They began the day as one of the worst-hitting teams in Double-A baseball.

So was it a fluke the Portland Sea Dogs recorded nine hits Thursday? Should fans continue to pine for the day when the big-name prospects from advanced Class A Salem show up, ready to really swing the bats?

Or will these current Sea Dogs hit?

“As long as you stay with the process, good things are going to happen,” said first baseman/catcher Tim Roberson, who had three hits Thursday and is hitting .357 in his last nine games.

“And that goes for everybody in here. … We just need to string some hits together and we’ll be fine.”

Optimistic. But realistic?

Portland entered Thursday with a .224 batting average, ranked 28th of 30 Double-A teams.

Take away the averages of Jantzen Witte (.359), who was promoted to Pawtucket, and Jake Romanski (.348), the Eastern League’s leading hitter, and Portland’s team batting average would be .206.

“I think as a team we’re trying to do too much,” said Manager Carlos Febles. “They all want to perform but they’re pressing.”

It’s natural to press in the minor leagues, where failure can mean the end of a career. But can you avoid stress while you’re struggling?

“You’ve got to,” said Roberson. “This game is fun. It’s a kid’s game.”

And the kids are playing well in Salem, Virginia. The Salem Red Sox are considered one of the most-stacked teams in the minor leagues in terms of prospects.

Center fielder Andrew Benintendi, 21, last year’s first-round draft pick, was batting .376 with a 1.088 OPS through Wednesday. That includes one home run, seven triples and 11 doubles. He has 25 RBI in 25 games and owns the longest current hit streak in pro baseball, at 22.

Second baseman Yoan Moncada, 20, is a hyped free agent from Cuba who the Red Sox invested $63 million in. He is batting .348/.943 with 19 stolen bases in 23 chances.

Shortstop Mauricio Dubon, 21, has gone from a 26th-round draft pick in 2013 to a rising prospect. He’s hitting .347/.788.

First baseman Nick Longhi, 20, was drafted out of high school in 2013. He’s hitting .299/.769 with eight doubles.

There’s also touted third baseman Rafael Devers, 19, who is off to a slow start at .144/.523.

So who’s ready for Portland?

“No specific timetable,” said Ben Crockett, the Boston Red Sox director of player development, who was at Hadlock Field on Thursday. “Each guy and every situation is different. I wouldn’t want to lump different guys together. Obviously we’ve got some guys performing pretty well right now and doing a good job (in Salem), working on their consistency on both sides of the ball.”

Crockett often visits Hadlock and sometimes his appearance precedes movement among teams. The fact that Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski recently spent four days in Salem also sparks the imagination.

A May promotion is possible for Benintendi because he’s simply performing above the competition. It appears his approach is ready for Double-A. He has the fewest strikeouts – seven – among regular players in the Carolina League.

It may seem like a rush since this is Benintendi’s first full pro season, but mature, talented players are rushed. Dustin Pedroia began his first full season in Portland.

Dubon is a candidate to come up soon because he played half of last season in Salem. He’s ready.

The Red Sox may be more careful with Moncada, but not too cautious. Portland beckons, by next month at the latest.

Longhi is likely to be in Salem a while longer unless his numbers become dominating.

The addition of Benintendi and Dubon (with Moncada at the doorstep) would revitalize this Sea Dogs roster, not to mention create a buzz among Hadlock crowds.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: @ClearTheBases