PORTLAND – To move up in the minor leagues, players have to produce.

So what is Matt Rizzotti doing still in a Reading Phillies uniform?

The short answer to that question is that he is bashing the ball, as he did Wednesday night at Hadlock Field, hitting two home runs in Reading’s 13-4 rout of the Portland Sea Dogs.

The long answer as to why Rizzotti is not in Triple-A is not so clear.

Rizzotti, 25, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound first baseman, batted .361 with 16 home runs in 77 games with Reading last year. He was promoted to Triple-A last August.

Rizzotti was placed on Philadelphia’s 40-man roster in the offseason, protecting him from the Rule 5 draft. So far, so good.

But right before teams set their rosters at the end of spring training, the Phillies took Rizzotti off the 40-man roster and, after he cleared waivers, gave him a minor league contract.

“That was a fun process,” Rizzotti said. “I got a crash course in the business side.”

Then, instead of landing in Triple-A, Rizzotti found himself back in Reading, where he is batting .359 with eight home runs.

“I was a little surprised, a little upset,” Rizzotti said of his return to Double-A. “I’m trying to make the best of it. It builds mental toughness.”

Rizzotti’s first home run was a three-run blast in the seventh inning off a slider from reliever Cesar Cabral (0-1), giving Reading the lead for good, 6-4.

Rizzotti added a solo shot in the ninth off Santos Luis.

Portland’s bullpen gave up 11 runs, spoiling the start by Michael Lee (five innings, three hits, two runs), whose ERA dropped to 4.32.

“He controlled both sides of the plate,” Sea Dogs catcher Ryan Lavarnway said. “He gave us a quality start. It’s a shame we couldn’t keep the lead for him.”

Lavarnway did his part to give Portland the advantage with his team-leading seventh home run in the fourth. Other RBI from Tim Federowicz (single), Chih-Hsien Chiang (double) and Alex Hassan (sacrifice fly) put Portland ahead, 4-2.

But the Phillies (23-16) dinged the Portland bullpen for 11 hits as the Sea Dogs dropped to 12-24. 

NOTES: How wet has it been at Hadlock? Last year, the grounds crew pulled the tarp on or off a total of 40 times. After Wednesday’s game, the crew came out for the 41st time already this season. Hassan went 0 for 2 with a walk and sacrifice fly. His average dropped to .368, still best in the Eastern League, ahead of Erie’s Justin Henry (.367) and Rizzotti (.359). Lavarnway got off to a slow start, but his average has slowly risen to .235. “It’s starting to come around,” he said. The announced paid attendance was 3,585, with many ticket holders choosing warmth over a ballgame. Today’s noon contest is the last home game until Monday. 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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Twitter: ClearTheBases