HOT PROSPECTS, a rehabbing major leaguer and a tight playoff race in the Eastern Division standings should make for an interesting three-game series between the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Portland Sea Dogs.
The series begins tonight at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium at 7:05 p.m. and concludes Wednesday night. Perhaps the biggest storyline is the arrival of temporary Fisher Cat Melky Cabrera, who is working his way back to Toronto after being on the disabled list since June 27 because of tendinitis in his left knee. Cabrera, who played for Class A Dunedin (Fla.) on Friday night, is expected be activated by the Blue Jays sometime after Tuesday’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Cabrera, of course, is best known for his eventful 2012. While with San Francisco, he earned MVP honors in the All-Star Game, then, a month later, receiving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for testosterone. Sean Nolin (5-2, 2.38 ERA) will start for New Hampshire tonight. Portland’s pitcher was still to be determined as of Sunday night.
Each team will have players fresh off the MLB Futures Game that took place Sunday. Fisher Cats catcher A.J. Jimenez (0-for-1 with a walk in the game) played for the World Team while Red Sox prospects taking part were pitcher Anthony Ranaudo (who gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning and allowed a home run) and third baseman Garin Cecchini (1-for-2, RBI) for the US Team and shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2-for-3 with a run scored, caught stealing) for the World.
While it’s unknown whether Ranaudo will make an appearance in any of the three games between the Sea Dogs and Fisher Cats, Cecchini and Bogaerts are sure to play. While Bogaerts has been on the radar for a while, Cecchini has quickly become the prospect to keep an eye on thanks to a solid start through his first 19 games in Double-A.
Cecchini is hitting .361 with one home run and eight RBIs. His defense has also been quite good, with just one error while manning the hot corner. Bogaerts, also continues to play well for Portland with an average of .311 with six homers and 35 RBIs.
This series is also important for both teams in the standings. The top two teams in the Eastern Division will make the playoffs. And while Binghamton (58-34, 11 1/2-game lead on second-place Trenton) is running away with the top spot, that second position is up for grabs and the Sea Dogs and Fisher Cats are within its grasp.
Portland lost to Binghamton on Sunday to fall to 46-47, one game behind Trenton for second place. The Fisher Cats beat Reading in extra innings to move to 46-46, a half game behind Trenton and half game up on New Britain and Portland.
Following the three games with Portland the Fisher Cats will embark on a key four-game series at Trenton from Thursday to Sunday. New Britain is the other team in the mix. At 46-47, the Rock Cats are right there with Portland and New Hampshire. Only Reading (20 games out of first place and 8 1/2 out of second) is a long-shot at this point.
The real meat of the schedule will come from the middle of August through to the end of the season when the Fisher Cats play Trenton (three games), New Britain (three games) and Portland (seven games) in a crucial stretch run.
KRATZ REHABS AGAINST FORMER TEAM: Former New Hampshire Fisher Cats catcher Erik Kratz (now with Philadelphia) played a rehab game with the Reading Fightin Phils against the Fisher Cats Saturday night.
On Saturday, Kratz went 0-for-4 against his former team. Kratz did not play in Sunday’s game between the teams. Kratz is hitting .229 in 43 games with the Phillies this season and is coming back from a knee injury. Kratz played with New Hampshire in the team’s second year of existence (2005) and the first at the current stadium.
Ian Clark is a staff writer with the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email is email@example.com.