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."

McAdam: Red Sox should pass on this Sale

McAdam: Red Sox should pass on this Sale

BOSTON -- I'm not sure what the Red Sox would have to give up for Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale.

For that matter, I can't say definitively that the two clubs have actually discussed a trade for Chris Sale, though it's logical to assume they have, even in a cursory way.

The White Sox, mired toward the bottom of the A.L. Central and with just one playoff appearance in the last 11 seasons, are said to be "open'' to listening for offers on Sale. That's both their right and their duty.

As for the Red Sox, given that they're a big-market club with plenty of resources and an expectation from a loyal fan base to compete for a championship every season, they're similarly smart to inquire.

Who knows? Maybe the White Sox have had their fill of Sale and ,in a fit of pique, might be desperate enough to take less than full value to rid themselves of a pitcher who's developed into quite the clubhouse lawyer of late.

But my guess is that the White Sox are demanding a lot for Sale. That makes sense, since, beyond his raging sense of entitlement, Sale remains one of the handful of best starters in the game and is under club control for another three seasons after this one.

Whatever the asking price is, however, it's almost certainly too much.

Sure, the addition of Sale might, on paper, make the Red Sox the favorites to win the American League pennant.

Again, on paper. Ask the New York Mets, who owned the best starting rotation in the game when the season began and now sit, uncomfortably, in third place in their own division.

So much for the best-laid plans.

But the focus here is on the cost, however unknown, to obtain Sale.

If obtaining Drew Pomeranz cost the Red Sox Anderson Espinoza, how much more would Sale cost?

Let's assume that the Red Sox consider Yoan Moncada essentially untouchable. That would mean Boston would have to essentially clean out the rest of its prospect inventory. Think: a package like Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Michael Kopech, and perhaps more.

Or maybe the White Sox want more established young talent, and have their eyes on Mookie Betts and more.

Argue, if you wish, that pitching is more important than offense, but giving up a leadoff man who's shown indications he could become a five-tool superstar? No, thanks.

There's also the matter of need. Unlike at the beginning of the season, the Red Sox can now lay claim to having a rotation in which every one of the five starters gives them a solid chance to win.

Yes, David Price has underperformed in a big way. But that's likely the result of adjusting to Boston and new surroundings. What are the odds that, at 30, Price has almost overnight permanently devolved into a mediocre starter after finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting just last fall?

Steven Wright has emerged as a consistent starter who's under control for the forseeable future. Rick Porcello, though not flashy, is pitching like the Red Sox envisioned he would when they dealt for him a season-and-a-half ago. Eduardo Rodriguez has overcome injury and delivery issues to fufull the promise he showed as a rookie. And Pomeranz could be an afforable middle-of-the-rotation for years to come.

Is Sale better than each one of them right now? Of course, Price included.

But is the Red Sox rotation so troubled that it must upgrade now or else? No. Is their an obvious weak link begging to be immediately replaced? No.

And this is not Chris Sale, free agent. This is Chris Sale, incredibly expensive trade piece.

What if they stripmined their minor-league system for Sale, and didn't win? Then what? What if they tore up their core of foundational players for Sale, only to find him incapable of surviving Boston?

As I confessed earlier, I'm don't know what the White Sox would want for Sale.

What I do know is that it would, by definition, almost certainly be too much.

Quotes, notes and stars: Pomeranz 'made one pitch that hurt' Red Sox

Quotes, notes and stars: Pomeranz 'made one pitch that hurt' Red Sox

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers:

QUOTES:

"He pitched as we had anticipated at the time of the trade.'' - John Farrell on Drew Pomeranz.

"I had a good curveball and I was locating my fastball a lot better. I was in a lot better counts all night, but I made one pitch that hurt us.'' - Pomeranz on his outing.

"He was able to limit the damage against a very good offensive team. He pitched well enough to win. I just wish we could have put more runs on the board for him.'' - Jackie Bradley Jr. on Pomeranz.

 

NOTES:

* Until Monday night, the Red Sox had won their last six series openers.

* Drew Pomeranz has allowed four or fewer hits in 12 of his 18 starts this season.

* Eleven of Travis Shaw's last 15 hits have been for extra bases.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. had his 25th multi-hit game.

* Sandy Leon is hitting .500 (11-for-22) with runners in scoring position.

* The Red Sox are 21-21 in games decided by two or fewer runs.

* Dustin Pedroia (walk, single) has reached base in 28 straight games.

* Xander Bogaerts has 133 hits through 97 games. Since 1940, only Wade Boggs (134 in 1983; 135 in 1987) and Adrian Gonzalez (135 in 2011) had more.

STARS:

1) Justin Verlander

Verlander has enjoyed a bounce-back season of sorts this year, and the Red Sox got to see it up close Monday night as Verlander limited them a single run over six innings.

2) Jose Iglesias

The former Red Sox shortstop haunted his old team with a two-run homer in the sixth to put the Tigers ahead to stay.

3) Drew Pomeranz

The lefty absorbed the loss, but pitched well enough to win, giving up two runs in six innings while striking out seven.