The boys of summer returned to Hadlock Field Tuesday afternoon.

The 26th edition of the Portland Sea Dogs is scheduled to get underway Thursday evening with a baseball tossed from the left hand of Kyle Hart, a 26-year-old native of Ohio who is returning to Maine for a second season in the Double-A Eastern League.

“For me, what Opening Day in the minor leagues is about is definitely a fresh start,” Hart said Tuesday following the team’s first workout in Portland, “but you’re always kind of walking that fine line of balancing – let’s win a lot of ballgames and let’s all try to get to the big leagues.”

Hart was one of 26 players milling about the home clubhouse wearing spotless white uniforms Tuesday,  getting their pictures taken, answering questions from those with microphones and tape recorders and checking out the new (for some of them) surroundings.

He is also one of five starting pitchers scheduled to be in Portland’s rotation, to be followed by Denyi Reyes, Tanner Houck, Darwinzon Hernandez and Dedgar Jimenez.

Reyes, of the Dominican Republic, and Hernandez, of Venezuela, are the only two Sea Dogs currently on the 40-man roster of the parent Red Sox. Houck is a 2017 first-round draft pick.

Catching duties are likely to be shared between Oscar Hernandez, bumped down from Triple-A Pawtucket when veteran Sandy Leon cleared waivers, and Jhon Nuñez.

The starting infield appears to be veteran Jantzen Witte at first base, Brett Netzer at second, C.J. Chatham at shortstop and Bobby Dalbec at third. Jeremy Rivera and Josh Tobias provide infield depth. Witte has played more than 200 games at the Triple-A level and was a 2015 Eastern League All-Star in his first season with the Sea Dogs.

Another of those 2015 Sea Dogs with plenty of experience at Pawtucket, Aneury Tavarez, is likely to patrol the outfield with Luke Tendler and Tate Matheny, both back from last season. Joseph Monge (a 2017 Sea Dog who was injured last season) and Keith Curcio (who played independent ball last season after five years in the Atlanta organization and was a high school teammate of old friend Danny Mars) are also expected to see time in the outfield.

“We’re always grateful to be able to have a number on our back and be able to play in front of some fans,” said Witte, at 29 the oldest member of the team. “We’ve got good fans and this is a good place to hit, a good place to play. You just have to fend off the weather at times.”

Tavarez, 26, said moving down a rung on the minor league ladder can be a little disappointing, but “this is the only option we have right now, so we’ve come here to play hard.”

Witte, seated alongside, complimented Tavarez on his English. One of the pleasures of spending multiple seasons in Portland, Witte said, is observing the conversational strides taken by players whose native language is not English.

“I remember Tzu-Wei Lin,” Witte said of the utility infielder from Taiwan who had three stints in Portland before getting called up to Boston for parts of the past two seasons, “his English got way better every year and it was kind of fun for us to see those improvements.”

Portland’s bullpen includes returners Jordan Weems, Daniel McGrath, Adam Lau, Matt Kent and Matthew Gorst. The newcomers are Durbin Feltman (a third-round pick in last June’s draft), Zach Schellenger and Andrew Schwaab.

“I think we have a good mix,” said Sea Dogs Manager Joe Oliver, himself moving up after three years guiding advanced Class A Salem. “We’ve got some repeaters who are going to give wisdom and experience and we’ve got fresh blood coming up and they’re hungry and excited about being in Double-A.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted act 791-6425 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH


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