It may have seemed balmy on Tuesday for anyone who has endured this Maine winter. But for baseball players who have spent the past six weeks in Florida, it was still cold.
Thus the appearance of wool hats and winter jackets at Hadlock Field as the Portland Sea Dogs reported for duty.
The team assembled in Portland for the first time Tuesday. On Wednesday morning they will board a bus bound for Reading, Pa., for Thursday’s opener against the Fightin’ Phils.
After a week-long road trip, the Sea Dogs return to Portland for the home opener April 10.
By then it may be warmer – maybe.
It’s not that the Sea Dogs will be cozy this weekend. Thursday looks to be a raw night in Reading, possible rain with temperatures in the low 50s.
That’s why Henry Owens is glad he’s pitching Thursday. When minor league pitchers aren’t on the mound, they’re usually in the stands charting the pitches thrown in the game.
“When you’re charting, you’re not moving,” Owens said. “Rather pitch.”
OWENS IS THE ace of this staff despite being only 21. In two pro seasons he’s 23-11 with a 3.61 ERA.
To put Owens’ progress into perspective, if he had accepted his scholarship to the University of Miami instead of signing with the Red Sox in 2011, he would be a junior this year and eligible for the draft again.
Instead the left-hander is returning to Double-A, where he was 3-1 (1.78) in six starts last year.
FROM THE SEA DOGS’ roster, six are listed among the top 30 Red Sox prospects as ranked by the Baseball America publication – Owens (No. 2), catcher Blake Swihart (5), second baseman Mookie Betts (7), shortstop Deven Marrero (15), first baseman Travis Shaw (26) and third baseman Sean Coyle (30).
Marrero didn’t join the Sea Dogs in Portland on Tuesday because he was still rehabbing a sore hamstring muscle in Fort Myers, Fla.
He’s expected to meet up with the team in Reading.
OUTFIELDER PETER HISSEY figured to be on the Sea Dogs’ roster but he’s temporarily at Triple-A Pawtucket, filling in for Jackie Bradley Jr., while Bradley is in the majors in place of the injured Shane Victorino.
Without Hissey, Shannon Wilkerson is the only returning outfielder. The team has only three outfielders active, but Manager Billy McMillon said any number of infielders could back up if needed.
OUTFIELDER BO GREENWELL found himself headed to Portland on Tuesday morning, a result of the domino effect of Hissey replacing Bradley. Greenwell, 25, a minor league free agent, was headed for Class A Greenville (S.C.) as the Red Sox minor league officials found spots for their outfielders.
Greenwell was driving to Greenville on Tuesday when he got a call that he was needed in Portland.
“So I boarded a plane,” he said.
Perhaps you recognized the name. Yes, Greenwell is the son of former outfielder Mike Greenwell.
“To think that I could be playing in the same jersey as my dad, it’s crazy,” Greenwell said.
A minor leaguer with the Indians since 2007, Greenwell admitted the family connection with Boston “swayed” his decision to sign with the Red Sox.
AS EXPECTED, GARIN CECCHINI made the Pawtucket club at third base. Cecchini, 22, played only 66 games in Portland last year but batted .296, then did well in the Arizona Fall League and in major league spring training.
NOW PLAYING THIRD base for Portland will be Coyle, 22, a third-round draft pick in 2010.
Coyle has only played second base as a pro. His previous experience at third: Eight games with Team USA when he was in high school.
But the Sea Dogs have Betts at second base. They want Coyle in the lineup and suggested third.
“If it helps me advance my career, I’m open to it,” Coyle said.
MATT SPRING HAS returned in his role as backup catcher and veteran clubhouse leader. Spring, 29, is entering his 10th year as a pro baseball player. Married with a 1-year-old boy named Maddox, Spring has no plans to give up the game or his dream.
“If I didn’t think I could play in the big leagues, I wouldn’t be here,” Spring said.
KEITH COUCH PUT up good numbers as a Sea Dogs pitcher last year (11-3, 3.47 ERA) but finds himself back in Double-A.
There are just too many pitchers ahead of him in Pawtucket.
“It’s how it works sometimes, but it’s cool,” Couch said.
Couch wasn’t as happy last year when he arrived in Portland and was told he would be a reliever. Couch eventually made it back into the rotation and begins 2014 as a starter, scheduled for Friday’s game.
“This is definitely better,” he said.
MICHAEL BRENLY IS one of the three catchers on the roster, along with Spring and Swihart.
Brenly, 27, was with the Cubs and Diamondbacks organizations before signing on with the Red Sox this year.
Brenly is the son of Bob Brenly, the former manager and now TV color man for the Diamondbacks.
Dad can rarely watch his son play in person but “he’s on the phone with me minutes after the game,” Michael Brenly said.
THE SEA DOGS’ ROSTER contains 28 players, which includes three on the disabled list – pitchers Aaron Kurcz and Pete Ruiz, and outfielder Kerry De La Cruz.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at [email protected]