To receive the honor of being the Opening-Day pitcher, you would not expect the likes of Aaron Wilkerson. But Wilkerson is scheduled to start Thursday night when the Portland Sea Dogs begin their season at the Reading (Pennsylvania) Fightin Phils.

Wilkerson, 26, is not your typical pitching prospect, even though he was a small-college standout at Cumberland University (Tennessee), setting an NAIA record with 54 straight scoreless innings.

But after his college career, Wilkerson underwent Tommy John surgery and wasn’t drafted. If that didn’t make him feel unwanted enough, his first year in independent ball was an adventure.

“I was traded four times my first season,” Wilkerson said.

That was in 2013. By 2014, Wilkerson settled in with the Grand Prairie Air Hogs in Texas, pitching well enough to catch the attention of a Red Sox scout. Boston signed Wilkerson and sent him to the short-season Lowell Spinners for eight starts (1.62 ERA).

To start the 2015 season, Wilkerson was 25 and figured he might be sent to the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.

But pitchers like Wilkerson – not top prospects but independent league retreads – aren’t handed anything.

The Red Sox sent Wilkerson to low Class A Greenville, two levels below Portland.

“You have a chip on your shoulder when you’re fighting for a job every outing,” said Carlos Febles, the new Sea Dogs manager. Last year Febles was managing at advanced Class A Salem when Wilkerson arrived in May.

“He had to come in and be lights out for the whole year,” Febles said.

Wilkerson obliged, going 7-2 with a 2.96 ERA in 17 games (12 starts).

“He doesn’t have a lot of power but when he’s hitting is spots, he’s tough to hit,” Febles said.

Wilkerson’s fastball ranges from 89-91 mph. His slider is a strong secondary pitch, and his curveball or change-up serves as a complement.

“On a really good game, I have all four working,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson finally reached Portland on Aug. 5. He didn’t look ready for Double-A, giving up nine runs over his first two starts. But over his final five starts he gave up a total of three runs for a 4-1 record and 2.66 ERA. In his seven starts he struck out 35 and walked 13.

“He’s got a knack for upsetting timing and fooling hitters,” Sea Dogs pitching coach Kevin Walker said. “He can throw any pitch in any count.

“Everybody can hit a fastball, but what he does well is mix his pitches and keeps hitters off balance; keeps them guessing. That’s the name of the game.”

For Wilkerson, his faith in his ability was rewarded.

“I kind of felt like I should have started (2015) here,” Wilkerson said. “But I was fortunate enough to have a good season and ending here set the tone – I deserved to be here and all my hard work has been paying off.”

The last independent-ball pitcher with the Sea Dogs, Robby Scott, is now with Triple-Pawtucket. If Wilkerson settles in and continues where he left off last September, he could join Scott.

“I totally expect him to have a good year,” Walker said. “Who knows what the end of the season holds for him.”

THURSDAY’S OPENER in Reading is no guarantee, with rain forecast all day and a 50 percent chance of showers at game time.