A Pawtucket-Durham game that began with the focus on the starting pitchers — top prospects Jon Lester and Jason Hammel — became memorable for all the wrong reasons. In one of the weirdest scenes in any game in any league, Durham outfielder Delmon Young (above), one of the top prospects in all of baseball, flipped his bat and hit the home-plate umpire in the chest after striking out in the first. Since the umpire had a chest protector on, he was not hurt.
Even without their star, Durham beat Pawtucket, 6-2.
The victory, though, could be very costly for Durham, the parent Tampa Bay Devil Rays and, especially, for the highly touted Young, the No. 1 overall pick in the baseball draft in 2003.
Batting with two on and no outs in the top of the first, Young was called on out strikes. As Pawtucket catcher Corky Miller stepped in front of the plate to make sure the runners stayed where they were, Young lingered at the plate.
“I heard the umpire say, you better get going,” said Miller, who thought the strike call was correct. “I turned around and saw he was still in the box. I didn’t hear him say anything. I think he took a little too much time.”
As Young began to walk away, the umpire ejected him. Young was four or five steps away when he realized he had been thrown out. He turned and flipped the bat underhanded at the umpire. The bat was going end over end as it struck the umpire in the chest and shoulder.
The situation was further complicated because the plate umpire, like all umps in minor-league baseball, is a replacement. The normal International League umpires are on strike. Because of reported threats against the replacements, their names are not being given out.
Reporters were not allowed to speak to any of the three last night.
More troubling for Red Sox fans, Jon Lester is now 0-4 with an ERA of 6.94.
Lastings Milledge was 1 for 3 in Norfolk’s 4-2 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last night, scoring two runs and walking once. Heath Bell (above) struck out a pair in a scoreless 9th inning to collect his 5th save.
Kris Wilson collected his first win of ’06, striking out 8 and allowing a mere 4 hits in 7 innings’ work, as Columbus defeated Louisville, 3-0. Scott Erickson pitched a scoreless 8th inning, lowering his ERA to 1.42 and increasing the chances that he might again have an opportunity to be shelled at the big league level.