PORTLAND – Saturday, it was Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching for the Portland Sea Dogs at Hadlock Field against the Reading Phillies. Monday, it was supposed to be Andy Pettitte pitching for the Trenton Thunder against the Sea Dogs at Hadlock Field.

The New York Yankees’ 39-year-old lefty is on the comeback trail and was scheduled to pitch here Monday. But New York General Manager Brian Cashman decided Saturday that Portland’s weather would be too cold for Pettitte, who will start for Class A Tampa instead.

It’s an opportunity missed for the Sea Dogs, who say they’ve appreciated big-name players coming through town.

Sea Dogs shortstop Derrik Gibson spoke about playing behind Matsuzaka on Saturday, noting that there was “a whole new aura to the game today.”

After taking batting practice, he said, “We were just talking about playing behind him. Everyone is amped up. He’s a great pitcher, he brings fans to the ballpark. It’s just a great aura surrounding the game and we’re all excited about it.”

Manager Kevin Boles said before Saturday’s game that Matsuzaka represents everything his players are competing for.

“Our guys are striving to be major league players,” said Boles. “He’s a good example of that. He’s had success at the highest level. He’s a World Series champion.”

PETTITTE WOULD NOT have been the first Yankees pitcher to face the Sea Dogs. Back in 2007, Roger Clemens faced the Sea Dogs in Trenton. Clay Buchholz started for the Sea Dogs that night.

Other former Yankees who have played at Hadlock Field include outfielders Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams and Tim Raines and pitcher Dwight Gooden.

THOM HINTON, the official scorekeeper of the Sea Dogs, stood in the press box an hour before the game and proclaimed the day his “best birthday ever.”

Hinton, who turned 59 on Saturday, was surprised by his daughter, Chandia, an Army MP he thought was still in Germany. She took a leave to be here with him and presented him a gigantic cupcake.

“A year ago, she was in Afghanistan,” said Hinton. “Today she’s here, Dice-K is pitching. Best birthday ever.”

SEA DOGS second baseman Heiker Meneses had to leave the game after injuring his left arm when he dove in an attempt to knock down a line drive by Reading’s Steve Lerud in the top of the third.

He was replaced by Ryan Dent, who had two hits, scored twice and drove in a run.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH