PORTLAND – When the Portland Sea Dogs returned from the road last week, fresh from a five-game losing streak, the team had accomplished a first.

No other Portland team, since the franchise began in 1994, lost 23 of its first 34 games. The 11-23 start was the worst ever.

Sea Dogs catcher Tom Federowicz maintains the numbers won’t stay this bad.

“We have a very good team,” Federowicz said. “We’ve played five out of the 12 teams (in the Eastern League) and I feel we have one of the best teams in this league.

“Yeah, our record stinks right now. But it’s going to get better. Guys are going to start clicking.”

Federowicz has reason for optimism. He played for advanced Class A Salem last season, as did many of this year’s Sea Dogs players. And that Salem team finished 73-65, the second-best record in the Carolina League.

Only 10 players on the 24-man roster have much experience in Portland.

“It’s hard for us being a young team in Double-A,” Federowicz said. “We have to get used to playing at this level. Once we do that, it’s going to be smooth sailing.”

The Sea Dogs have certainly been competitive. Only four of the first 23 losses were by four runs or more. There have been seven one-run losses, plus six two-run and six three-run losses.

“We’re just too inconsistent,” said Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles, who held the same position in Salem last year.

“Obviously, the players are aware of it. The coaches are aware of it. We need to improve.”

IMPROVING WILL be a challenge unless the bullpen improves. It did not help that Portland’s two best relievers, Tommy Hottovy and Blake Maxwell, were promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket.

KRIS JOHNSON was mentioned in this column last week as a member of the draft class of 2006. He was struggling with Pawtucket and it did not get better.

Johnson, who had a 12.63 ERA, was released last week.

Johnson, 26, was a supplemental-round pick by the Red Sox (40th pick overall, one choice ahead of Joba Chamberlain, grabbed by the Yankees).

In 2008, Johnson looked to be getting into sync with a 3.63 ERA. He was invited to major league spring training in 2009, but never got going in Triple-A.

AFTER SO MANY road games, the Sea Dogs return to Portland on Monday for a nine-game homestand.

Among the highlights are trick dogs on Tuesday, a Kevin Youkilis bobblehead giveaway on Thursday, a doubleheader on Saturday, and a couple of pregame activities on Memorial Day, including a chance to play catch on the field from 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

A BENEFIT BREAKFAST will also take place Memorial Day from 8-9:30 a.m. at the Hadlock picnic area. Along with the continental breakfast, the Sea Dogs will be available for pictures and autographs.

Tickets are $15 and do not include admission to the game that afternoon. All proceeds go to Strive, which provides services for youth with disabilities. Call the Sea Dogs (879-9500) or go to the website (www.seadogs.com) for more information.

INDEPENDENT LEAGUES are starting soon in the Northeast, and the rosters have some familiar names. Most notable is Will Cunnane, 37, who pitched for the Sea Dogs in 2005-06. He is with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League.

Other Atlantic League ex-Dogs include Tim Hamulack and Charlie Zink (Lancaster), Matt Padgett and Lenny DiNardo (Long Island), Iggy Suarez and Andrew Dobies (Somerset), and Jeremy Owens (Southern Maryland).

In the Can-Am League, Jorge Jimenez is playing for the Brockton Rox.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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