Mortensen makes most of short stay

August, 1, 2012
8/01/12
1:21
AM ET
BOSTON -- When Red Sox starter Josh Beckett walked off the mound Tuesday night, he was booed. When Red Sox reliever Clayton Mortensen exited the game, he received a standing ovation.

Beckett suffered a back spasm and had to leave with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the third inning. He called for the training staff and was removed from the game under a thunderous level of boos.

“It is what it is,” Beckett said after Boston’s 4-1 rain-shortened victory over the Detroit Tigers.

He had no reaction.

“None whatsoever,” added Becektt, who admitted he heard the jeering.

[+] EnlargeClayton Mortensen
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesClayton Mortensen's wild day ended with a standing ovation and a victory over Justin Verlander.
While Beckett went to the trainer’s room to get treatment, Mortensen was called in from the bullpen with little time to warm up. The right-hander was called up earlier in the day after the club traded reliever Matt Albers to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for lefty reliever Craig Breslow, who isn’t scheduled to arrive in Boston until Wednesday.

Boston needed an arm and Mortensen got the call from Triple-A Pawtucket.

He worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed only one hit with three walks and one strikeout. When he was removed from the game with one out in the top of the sixth inning, what remained of the 37,275 in attendance gave him a standing ovation.

“I almost couldn’t help smiling, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I had to keep my head down for a minute because it was probably one of the coolest things I have ever experienced. That was pretty cool.”

Mortensen inherited a bases-loaded situation with Prince Fielder, the Tigers’ cleanup hitter, stepping into the box. Mortensen delivered a 1-0 fastball and Fielder absolutely turned on it, driving it deep into the right-field seats. Fortunately for the Red Sox, it was foul.

“There was definitely a lot of concern on that one,” Mortensen said with a smile. “He hit it and I’m standing on the mound, saying ‘go foul, go foul, go foul’ and I watched it tail foul and was like, 'OK, I got away with one so now I’ve got to lock it in.' It was a scary pitch, but just a long strike.”

Mortensen finally retired Fielder on a deep fly ball to center as Jacoby Ellsbury made the catch to end the inning and the threat.

“It was kind of unexpected, I guess,” Mortensen said of his early entrance. “Being a reliever you’ve got to be ready at any given point in time. It’s proven throughout the year that anything can happen, something crazy can happen. It wasn’t the most ideal situation I wanted to come into a game, but I’ll take it. To come in and be able to get an out and save us some runs and keep us in the game, I thought I was huge, so it was great. A lot of fun.”

Mortensen pitched well, better than Detroit ace Justin Verlander in fact, and earned his first victory. It was a strange one, but he’ll take it. With the win, Boston pushed its winning streak to four.

“It’s awesome, man. I’ll take it,” Mortensen said. “I’m pretty stoked we got a win out of this, not just me, but our team got a win. It’s big and we’re trying to keep this rolling right now."

Mortensen was told of his promotion to the big leagues (his third this season) moments before he was preparing to go to the field with the PawSox in Rochester, N.Y. He quickly boarded a plane and arrived at Fenway Park around 5:20 p.m.

Overall with Boston this season, Mortensen has a 1.17 ERA in 10 appearances (23 innings).

“You bring in a guy from the minor leagues and he gets an immediate call to the mound, and their No. 4 hitter just misses a home run as soon as he gets there, but he got out of the jam and he was sparkling," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "He was great. It was a well-deserved win.”

The conditions at game time weren’t that bad, but as the weather worsened, pitchers on both sides began to have control issues.

“They definitely got worse as the game went on,” Mortensen said. “It looked a lot worse from the dugout than it actually felt out on the mound, but as the game went on, the mound started to get a little muddy, the rosin bag was getting soaked, the balls were slippery and I had a couple of errant pitches that were slipping right out of my hand.

"You just had to try to focus, dry it off as best you can and try to throw a strike on the next pitch. It was just as bad on their side too. It’s just one of those things that happens.”

As well as Mortensen pitched, it’s likely he’ll be back in the minors on Wednesday once the newly-acquired Breslow arrives in town. Mortensen understands his role and said he’s fine with anything the club needs from him.

“I completely understand my role and I embrace it,” he said. “I’m glad I’m that guy they like to call up and they can count on. If I were to go down tomorrow, then so be it. I’ll go down, keep working and then the next time they call on me, come back up and try to do the same thing again. It’s no big deal to me. I’ve been in this situation before. It is what it is and you roll with the punches.”

He dodged a lot of upper cuts on Tuesday and helped the Red Sox to a rain-shortened victory.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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