PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland Sea Dogs went 68-73 and missed the Eastern League (AA) playoffs. And, for the sixth consecutive year, the attendance showed a decline from the previous season.
But assistant general manager Chris Cameron pointed out there were plenty of pluses, including the fact three players who began the season in Portland are contributing for the parent Boston Red Sox: Relief pitchers Brandon Workman and Drake Britton and shortstop-third baseman Xander Bogaerts.
“We’ve developed a lot of players [for the Red Sox] and having three in Boston now is incredible,” said Cameron.
Right-hander Workman and lefty Britton had each made 15 appearances for the Red Sox entering Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay.
Workman, who started three games, was 5-3 with a 4.34 earned run average and he had 41 strikeouts and 13 walks in 37⅓ innings. Opponents were hitting .261 off him.
Britton was 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA. He had 16 strikeouts and six walks over 18⅔ innings. Opponents were hitting .279 off him.
Sea Dogs pitching coach Bob Kipper said Workman and Britton had major-league potential and they were able to fast-track this season. The Red Sox suffered season-ending injuries to relievers Andrew Bailey, Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Miller, which opened the door for them.
“I’m not surprised [they’re in the major leagues],” said Kipper. “There are certainly other guys in the organization who have a chance to pitch at that level. [Workman and Britton] were able to figure out some things about themselves, which has allowed them to move to that level and perform well at that level.”
“They aren’t just on the Red Sox roster, they’ve been put into key roles and continue to succeed in Boston,” said Cameron.
Bob Kipper said Workman’s fastball “drives his success.
“And his delivery allows his fastball to be more deceptive,” said Kipper. “The hitters see it late, so they have less time to react to it. He gets a lot of swings and misses [on fastballs] to his glove side.”
Britton, according to Kipper, has “come a long way in a short period of time.
“His biggest area [of improvement] has been his ability to develop real strong mental skills enabling him to pitch in the moment. He has a plan on every pitch and puts all his energy and focus into making each pitch,” said Kipper. “He has a fastball, slider and changeup and his slider is becoming a very legitimate second pitch [to his fastball]. And his changeup is developing nicely.”
Earlier this season, Bogaerts became the first position player 20 or younger to play for the Red Sox since right fielder Dwight Evans in 1972. He was named the Minor League Player of the Year by USA Today.
Between Portland and AAA Pawtucket, he hit .297 with 15 homers and 67 runs batted in.
Bogaerts, who played for Aruba in the Senior League World Series at Bangor’s Mansfield Stadium in 2009, is hitting .333 for the Red Sox with a homer and four RBIs.
“He is the third youngest player in the major leagues,” said Cameron. “He’s going to be a special player.”
The Sea Dogs averaged 5,096 fans for their 67 home games to rank fifth in the 12-team league. They had averaged 5,434 a year ago.
Cameron pointed out their August attendance average of 6,795, which included four sellouts in 11 dates, was their best since 2009.
He said they were hurt by their schedule and the unusually rainy summer.
“We played 33 home games before June 3,” pointed out Cameron, noting that the cool and unpredictable early-season weather in Portland hurts attendance.
Their first six home games, played early in April, drew an average of just 3,127.
“And we had to put the tarp on the field 74 times and that broke the previous record of 71,” said Cameron.
“It certainly wasn’t a terrible year but we weren’t where we wanted to be. We’re going to work hard to get our numbers back up,” said Cameron.
The Sea Dogs were established in 1994 as the AA affiliate of the Florida Marlins. They became affiliated with the Red Sox in 2003.
Catcher Christian Vazquez was chosen the team’s Most Valuable Player in a vote by the fans. Considered an outstanding defensive catcher, Vazquez also contributed offensively as he hit .289 to tie for eighth in the league in hitting.
He had 19 doubles, five homers and 48 RBIs and led all Eastern League catchers in throwing out baserunners (47 percent). He hit .347 after the All-Star break.
Catcher-first baseman-DH Matt Spring won the 10th Player Award, hitting .222 with 12 doubles, 10 homers, 34 RBIs and a .716 slugging percentage in 52 games.
Pitcher Pete Ruiz earned the Citizen of the Year Award for his community involvement. That included frequent appearances at schools to talk about the importance of education and avoiding drugs and alcohol. He also volunteered at several free baseball clinics and frequently visited the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital.
In addition to those awards, right-hander Anthony Ranaudo was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year (8-4, 2.95 ERA with 106 strikeouts in 109⅔ innings).
The Sea Dogs open the 2014 season April 3 at Reading before playing their home opener April 10 against New Britain.