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

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

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."

First impressions: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Boston Red Sox 0

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First impressions: Tampa Bay Rays 4, Boston Red Sox 0

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays:

What was Jackie Bradley thinking in the fifth inning? He wasn't, apparently.

Trailing 4-0, the Red Sox had runners on first and second with two out and Christian Vazquez at the plate.

Inexplicably, Bradley broke from second base in an attempt to steal third. Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore simply pivoted and threw the ball to third, where Bradley was tagged out for the final out of the inning.

Not only did it end the threat, it guaranteed the weak-hitting Vazquez would lead off the next inning.

It was the first time in his career that Bradley was thrown out trying to steal and one that he -- or the Red Sox -- won't soon forget.

David Price didn't like the strike zone.

On at least two occasions, Price made a detour from the mound to the dugout after innings to confer with home-plate umpire John Hirchbeck, presumably about the latter's strike zone.

It may be true that Price got squeezed on some pitches, but when you give up four runs to a light-hitting lineup that had lost 12 of its last 13, it's not a good look to be placing any of the blame on the umpiring.

The Red Sox aren't the worst team in baseball with the bases loaded; it just seems that way.

The Sox threatened in the sixth when Vazquez and Mookie Betts singled and, after a flyout by Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts singled, too.

But David Ortiz couldn't handle some fastballs in the strike zone, popping up in the infield, and Hanley Ramirez hit a ball off the end of the bat for an inning-ending flyout to right.

For the season, the Red Sox are 18-for-70 for a .257 batting average with the bases loaded, ranking them 17th -- or just below the middle of the pack -- in baseball.

Still, it seems that the Sox have been particularly inept in those situations of late, most memorably when they loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth against Chicago two weeks ago and improably came away with nothing.

Red Sox aggressively chasing big-name pitchers like Fernandez, Cole

Red Sox aggressively chasing big-name pitchers like Fernandez, Cole

Sean McAdam talks with Toucher & Rich about how aggressive Dave Dombrowski will be in trying to acquire pitching help. The fact they made calls on Jose Fernandez and Gerrit Cole says they will be very aggressive.