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For Fisher Cats, here come the Sea Dogs
Catcher Christian Vazquez (70) throws to second base during a Red Sox spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
The first-place Portland Sea Dogs make their first appearance of the season against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats tonight at the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
Lefthander John Drake Britton (3-2, 4.46 ERA) gets the 6:35 p.m. start against New Hampshire righthander Marcus Walden (1-4, 3.55). Britton was selected by the Red Sox in the 23rd round in 2007. He had Tommy John surgery in 2008.
In his last three outings, he has managed to pitch six innings. On April 28 at Trenton, he gained the decision after fanning seven batters and walking only two. He got a no-decision on May 3 in a home outing against New Britain, fanning five with three walks.
Last Wednesday he whiffed five, walked one and allowed two earned runs in a win against Reading. He has 35 strikeouts in 36-1/3 innings and has walked 12.
On Wednesday in a 6:35 p.m. start, Portland will throw righthander Charlie Haeger (1-0, 3.38) against righthander Deck McGuire (2-3, 5.11). The series concludes Thursday in a 7:05 p.m. start as righthander Brandon Workman (4-1, 3.54 ERA) takes the hill for Portland against righthander Ryan Tepera (4-2, 2.65).
Workman suffered a loss in his last outing Friday against the Rock Cats, giving up eight hits and five earned runs in 5-1/3-innings. He walked two and fanned six. Workman was named Boston's Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season.
This week, New Hampshire fans may get to watch lefthander Franklin Morales, who was assigned to Portland last Wednesday on a rehab assignment. He is battling a lower back strain.
Catching has been a top priority of late for the Red Sox and the organization has a good prospect in Portland. Christian Vazquez, a ninth-round pick in the 2008 draft, is batting .250 with two homers and 13 RBIs.
Infielder Michael Almanzar is hiting .305 with five homers and 19 RBIs for the Sea Dogs and teammate outfielder Tony Thomas is hitting .256 with three homers and 25 RBIs.
Daniel Bard (0-1, 5.40) continues to struggle. In a relief appearance Saturday against New Britain, he allowed four walks and one earned run. The former Boston set-up man and closer has walked 12 and fanned six in 12 minor league games this season.
On Wednesday, the first 1,000 fans will receive a free Fisher Cats cap and at the conclusion of Thursday night's game, there will be a fireworks show.
New Hampshire (17-21) will play Portland (22-13) 10 times over the next 17 days. The Fisher Cats will visit Portland twice this month.
They will play a four game series (May 20-23) followed by a three-game set (May 28-30) at Hadlock Field.