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."