Rafael Devers, the No. 2 prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization according to Baseball America, and right fielder Aneury Tavarez, who was the Portland Sea Dogs’ Most Valuable Player last season, head up the roster entering Thursday’s Eastern League opener against Reading at Hadlock Field in Portland.
Game time is 6 p.m.
It marks the 24th season for the Sea Dogs, the 15th as a Class AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
“The field is in really good shape. We officially had eight inches of snow on the field on Sunday morning but we could have played on Monday night,” said Chris Cameron, the team’s assistant general manager and director of media relations.
“We put some black and green sand on top of the snow and it accelerated the melting process,” explained Cameron.
Fourteen players who played for the Sea Dogs last season are back including Tavarez, who hit .335 with seven homers and 47 runs batted in. He led the regulars in average, on-base percentage (.379), runs scored (59), slugging percentage (.506), triples (13), hits (129), total bases (195) and stolen bases (18).
His 13 triples were a franchise record and he was chosen to the midseason Eastern League All-Star team.
Tavarez, 24, was obtained by the Baltimore Orioles and was in spring training with them. But as a Rule 5 draft pick, he would have had to been included on their major league roster so when they waived him, he was returned to the Red Sox.
Devers, 20, was an all-star in his first three pro seasons. At Class A Salem last season, he hit. 282 with 11 homers, 71 RBIs, 32 doubles and eight triples in 128 games.
There are five other top-30 prospects on the roster.
Infielder Nick Longhi (.282, 40 doubles, 77 RBIs at Salem) is the No. 14 prospect with pitchers Trey Ball (No. 15), Jake Cosart (16), Luis Ysla (22) and Jamie Callahan (28) rounding out the list.
Ball, Cosart and Callahan are making their AA debuts. Ysala (2-5, 4.07 ERA) appeared in 39 games a year ago, all in relief.
The pitching staff is headed by opening-day starter Teddy Stankiewicz (5-9, 4.71 ERA for the Sea Dogs in 2016) and Kevin McAvoy (8-9, 5.80) along with reliever Williams Jerez (1-6, 4.71), another midseason all-star.
Carlos Febles returns for his second season as the manager and the team has a new hitting coach in Lee May Jr., son of the former big leaguer.
Cameron said the schedule is balanced and he likes the fact they play the bulk of their home games in June, July and August. He has been pleased with ticket sales.
On July 6, the Sea Dogs will celebrate the 25th anniversary of “A League of Their Own,” a movie about a women’s professional baseball league that starred Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna.
“During our research, we found out that three Mainers played in an all-girls professional baseball league and we’ve reached out to one of them to throw out the first pitch,” said Cameron.