First baseman Jantzen Witte sat in front of his locker without a cast on his right arm.

So far, so good.

Witte and the rest of the Portland Sea Dogs returned to town this week to start another season and, for those here last year, put the memory of 2015 behind them.

“Last year was tough,” said Witte of the team’s franchise-worst 53-89 record. Witte played well, but became an example of what can go wrong in a season. A day after playing in the Eastern League All-Star game, Witte was hit by a fastball and broke his wrist, ending his season.

Witte is healed. He’s one of the few players left over from last year as the Sea Dogs featured a new roster, with optimism for a better season.

“I think we’ll be competitive,” new manager Carlos Febles said.

The biggest makeover for Portland will be three starting pitching prospects, moving up from advanced Class A Salem, where Febles managed last year. “Those guys did well for me,” he said. “I expect a lot from them.”

Right-handers Ty Buttrey (ranked as Boston’s 18th-best prospect by Baseball America), Teddy Stankiewicz (20th ranked) and Kevin McCoy (21st), join fellow righties Aaron Wilkerson and Justin Haley, who return from last year’s team.

Wilkerson will be the opening-day pitcher when the Sea Dogs play in Reading, Pennsylvania, on Thursday. Haley will follow, and then the three new guys (in order) McAvoy, Stankiewicz and Buttrey.

“They’re coming in with good stuff,” pitching coach Kevin Walker said. “But I always tell them that Double-A is a separator league. It really defines you as a pitcher. It’s going to test you and it’s going to challenge you and it’s going to make you develop your pitches.”

THE BULLPEN will be a strength, according to Febles. “We have four guys who can finish games. Not too many teams have that.”

Left-hander Williams Jerez is back after being named the Red Sox minor league pitcher of the year last season. A converted outfielder, Jerez pitched a whole season for the first time in 2015, and zipped through Class A, landing in Portland for 22 appearances (3.65 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 37 innings). He is the Sea Dogs’ only member of Boston’s 40-man roster.

The other three late-inning relievers are Chandler Shepherd (from Salem), lefty Luis Ysla (acquired from the Giants) and Rob Wort (signed out of the independent leagues).

Versatile Mike McCarthy also returns as a long reliever and (likely) spot starter.

One reliever that did not come to Portland is left-hander Robby Scott, who made the Triple-A team.

THE TOP PROSPECT in Portland, according to Baseball America, is second baseman Wendell Rijo (15th). Only 20, Rijo has been pushed along in the system, even though his offensive numbers are modest (.261/.736).

“His tools are coming along,” Febles said. “The ball jumps off his bat.”

KNEE INJURIES limited the 2015 seasons of outfielder Henry Ramos and catcher Jake Romanski, but they are healthy and back in Portland. Ramos, who broke his leg the year before, has played only 85 games in two years with the Sea Dogs.

OTHER PLAYERS LOOKED destined for Portland, but were released: Pitchers Mike Augliera (who pitched the past two seasons in Portland) and lefty Danny Rosenbaum (who was 0-7 last year as he progressed from Tommy John surgery), and outfielder Forrestt Allday.

OTHER FORMER DOGS opted for free agency after last season. Pitcher Madison Younginer signed with the Braves and is in Triple-A. Pitcher Luis Diaz is in Double-A with the Padres. Outfielder Kerry De La Cruz was signed by the Twins and released in spring training.


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