Boston to Pawtucket and back: Mortensen looks to now hang on

Boston to Pawtucket and back: Mortensen looks to now hang on
September 5, 2012, 1:42 am
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SEATTLE -- It's happened to others in the past: Lou Merloni for one; Kevin Youkilis for another.

Every year, it seems, one Red Sox player with options remaining becomes something of a human yo-yo, yanked up and down between Boston and Triple A Pawtucket -- promoted to the big leagues when there's an immediate need, then quickly demoted when roster spots become tight.

This year, it happened to Clayton Mortensen. A lot.

Mortensen Tuesday rejoined the Red Sox for the sixth time this season and second time in the last 10 days. With rosters expanded on Sept. 1 past the usual 25-man limit, the one consolation for Mortensen is that, barring any unforeseen development, he's here to stay for the remainder of the regular season.

Mortensen has been able to take the experience in stride.

"The only time it would get difficult," he said, "was if you let it get difficult. I knew going in this year that I was going to be a swing guy. I didn't know how many times I was going to be. But you can't let it get to you. If you let it affect the way you work and get after it while you're sent down, then when you come back up, you're unprepared.

"I just took 'em and said, 'OK, I'll go down and do what you want me to do and continue to work and the next time you call me up, I'll be sharp and ready to go.' That's pretty much how you have to approach it. If you don't, it will bite you in the butt."

Making matters potentially worse is that Mortensen pitched well for Boston whenever the Sox summoned him. He pitched to a 2.25 ERA in his various stints with the Sox. He often served as the team's long man, eating up innings when a starter was ineffective in the early going. Nine of his 19 appearances were for two innings or longer. Five times, he pitched three or more innings.

"For me, when I got sent down after I pitched well, I knew it wasn't because I didn't pitch well," he said. "It wasn't because of my actions on the field or how hard I worked. You kind of take a little sense of accomplishment. It was just because of the business side of the game and you have to learn how to accept it."

One consolation for Mortensen: this is the last year he has available options. Whatever happens next year, he won't be able to go up and down without first being made available to other organizations who could claim him.

"You just wear it for the year," he said of the options. "Then it won't happen again. I just took it with a grain of salt. That was my take on it for the year."

Not that it hasn't sometimes been grueling. In the last 10 days, for instance, Mortensen flew west with the team from Boston to Anaheim when the Sox began their nine-game road trip.

Then, when the Sox needed Zach Stewart to start a game, Mortensen returned East, this time assigned to Double-A Portland as a matter of procedure. (Being optioned to Portland made Mortensen eligible to return Tuesday because their season ended Monday, whereas if he had gone Pawtucket, he would have had to wait the mandatory 10 days after being optioned before he could return to the big leagues.)

Mortensen then flew from Portland to Seattle Monday, and will return on the team charter late Wednesday. That's four cross-country flights in the span of 10 days.

"Lot of frequent flier miles," joked Mortensen. "I've gone through two and a half books."

He hopes that he's proven a few things to the organization that could put him in position to stick with the big league club next spring.

"I hope I've shown them that I'm a hard worker and a competitor," he said. "I hope they can see that I'm a valuable asset. I don't know what they have in mind for me going into next year, but hopefully, I can be a piece of the puzzle."