second baseman Blake DeWitt and first baseman Cory Dunlap combined to go 10-for-19 with seven runs scored in the two games. Vero Beach won them both, and the hero of the second game was right fielder Xavier Paul, who went 3-for-4 with his fifth home run of the year . . . Red Sox outfielder David Murphy made a splash in his Triple-A debut for Pawtucket Friday night, going 2-for-4 with a homer. Murphy, a first-rounder out of Baylor in 2003, batted .273/.315/.436 in 172 at-bats at Double-A Portland this season . . . The Rangers pulled off a minor league deal with the Marlins over the weekend, sending righthander Marc LaMacchia to Florida for shortstop Juan Gonzalez, a 24-year-old from Venezuela who was hitting .254/.333/.310 for high Class A Jupiter. LaMacchia went 1-3, 6.32 in 31 innings for high Class A Bakersfield.