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What did the Red Sox get for Marco Scutaro? A look at Clayton Mortensen

01.21.12 at 7:20 pm ET
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The Red Sox acquired right-hander Clayton Mortensen from the Rockies. (AP)

The Red Sox’ main motivation for dealing shortstop Marco Scutaro was to clear his $6 million payroll in order to make a run at addressing other areas of need, most likely their rotation. Even so, the team acquired a pitcher who could provide them with a depth option for either the rotation or the bullpen in right-hander Clayton Mortensen.

Mortensen, 26, has a 4-8 record and 5.12 ERA in 24 big league games (13 starts) over the past three seasons. A sandwich pick of the Cardinals in the 2007 draft, Mortensen was traded to the A’s as part of the deal sending Matt Holliday to the Cardinals in 2009 and then dealt by Oakland to the Rockies for minor league pitcher Ethan Hollisworth last year. He showed some promise with Colorado over the course of two and a half months in the majors last year, going 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 16 appearances (six starts). Mortensen was 2-3 with a 4.15 ERA as a starter and had a 3.42 ERA in relief. The sinkerballer had command issues, walking 24 and striking out 30 in 58 1/3 innings.

One major league talent evaluator described the right-hander as a sinker slider pitcher with a build that allows him to project as a starter, but his stuff has seemingly plateaued, and he is likely to define himself either as a future back-of-the-rotation starter or a middle reliever given his grounder-inducing sinker and “fringy” secondary pitches.

Last offseason, Mortensen was rated the No. 14 prospect in Oakland’s farm system by Baseball America, which described him thusly:

“He doesn’t blow batters away, but Mortensen can mix four pitches and get plenty of groundballs. His primary weapon is an 89-90 mph fastball with sink and run, and he can locate it to both sides of the plate. His changeup is the best of his secondary pitches, as he gets great arm action on it and it breaks down and away from lefthanders. He has a solid 83-84 mph slider and started using a high-70s curveball last year as well, though its main function is just to give hitters a different look. Mortensen has a little deception in his delivery, but he also tends to rush, causing his pitches to flatten out. When he’s on, he’s aggressive and pounds the strike zone. Mortensen has the ingredients to become a dependable back-of-the-rotation starter and little left to prove in Triple-A.”

Mortensen has one option remaining, a potentially important consideration given the number of pitchers on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster who are out of options. The Sox will have lefties Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller as well as right-handers Michael Bowden and Scott Atchison all in camp as pitchers without remaining options.

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