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What does the future hold for Clayton Mortensen and Franklin Morales?

08.22.12 at 8:51 pm ET
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Clayton Mortensen has been standing tall for the Red Sox in their sub-par season. (AP)

In a year when Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are a combined 12-21 and a collective 5.12 ERA in 46 starts, the Red Sox have long ago looked elsewhere for bright spots in their 2012 pitching staff.

Right-hander Clayton Mortensen and lefty Franklin Morales are two pitchers who figure to get plenty of consideration for their roles going forward in September and 2013.

Morales 3-4 with a 3.67 ERA. He will start Thursday in the series finale against the Angels, his first career start against the Halos.

“He has what it takes,” Bobby Valentine said of Morales as a starter. “The one thing you can’t teach is experience and he has to experience situations and different hitters, especially what to do when the ball’s wet, either from perspiration or precipitation.”

Morales this season has been particularly effective with his secondary pitches, namely a straight change and a splitter that he throws off of his fastball.

“As long as he’s working both sides of the plate with his fastball. He has two changeups, he has a changeup and a split. Sometimes that determines it,” Valentine said of a pitcher’s secondary pitches. “Then you always say he could develop a third. Starting pitchers have a little profile, multiple pitches, pitch to both sides of the plate, hold runners, field his position because there’s going to be more runners on base and there’s going to be more opportunity for balls to come back at him.

“With that being said, when a reliever can’t field position and hold runners, you usually lose the game when he’s in it when if the ball’s hit to him or there’s a runner on base. Go figure. Pitchers should be able to pitch and do the things required of them to be a pitcher.”

Then came a telling quote from Valentine as to whether Morales might get a further look as a starter in 2013.

“I don’t know what guys are going to comprise the staff next month, let alone next year,” Valentine said. “He’s going to get the chance to start, I think.”

The Red Sox have a good idea of what they have in Morales as a potential starter next season. Mortensen is a far more fascinating case at this point since his numbers have been phenomenal. He is 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA in 16 appearances. He was up and down twice in June and July due to roster juggling.

“Clay’s pitched in a lot of different situations to different types of hitters and has been consistently good,” Valentine said Wednesday. “His breaking stuff is different than anybody else we have on the staff. It’s always good to have different looks and his look is really different and I think it’s just as effective against left-handers as it is right-handers, which makes him really valuable.”

Ideally, Valentine said, Mortensen would have remained with the Red Sox in the bullpen, providing ideal long relief stability as the team dealt with injuries to Scott Atchison, Clay Buchholz and Beckett.

“I think [bullpen] would’ve been a little different,” Valentine said. “There were some real weird situations with him. He pitched great twice. We sent him out twice in 20 days.

“I remember we were thinking having start in the minor leaguers and then there was the necessity of putting him back in the bullpen. I guess there’s some curiosity. Again, I’m not always of the opinion you build championship teams by taking good pitchers and always making them starters. I think championship teams are built with bullpens also, and he could be a very valuable person.”

Determining a pitcher’s future is risky business right now since there are so many moving parts inside the organization, especially considering no one knows whether Beckett will be on the staff a year from now.

The Red Sox most notable move in the pitching staff this season came when they moved Daniel Bard out of his comfort zone as the game’s best set-up man and into the starting rotation. The move has been a colossal bust.

“I’m not sure it should ever be just about the individual, it should be about how he affects the group but the individual doesn’t think that way, nor does his agent,” Valentine said.

Read More: Bobby Valentine, Boston Red Sox, clayton mortensen, Daniel Bard
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