The maddening case of mud continued Monday for the Portland Sea Dogs, forcing a fourth straight game to be postponed.

The infield dirt, which underwent a massive renovation on April 20, is still not playable. A steady rain last Wednesday thoroughly soaked through and has yet to completely drain, leaving the paths “spongy.”

Portland’s three-game weekend series with Reading was postponed, and now a Monday game against the Trenton Thunder was called off.

“We’re down to a few spots,” Sea Dogs General Manager Geoff Iacuessa said. “If it continues (drying) like it has, we should be OK (for Tuesday).”

Monday’s game will be made up as part of a doubleheader Tuesday starting at 6 p.m.

Sea Dogs left-hander Dedgar Jimenez is scheduled to start the first game … but he’s heard that before.

“I was supposed to start Friday, then Saturday, Sunday, today and now tomorrow,” Jimenez said with a shrug. “I’m just waiting.

“When they say we have a game, I’m ready to pitch.”

Jimenez hasn’t pitched since April 21. The Sea Dogs last played on Wednesday in Hartford, Connecticut. Thursday was an off day. Since then players have reported to Hadlock but with no game to play.

“You have to be ready to play until you can’t,” said outfielder Cole Sturgeon. “That’s probably the weirdest part, is not knowing. It’s different from rain.”

With a storm, players know the game likely will be called off. On Monday the sun peeked through the clouds, but still no baseball.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sturgeon said. “There’s not much you can do. Just keep to your routine and do as much (practice) as you can.”

The postponements came at a bad time for Sturgeon, the team’s hottest hitter with a .369 average. On Monday, Sturgeon took batting practice indoors, then fielded fly balls in the outfield. Elsewhere in the outfield, the Sea Dogs’ infielders conducted drills.

“We do the best we can,” Manager Darren Fenster said. “Stuff happens. I’ve been long enough in the game, you see things that are unexpected.

“We have to be ready to go when we get back out there.”

If any routines are really disrupted, it’s those of the starting pitchers. They’re used to pitching every fifth or sixth game.

“I last pitched two Sundays ago (April 22),” starter Kyle Hart said. “It’s kind of a grind but we’re all going through this together. Everyone’s been pushed back for so long, we just stuck to our routines.”

How do the starters stay in sync?

“I don’t know if we are,” Hart said. “We’ll find out whenever we play again. It might take a little bit of time to get our rhythm back.”

Pitching coach Paul Abbott, admitting this “definitely throws a wrench into their routines,” prefers the glass half-full approach.

“Instead of looking at it as a pain in the neck, I look at it as a growth period,” he said. “They can work on staying mentally focused. There are going to be stretches in the big leagues when they’re not going to pitch for a while. Then they’re going to be called upon and they need to get the job done.

“I tell them, ‘it is what it is. What are you going to do about it?’ We throw our sides and wait until we play.”

Throwing a bullpen session helps to an extent.

“You don’t have that visual, facing a hitter,” Abbott said. “But you hit the glove and stay sharp with your pitches – and they’ll be there when you need them.”

If Tuesday’s games are played, Jimenez and Hart will get the starts.

The Sea Dogs had fragile hopes of playing Monday. Most of the infield dirt had dried, except for a small spot by first base and a larger area where the shortstop is positioned. The surface was dry but was damp below, causing the spongy area.

After an inspection at 3 p.m., the ground crew began digging holes to excavate the mud. They refilled the holes and smoothed the surface. After 5 p.m., Iacuessa, team president Charlie Eshbach, Fenster and Trenton Manager Jay Bell convened in the infield. After further inspection and more conversation, the game was postponed.

The infield dirt – which is a mixture of clay, silt and sand – annually goes over a makeover this time of year. Sports Turf Specialties (STS) of Wrentham, Massachusetts, a company that does work for several fields, including Fenway Park, brought in 28 tons of the infield mixture to resurface the playing areas. Efforts to reach an STS manager late Monday were not successful.

Iacuessa said this has been the most frustrating experience in his eight seasons as general manager. He’s waiting for one moment that will signal the end to this anxiety.

“When I see the first pitch,” he said.

Jimenez hopes to make that pitch at 6 p.m. Tuesday. He, like everyone else, has been waiting.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-7411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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