They’re overdue.

Kyle Hart, the Opening Day starter for the Portland Sea Dogs, said this year’s club appears “crazy good.” Fans of the Red Sox Double-A affiliate, which has posted only one winning record in the past decade, may be forgiven for feeling skeptical. Still, spring is a time for hope.

With that in mind, here are 10 things to watch for at Hadlock Field this season:

1. New rules: In the continuing effort to speed up the pace of play, Minor League Baseball will require all relief pitchers in Double-A to face at least three batters. Visits to the mound – by a player or coach – are capped at seven per game, down one from last season. Succeeding visits must involve a pitching change.

2. New manager: Joe Oliver, who caught for 13 years in the big leagues and won a World Series title with the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, becomes the 14th manager in Sea Dogs history. Only four of his predecessors departed with winning records: Carlos Tosca, Fredi Gonzalez, Rick Renteria and Todd Claus. Oliver, 53, enters his fifth season as a manager in the Red Sox organization, taking over from Darren Fenster, now a roving instructor of outfielders and baserunners. Kevin Boles, who managed the Sea Dogs from 2011 to 2013, is the new manager in Binghamton.

3. New playoff format: The Eastern League’s 140-game schedule is being broken into 70-game sections with the first half closing June 18 and the second half on Sept. 2. Divisional playoffs will pit the winners of each half, or the second overall finisher if one team wins both halves. Divisional and league championship series will be best-of-five formats. As if you need a reminder, the Sea Dogs last reached the playoffs in 2014.

The new Fried Dough Burger has eight cheeseburger patties, crumbled bacon, lettuce and tomato between two dinner plate-sized disks of fried dough. Its cost – $36.

4. New food items: The concession menu at Hadlock Field is expanding, as will your waistline if you regularly indulge in both the Lobster Popcorn (tender lobster meat slathered in butter and served in a red plastic miniature batting helmet) and the Fried Dough Burger (eight cheeseburger patties, crumbled bacon, lettuce and tomato between two dinner plate-sized disks of fried dough). The popcorn retails for $14 and the burger for $36. The Sea Dogs are also tinkering with an order-from-your-seat system.

5. New name: On June 21 – the first day of summer – the Sea Dogs will temporarily transform themselves into the Maine Whoopie Pies as they mix it up with the Reading Fightin Phils. Clearly, someone’s going to get creamed.

6. New stage: Fans entering the ballpark will notice a season-long stage for bands that include, every Saturday, The Kastaways. Kudos if you can name their members: Herman the Power Hog, Sir Nigel Rathbone the Wharf Rat, Spike the Porcupine, Clarence the Clam and Pete the Puffin.

7. Left side of the infield: In light of the six-year contract extension the Red Sox granted 26-year-old shortstop Xander Bogaerts and the five years of club control over 22-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers, what are the prospects for Boston farmhands at those positions? Bobby Dalbec returns at third base after 29 games with the Sea Dogs last season and C.J. Chatham takes over at shortstop. They are ranked fifth and ninth by The Red Sox drafted both in 2016, Dalbec in the fourth round and Chatham in the second. “I still think they think highly of me,” Chatham said. “I feel like I’m versatile enough if they want to keep me, they can move me around.”

8. Big league camp: Dalbec, 23, led Boston’s farm system in home runs (32) and RBI (109) in 129 games between High-A Salem and Portland, and earned the organization’s offensive and defensive player of the year awards. He was one of six Sea Dogs invited to Boston’s major league spring training camp. The others were Chatham, outfielder Tate Matheny, catcher Oscar Hernandez and pitchers Denyi Reyes and Darwinzon Hernandez. “It was cool experience getting to know the staff and seeing how some of the guys who are really good go about their day,” said Dalbec, who managed a broken-bat RBI single off Max Scherzer in one Grapefruit League game. “Obviously, you want to be there and be able to fight for a job on the team but it was just fun to play.”

9. Blooper pitch: Left-handed Matt Kent throws an eephus. Not often, and not every inning, but he delivered one clocked at 47 mph in last summer’s Eastern League All-Star Game in Trenton. “He’s given some demonstrations,” said Hart, another returning Sea Dogs All-Star, “but none of us are gutsy enough to throw it. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of it this year.”

10. Young arms: Lefty Darwinzon Hernandez and right-hander Denyi Reyes are the only two current Sea Dogs on Boston’s 40-man roster. That, plus the likely need at some point for a spot starter, makes them the best bets as first to be called up to Fenway. In spring training, Reyes asked Red Sox starter Rick Porcello how he throws his two-seam fastball. “I don’t throw it yet in games,” Reyes said, “but I’m practicing it.” Two young relievers to watch are Zach Schellenger, 23, and Durbin Feltman, 21. “The goal is to dominate everywhere I go and see what happens,” Feltman said. “Glad to be here and ready to get started.”

He’s not alone. First pitch at Hadlock is scheduled for 6 p.m. Let the games begin.

Glenn Jordan can be reached at 791-6425 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @GlennJordanPPH

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