PORTLAND — The Portland Sea Dogs are in the business of developing future Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately for fans of both, Boston's Double-A affiliate is looking a lot like its parent club so far this season.
The Sea Dogs are off to a 1-6 start, the worst in club history. Wednesday's 10-1 defeat in Trenton wrapped up a season-opening road trip in which they were outscored, 43-22.
At least the Sea Dogs get a head start on their parent club in trying to get things turned around at home. They make their Hadlock Field debut against the Binghamton Mets on Thursday night . First pitch is 6:10 p.m.
Portland's roster isn't as stocked with top prospects as it has been for recent home openers. The two top pitching prospects, Anthony Ranaudo and Stolmy Pimental, are sidelined with injuries. Outfielder Bryce Brentz is the top-ranked position player (No.5) in the organization by Baseball America. Third baseman Kolbrin Vitek was Boston's first-round choice in 2010 and is ranked 19th in the organization.
Vitek is one of little more than a handful of new faces on Portland's 25-man roster, which consists of 18 players who saw time at Hadlock last year. Only one position player, however, played more than 100 games in a Sea Dogs uniform last year. That was Oscar Tejeda, a converted outfielder who played 123 games in the infield.
"We've got some young guys in the infield, but we've got some experience also," second-year manager Kevin Boles said. "(First baseman) Reynaldo Rodriguez was here last year and (Dan) Butler will be back here to catch."
Joining Vitek and Rodriguez in the infield is the returning double play tandem of second baseman Ryan Dent and shortstop Heiker Meneses, along with utilityman Jonathan Hee. Butler was an All-Star in the Single-A Carolina League last year.
Tejeda is the lone member of the Sea Dogs on the Red Sox' 40-man roster. He joins an outfield with a number of promising prospects. Brentz was named the organization's offensive co-player of the year after hitting .306 with 30 home runs and 91 RBIs in Single-A last year. Jeremy Hazelbaker hit 17 home runs in 2011 and ranked second among Red Sox farmhands with 47 stolen bases, including 35 with Portland.
The pitching staff features Brock Huntinger, who will get the start Thursday and led Portland with 123 strikeouts last year. Chris Balcom-Miller, who was the Sea Dogs' opening day starter and has their only win this season, was acquired from the Colorado Rockies in 2010 in exchange for former Boston reliever Manny Delcarmen.
Portland is carrying 12 pitchers to start the year. The minor league roster limit was increased from 24 to 25 players this season.
"It's protection from a pitching standpoint early on," Boles said. "Obviously the pitch counts aren't up yet and it's colder weather (and) guys are going to be a little limited to start with, so having that extra slot is good."
This is Portland's first home opener without founder Dan Burke, who passed away on Oct. 26, 2011. Thursday's opening ceremonies will include a moment of silence and a video tribute in his memory.
Gates open at 5 p.m. The first 1,000 fans will receive a Sea Dogs fleece blanket.