A near-perfect beginning for Mortensen

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A near-perfect beginning for Mortensen

BOSTON -- There was much more attention and hype surrounding the Red Sox debut of rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks Wednesday night, but as first games go, it's tough to beat the one enjoyed by pitcher Clayton Mortensen.

Called up from Pawtucket earlier in the day, Mortensen pitched three scoreless -- and nearly perfect innings -- in relief of starter Daniel Bard.

Mortensen allowed a leadoff single to the first Oakland A's hitter he faced, former teammate Cliff Pennington, then tossed a wild pitch that enabled Pennington to take second.

But after that Mortensen retired the next nine hitters, striking out six of them.

''He was fantastic,'' said Bobby Valentine. "We saw that his off-speed stuff in spring training in the bullpen looked terrific but in the games, he seemed to elevate a little. Often we said, 'If that stuff is down, he's going to be really tough.' Well, it was down tonight and he was really tough.''

"It definitely helps the confidence,'' said Mortensen. "You come in, put a stop to things and give us a chance to get back into the game. It was a nice outing.''

Mortensen pitched with Colorado last year. Though he was once a member of the A's -- having been dealt off to acquire Matt Holliday -- there's been such roster churn in Oakland that "I had the advantage that no one in the A's lineup except Pennington has ever seen me.''

Whatever Mortensen used as edge, it worked.

He got two strikeouts with Pennington in scoring position in the seventh, before retiring Seth Smith on a groundout to first.

In the eighth, he got another grounder to the right side and two more strikeouts. It was a pattern he repeated one more time in the ninth -- groundout to first, followed by two strikeouts.

"I think all my pitches were working pretty well today,'' he said. "I was able to locate them all. If you pound strikes and mix things up, you get some check-swings and swings-and-misses.''

While in Pawtucket, Mortensen had pitched in relief and hadn't pitched more than two innings in any one appearance. But going three innings Wednesday wasn't much of a stretch.

"Not at all,'' he said. "It had been four days since I'd thrown and felt pretty fresh. I just wanted to continue what I had been doing. I had felt pretty good in Pawtucket. I still felt like my delivery needed a little work and tonight it actually felt like it was clicking.

"The pitches were coming out good, the movement and action was good. It was nice to see. I just have to build off that."

Price asks Red Sox fans for support: 'We will get through this'

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Price asks Red Sox fans for support: 'We will get through this'

If you're upset with the way the Red Sox have played recently, well, David Price understands.

But things, he vows, will get better. And he adds that it's only when you've been in the deepest valley that you can appreciate the highest mountain.

Or something like that . . .

Rodriguez shipped back to PawSox as Sox seek rotation answers

Rodriguez shipped back to PawSox as Sox seek rotation answers

After Eduardo Rodriguez's horrific performance Monday night against the Rays -- 11 hits and 9 earned runs allowed in 2 2/3 innings, leading to a 13-7 Red Sox loss to a team that entered the game riding an 11-game losing streak -- the Sox succumbed to the obvious and shipped him back to Pawtucket.  

And they got no argument from Sean McAdam.

"I think this is the right move," CSN's Red Sox Insider told Dalen Cuff on Monday night's SportsNet Central. "Because, clearly, the step forward that [Rodriguez] took, however small, last week was more than wiped out and (he) regressed this evening the way he pitched. And things have to be worked out, both in terms of execution and his approach . . . "

In six starts this season covering 29 1/3 innings -- less than five innings a start -- Rodriguez has been, in a word, awful. His 1-3 record is bad enough, but couple that with an 8.59 ERA, an opponents' batting average of .315, a WHIP of 1.74 and nine home runs allowed (a rate that projects out to about 45 homers allowed in a 150-inning season), and you can see why a change had to be made.

“The bottom line is, [Rodriguez] is capable of more," said manager John Farrell.

But now comes the next question: Who replaces him? And that, noted McAdam, has no easy answer.

"What it means for the rotation going forward is completely uncertain," McAdam told Cuff. "In fact, (Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski) told us that there was no corresponding move. Of course, because this turn doesn't come up in the rotation for another five days with the off-day Thursday, it's not anything they need to address (immediately). And in all likelihood, they'll probably get somebody to pitch out of the bullpen here until that turn comes up."

So the Sox get five days to ponder a problem that seems, in many ways unsolvable.

"[There] aren't a lot of good candidates internally," McAdam noted, "and it's unlikely there's going to be any sort of trade . . . in the next four days to fill that spot