Last season, the Portland Sea Dogs got off to a poor start and quickly fell out of the playoff hunt.

A similar start may not doom them this year.

The Eastern League announced Thursday that it is changing its playoff structure to a split-season format. The best team in each division for the first half of the season will qualify for the playoffs, facing the best team in the second half of the season. Portland plays in the league’s six-team Eastern Division.

The other two Double-A minor leagues — the Texas League and Southern League — already use a split-season format.

The reasoning for a split-season format is that minor league rosters can change drastically during a season with promotions and demotions. The move also could increase fan interest. A team that slumps in the opening months has another chance in the second half of the season.

The Sea Dogs had a 26-43 record in the first half in 2018. They were 37-33 in the second half.

For the 2019 season, the final day of the first half will be June 18.

“This will bring playoff-level baseball to both the mid-season and the end-of-the-season games,” Sea Dogs president Geoff Iacuessa said in a press release.

If a team wins both halves of the season in its division, the team with the next-best record for the full season will qualify for the playoffs.

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