PORTLAND – Will Middlebrooks is back. Mitch Dening is coming on. Tim Federowicz is steady. Oscar Tejeda likes the clutch. And Stephen Fife keeps winning.

It can be a solid combination for the Portland Sea Dogs, who beat the New Hampshire Fisher Cats 10-6 Thursday night before 5,160 at Hadlock Field.

Middlebrooks reached base four times, and had two hits and two RBI on his first day back from the disabled list.

Dening homered as he continues to earn more playing time.

Federowicz, the catcher, threw out a runner while going 3 for 4 with two RBI, upping his batting average to .287.

Tejeda is batting .249 but with runners in scoring position, is hitting .315. He had two RBI singles.

Fife, a two-time Eastern League All-Star, picked up his league-leading ninth win. He allowed four runs on six hits and two walks over six innings.

Middlebrooks, 22, had been on the disabled list since June 11 with a strained triceps muscle in his right arm. He went on a rehab assignment this week with Class A Lowell and returned Thursday as Portland’s designated hitter.

“Saw the ball well and felt real comfortable,” Middlebrooks said. “It was frustrating (on the DL). I want to be out there. You can’t get better sitting on the bench.”

Dening, 22, had played sparingly (32 games) as Portland’s fourth outfielder until Chih-Hsien Chiang rolled his ankle last Sunday. In his past seven games, Dening is 7 for 18 and has remained in the lineup, even with Chiang’s return to right field.

“That little injury to Chiang, I tried to take advantage of it,” Dening said. “It’s tough playing once every four or five days, but I’m feeling confident.”

Dening’s homer and Middlebrooks’ two-run single helped Portland take a 4-0 lead. But New Hampshire tied it in the fourth on two home runs: a solo shot by Anthony Gose and a three-run drive by Mark Sobolewski.

But Portland scored four runs in the fifth off starter Robert Ray (0-2), keyed by Federowicz’s two-run double, and RBI by Reynaldo Rodriguez and Tejeda, to take the lead for good.

NOTES: Fife originally was scheduled to pitch tonight but was moved up to replace Stolmy Pimentel, whose next start was pushed back to Saturday. Pimentel was scratched because the Sea Dogs’ bullpen has been taxed recently and is currently thin, with only five relievers. Pimentel has had his pitch count reduced and needs a fresher bullpen behind him.

When Middlebrooks was activated Thursday, he filled the vacancy left by Tony Thomas, who was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. Thomas replaced Yamaico Navarro, who was called up by the Red Sox. Navarro, a former Sea Dogs infielder, took the roster spot of outfielder Mike Cameron, who was designated for assignment. Middlebrooks had been out with a sore triceps. He might play third base tonight.

Reliever Charle Rosario struck out three in two innings in his Sea Dogs debut. Third baseman Jon Hee made a couple of sensational diving catches. Leadoff batter Jeremy Hazelbaker singled twice and walked, scoring three runs.

Plenty of tickets remain for games tonight and Saturday, while Sunday evening’s game, with postgame fireworks, is close to being sold out. The Sea Dogs will welcome their seven-millionth fan tonight. That fan will receive season tickets and several gift certificates. The first 1,500 fans through the gates tonight receive a free Sea Dogs baseball card set.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases