When the Portland Sea Dogs released their roster Tuesday for the start of the season, a couple of observations stood out.
This team is full of prospects. Nearly a third of them (seven) are listed among the top 30 Red Sox prospects, ranked by Baseball America.
And several of those prospects are pitchers.
“A very talented group with some interesting arms on the mound,” Manager Kevin Boles said.
Boles and his players begin their season Thursday at Hadlock Field with a 6 p.m. game against the Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees.
Four of the five Portland starters are on the Baseball America list, including Thursday’s starter, left-hander Drake Britton (No. 11).
The rest of the rotation will be Brandon Workman, (No. 12), Kyle Kaminska, Matt Barnes (No. 3) and Anthony Ranaudo (No. 14).
Barnes is the Red Sox’s first-round draft pick in 2011 out of the University of Connecticut.
He pitched all season in Class A last year, compiling a 7-5 record and 2.86 ERA.
Workman and Ranaudo were in Portland last year. Kaminska, 24, came to the Sox last December in a trade with Pittsburgh for Zach Stewart (Stewart was one of the pitchers obtained in the Kevin Youkilis trade).
The bullpen will be led by major leaguer Daniel Bard, who has been sent to the minors to work on his consistency. Bard, once one of the top relievers in the game, is trying to rebound from an off year in 2012, when he attempted to become a starter.
Brock Huntzinger returns to the bullpen, which is somewhat of a surprise because Huntzinger was promoted to Triple-A at the end of last year.
“Huntzinger had a good spring training,” said Ben Crockett, the Red Sox director of player development. “However the roster crunch in Pawtucket to start the season left him starting the year in Portland.”
Among the relievers in Pawtucket are former Sea Dogs Alex Wilson and Jeremy Kehrt.
Chris Balcom-Miller and Aaron Kurcz, two Portland relievers last year, are in extended spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., rehabbing from injuries.
Among everyday players, the spotlight will be on shortstop Xander Bogaerts, considered the best Red Sox prospect since Hanley Ramirez. Bogaerts, 20, gave Portland a small sample after a late-season promotion last year. He batted .326 in 23 games with five home runs.
Chris Vazquez (prospect rank No. 19) may be the best defensive catcher developed by the Red Sox in several years. The challenge for Vazquez, 22, is to improve his hitting.
First baseman Travis Shaw (ranked No. 23) also played briefly in Portland last year.
Three outfielders have played in Portland before — Peter Hissey, Ronald Bermudez and Shannon Wilkerson. The fourth outfielder, Tony Thomas, is making a position switch from the infield. He was in Pawtucket all last year.
Portland’s roster has 26 players. The Eastern League limit is 25 so one player will be placed on the inactive list before the season begins.
Boles will be joined by returning pitching coach Bob Kipper and new hitting coach Rich Gedman.
Thursday’s opener is the first game of a seven-day homestand.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: