PORTLAND – A weeknight ballgame in May is not usually a hot ticket at Hadlock Field.

But the seats will be filled tonight.

The Portland Sea Dogs begin a six-game home stand tonight with a special guest in the dugout. Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, a former habitant of Hadlock, will be in the Sea Dogs lineup tonight, as part of his rehab assignment.

Ellsbury, 26, is on the disabled list, recovering from fractured ribs suffered in an April 11 collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre.

When the Red Sox announced on Sunday that Ellsbury was coming to Portland, the Sea Dogs sold 1,100 tickets online. When the box office opened on Monday, another 2,100 were purchased.

When the box office closed Monday, only 85 tickets remained for the game (online sales Monday night could make the game a sellout, but some returned season tickets will go on sale this morning).

It is possible that Ellsbury will be with the Sea Dogs beyond tonight, but the Sox have not announced the length of his rehab.

Red Sox Manager Terry Francona told reporters in New York Monday before the Red Sox-Yankees game that outfielder Mike Cameron might also make a rehab appearance in Portland, on Wednesday.

Cameron is suffering from an injured abdomen.

Ellsbury began playing again on Monday with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. As the designated hitter, Ellsbury went 1-for-3 with two runs and an RBI.

After grounding out twice, Ellsbury singled in a run and later scored. In his final plate appearance, he walked and then scored on Josh Reddick’s triple.

Ellsbury could see his first action in center field tonight — bringing him back to the turf he patrolled in 2006 and the beginning of 2007.

A first-round draft pick in 2005 out of Oregon State University, Ellsbury was promoted to Portland on July 12, 2006. He batted .308 that season, helping the Sea Dogs to the Eastern League championship.

There was speculation that Ellsbury might begin 2007 in Pawtucket, but he was sent back to Portland, when current Sea Dogs manager Arnie Beyeler was beginning his first season.

The start of the 2007 season was marred by snow, and Ellsbury quickly made an impression on Beyeler. Instead of pouting about being back in Double-A, Ellsbury came ready to work.

“With all that snow, we were working out upstairs (at the Portland Expo),” Beyeler said. “Very monotonous, running and doing drills. And (Ellsbury) was the guy who won every drill we did. I never had to get on him.”

That was the first thing Beyeler remembers about Ellsbury.

“The second thing I remember is him hitting in the cold. He was very productive and a very good leader for the short time he was here. And then, geez, he almost becomes the World Series MVP that year.”

Ellsbury batted .452 in 17 games for Portland in 2007. He was promoted to Pawtucket and then to Boston. He started in the World Series and batted .438 (7-for-16) with four doubles, four runs and three RBI. Mike Lowell ended up being the Series MVP.

With his exciting play and good looks, Ellsbury became a hit in Boston and Red Sox Nation.

Ellsbury returned to Maine in January of 2008 for two Dunkin’ Donuts promotional appearance. Despite last-minute notice, hundreds jammed the shops he appeared in.

And now he’s coming back, with the next stop a return to the majors.

“We’ll see what the direction (for Ellsbury) is when he gets here,” Beyeler said. “Hopefully, we’ll get him healthy and get him out of here.”

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]