(Reuters) - Pitcher Oliver Perez rejoined the Seattle Mariners on Sunday from the World Baseball Classic and received some good-natured kidding from team mates who had seen him on TV the night before in a bench-clearing skirmish.
The left-hander, one of seven players ejected from the Mexico-Canada game in Phoenix on Saturday, said things got quickly out of hand after his Mexico team mate Arnold Leon hit Rene Tosoni with a pitch after Canada bunted with a 9-3 lead.
Some Mexican players thought Canada was pouring it on by laying down a ninth-inning bunt base hit with such a big lead, while the winners said they were just being mindful that run differential could decide a tiebreaker in the standings.
As the benches emptied, some wild punches were thrown as players pushed and shoved, and Perez was right in the middle.
"Everyone just reacted," Perez told reporters after he had returned to the Mariners' spring training clubhouse in Arizona once Mexico was eliminated from the tournament. "When fights go wild, anybody can get hurt and that can hurt your career.
"But when you're in there, it's just reaction. You don't want anybody to punch or push you. We're humans. And in those moments, you just react."
His Mariners team mates were happy to see Perez back, but could not let the moment pass without some joking.
"Hey, you OK?" fellow reliever Josh Kinney said as he clapped Perez on the shoulder. "Are your knuckles all right?"
Perez pitched to only one batter in the tournament, getting a quick out during Mexico's 5-2 upset victory over the United States.
"It was a really good experience when you represent your country," Perez said. "It's not every year you can do that. So you're really happy because they want you to be on the team and you feel proud of your country and all the work you do.
"This tournament is getting better every year. You see Italy, they don't have a lot of big names, but they just want to win. They're doing everything right and ... that's why they're going to the second round."
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)