At 1:08 Saturday afternoon, under bright skies and in a chilling wind, Luis Diaz reared back and fired in a 91 mph fastball.

Baseball returned to Portland after a winter we all want to put behind us – a snowy season that continued this past week, postponing the first two games of the Portland Sea Dogs’ season at Hadlock Field.

But on Saturday, the Sea Dogs and Reading Fightin Phils finally put their cleats to the Hadlock turf, which looked in remarkably good shape – and in a nod to their Herculean efforts, groundskeeper Rick Anderson and his staff were asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Diaz would throw the next pitch. His fastball popped into catcher Luis Martinez’s mitt – a heavenly sound.

Saturday at Hadlock ended five hours later, with the Sea Dogs and Phils splitting their doubleheader, the home team taking the first game 4-2 and Reading the second, 9-0.

The afternoon included one new oddity (a pitch clock in center field) and one smiling, relieved third baseman, Mike Miller of the Sea Dogs.

Miller is to happy to be playing baseball in April. Two years ago he tore a hamstring in April and missed the rest of the season. Last year he broke a hamate bone in his hand in spring training and missed two months.

Never mind the weather, Miller wanted to be done with spring training, even if it was in Florida, in the Red Sox headquarters in Fort Myers.

“It was fun to get back out there and play a game that counts,” said Miller, 25, a ninth-round draft pick in 2012.

“When it matters, the Adrenalin kicks in a little more.”

Miller comes through often when it matters. He batted .356 in Class A Greenville in 2013 before he got hurt. Last year he batted .307 for advanced Class A Salem before coming to Portland for the final 23 games (.301).

And early 2015 is going well. Leading off both games for Portland, Miller went 4 for 5 with a double, an RBI and a hit by pitch.

Miller, who can also play short and second base, made a superb play on a bunt, charging it and throwing out the speedy Roman Quinn.

With 140 games to go, Miller’s goals are simple – keep producing as well as stay healthy.

“Hopefully I can stay on the field this year,” Miller said. “My body feels good and ready to go. I’m excited.”

With Miller and Carlos Asuaje getting on base, they make for a solid 1-2 at the top of the Sea Dogs’ lineup. Asuaje, the second basemen, led all Red Sox players (major and minor) in OPS last year, compiling a .927 combined in Greenville and Salem.

Asuaje did not get a hit Saturday but still reached base four times (three walks and a hit by pitch) in six plate appearances.

It’s likely Miller and Asuaje get a lot of plate appearances this year.

“I know Mikey because he was here at the end of last year. I’m getting to know Carlos,” Manager Billy McMillon said.

“I imagine there will be some feeling out with the lineup the first couple of weeks, but based on what I saw in spring training, those are top-of-the-lineup type guys.”

With Miller and Asuaje both at 5-foot-9, there is a similarity to last year’s third baseman (5-9 Sean Coyle) and second baseman (5-8 Mookie Betts).

Small players who left big shoes to fill.

The infamous pitch clocks were operational Saturday as Major League Baseball uses the minor leagues to experiment with them.

Three clocks were installed – two by the dugouts so the players on the field could see, and one in center field by the flagpole for everyone else.

The clocks are designed to speed up play – or at least prevent unnecessary delays – by preventing pitchers or batters from taking too long to be ready.

Pitchers have 20 seconds between pitches, which also means that batters cannot walk around and take their time.

All of the players Saturday appeared in compliance.

The clock also manages time between innings – 2 minutes, 25 seconds from the last out of one inning to the first pitch of the next. That not only makes sure the teams keep up a good pace, but minor league staffs must be quick with their between-inning promotions.

Sea Dogs assistant general manager Chris Cameron said the Sea Dogs’ staff did a run-through of every promotion before the season. They all finished under 2:25.

“But some were close,” Cameron said.

Every promotion Saturday, from Slugger’s race to the lobster catch, finished in plenty of time.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.