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."

McAdam: Red Sox relievers didn’t do the job vs. Toronto

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McAdam: Red Sox relievers didn’t do the job vs. Toronto

Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss the Red Sox bullpen giving up a 4-run lead in the late innings of their loss to the Blue Jays.

Watch the video above.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays…

1) Toronto’s offense can never be taken lightly.

Coming into the series, the Blue Jays had scored 197 runs, putting them in the middle of the pack among all Major League teams and averaging four runs per game. In the two games against Boston, they’ve scored 17 runs.

So an offense that had appeared to be dormant has been woken up thanks to some subpar Red Sox pitching.

It seems like these two teams are very similar and could be in opposite positions just as easily. The Blue Jays are only three behind in the win column (five in the loss), so Boston needs to win David Price’s Sunday start to widen the gap and cut their three-game skid.

2) Craig Kimbrel is only effective for so long.

Boston’s closer wasn’t giving excuses following Saturday’s game -- and this isn’t one either.

Saturday’s 39-pitch performance wasn’t just his season-high, but his career high in pitches.

This not only resulted in a drop in Kimbrel’s velocity, but it exposed flaws in the Red Sox’ pen. Kimbrel is truly a one-inning guy, so if Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara can’t get him the ball, he’s useless.

And it seems like Uehara won’t be used on back-to-back days frequently in the near future, so Boston won’t be able to use Tazawa in a seventh inning role with much consistency.

Somewhere along the way Dave Dombrowski will need to find another reliever for the back-end of the bullpen.

3) Offense can only take a team so far.

Both teams had big offensive days, in large part because pitchers from both sides made a lot of mistakes -- but they still took advantage of them.

Had the Red Sox been the home team in this contest, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t have won -- just based on the progression of the game and ignoring any statistical splits.

If the Red Sox are serious about making the postseason, they need pitching to pick up the slack once in a while. Because when they hit the road late in the year, games like will slip away when quality pitching is lacking.

Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

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Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays:
 
QUOTES
*“We’ve seen Hanley [Ramirez] catch that ball multiple times...An unfortunate situation at a key moment.” John Farrell said of the final play of the game.
 
*As soon as I let it go I thought he was out...I feel like that game kind of slipped away from us.” -Travis Shaw said of his throw in the final play of the game.
 
*“Everybody was so excited on the bench. We’d lost the lead and to have him come through in that situation . . . It was huge.” -Hanley Ramirez on David Ortiz’s go-ahead homerun in the ninth inning.
 
*“We’re a strike away on a number of occasions . . . you watch the attack plan all day long right-handers with curveballs were having success against [Justin] Smoak.” -Farrell said of the bullpen’s performance and Smoak’s ninth inning hit off Craig Kimbrel.
 
*“If he makes an accurate throw he’s out.” -Farrell on Christian Vazquez’s errant throw in the ninth inning.
 
*“In some key spots we gave an extra 90 feet when otherwise we have not of late.” -Farrell said about Boston’s inability to execute late in the game.

NOTES
*Xander Bogaerts has hit safely in his last 21 games, extending his streak with a home run to lead off the fourth inning. He’s hitting .402 with five home runs during the streak. Bogaerts logged his ninth three-hit game of 2016.
 
* Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to five games with his first-inning double. Pedroia has also hit safely in his past 22 games against Toronto. He’s hitting .444 during the short streak.
 
*David Ortiz extended his own hitting streak to six games with a double in the fourth. He's hitting .520 over that span.
 
* Russell Martin logged his fifth multi-hit game of the season -- and first three-hit game -- smacking a double and a home run. Martin entered the game batting .179 with three extra-base hits.
 
 
STARS
1) Russell Martin

Not only did he score the winning run, but he also tied the score in the ninth and launched a home run earlier in the game.
 
2) Xander Bogaerts
Another threre-hit performance, extending his hitting streak to 21 games, Bogaerts keeps creating headaches for opposing pitchers.
 
3) Rick Porcello
On a day where pitchers from both side scuffled, Porcello’s 6 2/3-inning effort gave Boston more than enough of a chance to win.