PHOENIX — The Dodgers could have been excused for looking over their shoulders when their charter flight landed from San Diego to see if umpires Rick Reed or Ted Barrett were lurking within earshot.
Reed and Barrett, several Dodgers said, contributed to the explosive episode at Petco Park in San Diego on Wednesday night by baiting Dodgers players and behaving in a confrontational manner rather than trying to defuse tensions.
The Dodgers were culpable as well, allowing frustration over losing three in a row to the Padres to trigger tantrums by Julio Lugo and Brad Penny, inflammatory comments to the umpires by Jeff Kent and the ejections of Lugo, Penny and Manager Grady Little.
Penny, in particular, is developing a reputation as a hothead. The burly right-handed pitcher has yelled at Little and center fielder Kenny Lofton during games, and frequently makes it clear while he is pitching that he isn't happy with the umpires.
More than one Dodger has whispered that Penny might be targeted by umpires who are responding to his frequent tirades by squeezing the strike zone.
Yet in this case, even Padres broadcasters Matt Vasgersian and Tony Gwynn commented on the air that Reed and Barrett appeared to instigate the altercations.
Reed walked from behind the plate in the fifth inning and engaged in a verbal exchange with Kent, who had come to the mound in an effort to calm Penny. And after Penny was ejected and had to be restrained by coaches Mariano Duncan and Dave Jauss from charging Reed, Barrett aggressively ushered Penny to the dugout.
It's unclear whether any of the behavior will result in fines, suspensions or reprimands. The Dodgers were not contacted by Major League Baseball on Thursday and discipline against umpires is not made public.
Reed would not comment on whether he believed sanctions would be appropriate, saying only that Bob Watson, the MLB administrator in charge of discipline, would review video of the altercation.
The rookie league Gulf Coast League Dodgers won their division with a 32-22 record and open a three-game series for the league championship next week against the Red Sox affiliate.
Six Dodgers prospects will play in the Arizona Fall League, including left-hander Scott Elbert, considered the top pitching prospect in the organization.
Others are right-handed pitchers Brian Akin and Danny Muegge, catcher A.J. Ellis, shortstop Chin-lung Hu and outfielder Anthony Raglani. Ken Howell, pitching coach at triple-A Las Vegas, will serve as pitching coach in the fall league for the Mesa Solar Sox.
Seven Dodgers prospects will play for the North Shore Honu of the fledgling Hawaii Winter Baseball League. The league began in 1993 but folded six years later.