PORTLAND — They spent the past six weeks in sunshine and high 80-degree temperatures.
On Tuesday, the Portland Sea Dogs worked out under bright skies. But the first workout in Portland featured temperatures in the 40’s, with a cold wind cutting through Hadlock Field.
“Definitely a little bit chilly,” said new third baseman Kolbrin Vitek.
The Sea Dogs held their Portland initiation Tuesday, including a workout, meetings with the front office, media interviews and the annual Meet the Sea Dogs dinner.
The team will leave today for its opener Thursday, a doubleheader in Reading, Pa. The Sea Dogs will return next Thursday, April 12, for the 6 p.m. home opener at Hadlock.
The roster includes 18 players who played in Portland last year, 16 who finished the season with the Sea Dogs (catcher Matt Spring and infielder Heiker Meneses finished in advanced Class A Salem).
Tweaking is needed because the roster has 26 players, one over the limit. Someone will go on the inactive or disabled list before the opener.
Also, pitchers Anthony Ranaudo and Stolmy Pimentel aren’t on the roster but are expected to join the team soon. Ranaudo (stained groin muscle) and Pimentel (strained lat muscle) both missed some time in spring training and were held back in Florida.
Including Ranaudo (No. 4) and Pimentel (23rd), the Red Sox roster contains seven players ranked among the organization’s top 30 prospects by Baseball America magazine — outfielders Bryce Brentz (No. 5) and Oscar Tejeda (24th), and infielders Vitek (19th), Derrik Gibson (25th) and Meneses (30th).
All of the Sea Dogs were with the Red Sox organization last year except two pitchers — Bill Buckner and Aaron Kurcz.
Buckner, 28, not only has a name familiar to Red Sox fans (he’s not related to the former Boston first baseman), but is the only one on the roster with major league experience.
Buckner made his major league debut with the Kansas City Royals in 2007 (when Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure was with the Royals), and has been up and down from the majors to Triple-A since, with the Royals, Diamondbacks and Tigers. He pitched all last season with the Rockies’ Triple-A team (4-8, 6.03 ERA).
He wasn’t in Portland on Tuesday because the Red Sox brought him to their exhibition game in Washington D.C. (along with Sea Dogs catcher Dan Butler and infielder Jon Hee).
“He’s a veteran guy and hopefully he can soak up some innings for us,” Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. “We only saw him one time in spring training but what we saw, we liked.”
Buckner will be in a starting rotation that features Chris Balcom-Miller, Brock Huntzinger, Chris Hernandez and Chris Martin.
Ranaudo, the top pitching prospect for the Red Sox, will headline the rotation once he’s ready.
Boles said he will start Balcom-Miller and Martin in Thursday’s doubleheader.
Kurcz, 21, had the unique experience of being traded in a deal for a general manager. Kurcz was one of the two players the Cubs sent over in the unique compensation deal involving the former Red Sox general manager, Theo Epstein.
“That was kind of cool. It doesn’t happen often,” Kurcz said. “It was kind of a shock at first but I’m definitely excited to get going with the Red Sox.”
Kurcz is the only reliever who wasn’t with the Sea Dogs last year. Josh Fields, obtained from Seattle in the Erik Bedard deal last July, may be the top returning pitcher to the bullpen. He had one save and a 3.12 ERA for Portland last season.
The infield features Vitek at third, Gibson at shortstop, Meneses at second, Reynaldo Rodriguez at first and Ryan Dent anywhere but first. Hee returns as the utility infielder.
The outfield is crowded with five players, including Tejeda, who is being moved from second base. Brentz, who hit 30 home runs in Class A last year, is in right. Peter Hissey is in center and Tejeda will be worked into left field, although the Sea Dogs feature quality depth with Jeremy Hazelbaker and Ronald Bermudez.
The players met the media while sporting their Sea Dogs jerseys, which features a patch on the right sleeve with the initials D.B.B., honoring Dan Burke, the Sea Dogs’ owner who died in the offseason at age 82.
Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]