MANCHESTER - The New Hampshire Fisher Cats, circa 2013, hit the field at New Hampshire Delta Dental Stadium for the first time on Tuesday afternoon for a workout.
They'll do it for real on Thursday night for their season opener against the Reading Fightin Phils.
The Fisher Cats will send right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx, a newcomer to the Toronto Blue Jays organization, to the mound for the opener.
"He's a pro," said Fisher Cat coach Tom Signore. "He gets his outs with contact. We don't want any walks. We don't expect a lot of strikeouts and we're going to play good defense behind him."
It's especially important to keep a nice, quick tempo on the mound at this time of year, Signore said.
"We want to keep the defense in the game," Signore said. "You need to keep the defense in the game because it's going to be a little chilly out there and they're going to want to get their tails back in the dugout and swing the bat."
A seven-year minor league veteran, Bibens-Dirkx started a couple of games for Harrisburg in the Eastern League last year, but spent most of the season in Triple-A with Colorado of the Pacific Coast League and Syracuse in the International League.
Righties Deck McGuire, Marcus Walden, Ryan Tepera and Tyson Brummett join Bibens-Dirk in the projected Fisher Cat rotation. Lefty Sean Nolin, who came up to the Fisher Cats late last season, was slowed by a leg injury at the end of spring training camp and is expected to be up with the team soon.
McGuire, 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, is looking to bounce back from a rough 2012.
"Numbers-wise he didn't have a good year," Signore said. "But he never changed his demeanor and he never missed a start. He prepared the same way no matter what his previous outing and he came to spring training on a mission."
McGuire, Toronto's first pick in 2010, went 5-15 last season with the Fisher Cats and had a 5.88 earned run average in 28 starts.
Chad Beck will start the season as the closer, Signore said. The bullpen also includes lefty Tommy Hottovy, who pitched in the major leagues with Boston in 2011 and Kansas City in 2012 and is a former Portland Sea Dog.
"He was originally slated to go to Triple-A," Signore said. "He's a low arm slot guy and he's great at getting left-handed hitters out, but he has the ability to get right-handers out, too."
Matt Wright, another lefty, worked mostly in relief for the Fisher Cats last year.
"We're very fortunate to have two left-handers come out of the bullpen, as opposed to just one," Signore said.
The Fisher Cats will feature a couple of speedy outfielders in Kenny Wilson in center and Kevin Pillar in left at the top of the batting order.
Wilson stole 55 bases combined with Lansing and Dunedin last year and Pillar had 51 with the same two teams.
"We have two guys at the top of the order who can run and steal a base," said manager Gary Allenson. "We have some guys with some power. I think all of them are pretty good hitters. . . . I think they'll be pretty good."
Pitchers: Chad Beck, Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Randy Boone, Tyson Brummett, Joel Carreno, Clint Everts, Tommy Hottovy, Trystan Magnuson, Deck McGuire, Ryan Tepera, Marcus Walden and Matt Wright.
Catchers: Jack Murphy and Sean Ochinko.
Infielders: Kevin Ahrens, Ricardo Nanita, Kevin Nolan, Clint Robinson, Ryan Schimpf, John Tolisano and Amadeo Zazueta.
Outfielders: Brad Glenn, Kevin Pillar and Kenny Wilson.