You hear so much about the prospects on this Portland Sea Dogs team and how they eventually will help the Boston Red Sox that you forget they’re also trying to win minor league games.
These Sea Dogs are delivering. They return to Hadlock Field on Friday night with a 45-25 record nearly halfway through the 142-game season.
Look around baseball, at the major league, Triple-A and Double-A levels, and only one team has a better record, by one game (46-24) – the Texas Rangers’ Double-A affiliate in Huntsville Alabama, in the Southern League.
Scan the 21-season history of the Sea Dogs and only one team has had a better start – the 1995 Portland club that was 47-23. That team featured a left fielder named Billy McMillon who now manages the Sea Dogs.
That ’95 team reached the Eastern League playoffs, losing in the first round.
The 2006 Sea Dogs were 43-27 in their first 70 games, and eventually won Portland’s only Eastern League championship.
Portland’s last postseason came in 2008, a first-round loss. Six years later the Sea Dogs look like contenders again.
THE SEA DOGS‘ weekend became crowded with games because of rain last week in Altoona, suspending one game and postponing another. The Sea Dogs are not returning to Pennsylvania this year, so the Curve and Portland will play five games in three days.
Friday, starting at 6 p.m., the teams will resume the suspended game (bottom of the third, Portland up 2-1). Afterward they will play a seven-inning game.
Saturday features a doubleheader, two seven-inning games starting at 5 p.m.
HENRY OWENS IS scheduled to start the second game Friday. Owens is 8-3 with a 2.16 ERA.
His franchise record of 27 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings ended in his last start.
Owens will make one more start during this homestand, next Wednesday, if he’s here.
Friday marks Owens’ 20th start in Double-A and his 14th this year. Triple-A Pawtucket awaits.
MIGUEL PENA WAS another left-hander who may have reached Triple-A sometime this year. Now there’s a question whether Pena, 23, will pitch in the Red Sox organization again.
Pena was suspended last week for 100 games after a third violation of baseball’s drug abuse policy. Pena tested positive for drugs – not the performance-enhancing kind – for a third time. After his second violation at the beginning of last season, Pena was suspended 50 games.
There’s no word on what Boston’s plans are with Pena. The Red Sox could cut him loose or try again to help Pena overcome his problem.
Pena began this season with promise – 2-0 with a 3.58 ERA after six starts. But he faltered in his last seven starts – 0-2 (10.03).
LUIS DIAZ REPLACED Pena, promoted from Class A Salem. Diaz, 22, from Venezuela, has been a pro since he signed with the Red Sox when he was 16.
Diaz began to emerge last year in Greenville and Salem with a combined 11-4 record and 1.96 ERA. In 13 starts in Salem this year, he was 6-3, 3.33.
In his Double-A debut Wednesday in Erie, Diaz needed only 53 pitches to go six innings, allowing one hit – a home run – and no walks, striking out four.
If Diaz continues his progression, the Red Sox may have to make a decision soon. He’s eligible for the Rule V draft this offseason.
WORLD SERIES RINGS are among goodies at Hadlock Field during this homestand.
The rings from the 2004, 2007 and 2013 Red Sox championships will be at Hadlock on Saturday and Sunday. Fans can have photos taken with them. There’s also a raffle to win the rings with proceeds going to the Red Sox Foundation.
Other promotions include a Friday appearance by the Maine Game Wardens who star in the TV show “North Woods Law.” Also on Friday, Webkinz (stuffed animals) toys will be given to the first 1,000 fans.
On Saturday, cowbells will be given out to the first 2,000 fans (no word if earplugs will also be distributed).
Wednesday features disco-throwback band Motor Booty Affair and fireworks after the game.
ONE MORE BASEBALL note to finish (since you can write just so much about cowbells and disco).
The Red Sox featured a productive leadoff hitter last year, batting .298 with a .781 OPS.
But Jacoby Ellsbury moved on to the Yankees (where he is batting .277 with a .746 OPS).
Now leading off for Boston: Brock Holt, who entered Thursday night’s game in Oakland with a .338 average and .842 OPS.
Holt does have only five stolen bases. Ellsbury has 18, though not on track to repeat last year’s 52 steals.
No idea if Holt can keep up the production, but his numbers indicate that Boston’s offensive woes don’t stem from letting Ellsbury go.