PORTLAND – Catcher David Ross and pitcher Franklin Morales, on rehab assignments from the Boston Red Sox, accomplished what they set out to do Thursday while helping the Portland Sea Dogs close a successful homestand with an 8-4 victory against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
The game featured the first Hadlock Field morning start — 11 a.m. — in the team’s 20-year history.
Ross doubled home Portland’s first run and later scored as the Sea Dogs led 3-1 after the first inning. The Sea Dogs added three runs in the second and another in the third to open a 7-1 lead.
Portland, which leads the Eastern Division, took 3 of 4 games from the Fisher Cats.
Ross has been out since May 11 when he suffered a concussion, taking two foul balls off the mask in Toronto.
Morales, a left-hander who has started and relieved for the Red Sox, was the winning pitcher.
Morales, who has been on the disabled list all season with a back strain, got his second start for the Sea Dogs and fifth overall in rehab stints with Greenville, Pawtucket and Portland. He evened his record at 1-1 in those assignments.
Both players said they feel fine and are looking to return to the Red Sox. Ross returned to Boston after the game.
“It was good to knock the rust off a little bit,” said Ross. “I hadn’t done much in about 10 days. I didn’t take any dings off the mask, which was good.”
Ross doubled to right field to score Shannon Wilkerson to tie the game in the bottom of the first after New Hampshire scored an unearned run in the top of the inning.
“I got a change-up,” said Ross, who struck out in his next two at-bats before leaving after the fifth.
“I got a little antsy at the plate later,” said Ross. “I’ll go back to Boston, talk to the doctors and have some tests done.”
Asked about rejoining the Red Sox, Ross said: “It’s in their court.”
Morales allowed five hits, one run, struck out three and walked one in five innings.
“I thought he threw well,” said Ross. “This was the first time I caught him. I didn’t catch him in spring training. He probably wanted a little more velocity. He threw a lot of good two-seam fastballs and got a lot of ground balls.”
Morales said his velocity will come later.
“I’m not worried about that. I made good pitches and tried to mix it up. I worked on all my pitches. My back feels good. A couple of more rehab starts and I’ll be ready,” he said.
Having major league players doing rehab assignments is a plus for the Sea Dogs, said Manager Kevin Boles.
“They set a great example,” he said. “The way they go about their business. They’re among the best 750 baseball players in the world. It was pretty special watching them work together.”
The Dogs jumped on left-handed starter Matt Wright with three doubles and a triple in the first three innings. Derrik Gibson had two doubles and finished 3 for 4 with two RBI.
Portland received a gift in the first inning when left fielder Brian Van Kirk had Matt Spring’s line drive go off his glove for an error that scored Ross and Michael Almanzar to make it 3-1.
Xander Bogaerts added an RBI triple in the second.
“I felt real comfortable up there today,” said Gibson. “I’m working with our hitting coach, Rich Gedman. I got a couple of good pitches to hit and tried to put good swings on them.”
Boles liked the way his team swung the bats.
“The guys played well from an offensive standpoint,” he said. “They were working the counts. Gibson gave us a big spark in the No. 8 slot. He drove a couple of balls in the gap. He had four quality at-bats. We’ve seen improvements in his hitting.”
NOTES: While this was the first morning start to a game at Hadlock Field, Ross said that he remembers playing a game in the minor leagues in Oklahoma City that began at 10:30 a.m.
Ross borrowed Jason Varitek’s catcher’s mitt for the game. “That mitt has been through a lot of wars,” said Ross. “All of my stuff is with Boston.”
Ross became the 31st player to make a major league rehab assignment with the Sea Dogs and the 25th with the team as a Red Sox affiliate.
It was school day at Hadlock with numerous children from southern Maine schools in attendance.
To make sure the kids didn’t lose much class time, there was a science class held before the game.
The Sea Dogs took to the road after the game and will start a four-game series at Binghamton on Friday night.
Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: