PORTLAND — It was homecoming night Tuesday at Hadlock Field as three familiar faces returned – infielder Ryan Khoury, outfielder Jason Place and catcher Ryan Baker.

Khoury, 27, is back with the Sea Dogs after the Red Sox offered him a contract three days ago.

Khoury, a 12th-round draft pick in 2006 out of the University of Utah, played most of the past three seasons in Portland. He was known for his hustle in the field while working counts at the plate.

Khoury batted .249 over three years in Portland and at the end of this year’s spring training, was released.

“I always knew it was a possibility, but it was not something I expected,” Khoury said. “It was tough. I have such good relationships with not only players but staff members in the organization. It was pretty emotional.”

As far as his career was concerned, “I was in the dark. It’s a wait-around thing. Teams have their rosters filled. Tough to get a job.”

Khoury found a spot in Sauget, Ill., with the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League. He was reunited with a former Sea Dogs infielder, Zach Borowiak, the Grizzlies’ bench coach.

Khoury was batting .320 in 26 games when the Red Sox called Sunday, needing him to join an injury-riddled Sea Dogs roster. He packed up his 2005 Saab and drove 23 hours to Portland.

Khoury started at shortstop Tuesday, going 0 for 5 with a walk and a run.

He saw a total of 38 pitches in his six plate appearances.

 

JASON PLACE played parts of the past two seasons with the Sea Dogs. A first-round draft pick in 2006, Place couldn’t meet expectations with a .234 career average.

Place, 23, also was released in spring training.

The Yankees signed Place. After 13 games in advanced Class A, he was promoted to Trenton. He went 0 for 4 on Tuesday against the Sea Dogs, lowering his average to .157 in 13 games.

“The organization is trying to find out what we got (with Place),” Trenton Manager Tony Franklin said. “I don’t know much about Jason. He’s OK, just trying to get comfortable.”

 

RYAN BAKER was back at Hadlock Field, where he played eight years ago as a senior for Portland High. Baker, 26, has been with Trenton for parts of three seasons.

Playing against the Sea Dogs means coming home.

“I get to see my family,” Baker said. “Had an off day (Monday). Swung by the house. You can’t beat it.”

Baker signed with the Yankees in 2008 as an undrafted free agent from the University of Cincinnati. Recently activated, he has two hits in five games with the Thunder.

 

THE DISABLED list for Portland features three infielders – Will Middlebrooks (elbow), Tony Thomas (back) and Ryan Dent (hamstring). Thus the need for Khoury.

Middlebrooks may come back soon but initially only as a designated hitter, according to Manager Kevin Boles.

 

A SPECIAL ceremonial first pitch took place just before the game when Colin L’Heureux, 17, of Sanford threw off the Hadlock mound. L’Heureux usually has watched Hadlock at a distance from his room at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, where he has undergone numerous treatments for cancer.

L’Heureux recently was put in contact with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine. As L’Heureux stood on the mound, it was announced that his wish was granted – he and his family would be attending a Red Sox game in July, watching from the Monster seats.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases