Red Sox

Boston to Pawtucket and back: Mortensen looks to now hang on

839691.jpg

Boston to Pawtucket and back: Mortensen looks to now hang on

SEATTLE -- It's happened to others in the past: Lou Merloni for one; Kevin Youkilis for another.

Every year, it seems, one Red Sox player with options remaining becomes something of a human yo-yo, yanked up and down between Boston and Triple A Pawtucket -- promoted to the big leagues when there's an immediate need, then quickly demoted when roster spots become tight.

This year, it happened to Clayton Mortensen. A lot.

Mortensen Tuesday rejoined the Red Sox for the sixth time this season and second time in the last 10 days. With rosters expanded on Sept. 1 past the usual 25-man limit, the one consolation for Mortensen is that, barring any unforeseen development, he's here to stay for the remainder of the regular season.

Mortensen has been able to take the experience in stride.

"The only time it would get difficult," he said, "was if you let it get difficult. I knew going in this year that I was going to be a swing guy. I didn't know how many times I was going to be. But you can't let it get to you. If you let it affect the way you work and get after it while you're sent down, then when you come back up, you're unprepared.

"I just took 'em and said, 'OK, I'll go down and do what you want me to do and continue to work and the next time you call me up, I'll be sharp and ready to go.' That's pretty much how you have to approach it. If you don't, it will bite you in the butt."

Making matters potentially worse is that Mortensen pitched well for Boston whenever the Sox summoned him. He pitched to a 2.25 ERA in his various stints with the Sox. He often served as the team's long man, eating up innings when a starter was ineffective in the early going. Nine of his 19 appearances were for two innings or longer. Five times, he pitched three or more innings.

"For me, when I got sent down after I pitched well, I knew it wasn't because I didn't pitch well," he said. "It wasn't because of my actions on the field or how hard I worked. You kind of take a little sense of accomplishment. It was just because of the business side of the game and you have to learn how to accept it."

One consolation for Mortensen: this is the last year he has available options. Whatever happens next year, he won't be able to go up and down without first being made available to other organizations who could claim him.

"You just wear it for the year," he said of the options. "Then it won't happen again. I just took it with a grain of salt. That was my take on it for the year."

Not that it hasn't sometimes been grueling. In the last 10 days, for instance, Mortensen flew west with the team from Boston to Anaheim when the Sox began their nine-game road trip.

Then, when the Sox needed Zach Stewart to start a game, Mortensen returned East, this time assigned to Double-A Portland as a matter of procedure. (Being optioned to Portland made Mortensen eligible to return Tuesday because their season ended Monday, whereas if he had gone Pawtucket, he would have had to wait the mandatory 10 days after being optioned before he could return to the big leagues.)

Mortensen then flew from Portland to Seattle Monday, and will return on the team charter late Wednesday. That's four cross-country flights in the span of 10 days.

"Lot of frequent flier miles," joked Mortensen. "I've gone through two and a half books."

He hopes that he's proven a few things to the organization that could put him in position to stick with the big league club next spring.

"I hope I've shown them that I'm a hard worker and a competitor," he said. "I hope they can see that I'm a valuable asset. I don't know what they have in mind for me going into next year, but hopefully, I can be a piece of the puzzle."

ALCS: Judge home run sparks New York, Yankees beat Astros 6-4 to even series

yankees_aaron_judge_101717.jpg

ALCS: Judge home run sparks New York, Yankees beat Astros 6-4 to even series

NEW YORK -  With a soaring shot headed for Yankee Stadium's Monument Park, Aaron Judge got New York back on track for another memorable October.

Judge ignited a rousing rally with a home run, then doubled during a four-run eighth inning to spur the unflappable New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and tie the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Baby Bombers trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored when Gary Sanchez hit a go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

The Yankees overcame three errors and have roared back from a second straight 0-2 series deficit - they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth to cap a three-hitter. New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs and won for the 18th time in their last 21 home games.

Yankee Stadium will be rocking again when Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday. It's a rematch of the series opener, when Keuchel outdid the Japanese right-hander in a 2-1 Astros win.

An AL MVP candidate marred in a sluggish October, Judge sparked the Yankees by chasing McCullers, who baffled the Yankees with his power breaking ball.

Except for the last one.

Judge launched a curveball into the netting above center field's Monument Park for New York's second hit.

"Once we're within striking distance like that, anything can happen," Judge said.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch pulled McCullers after 81 pitches, Didi Gregorius tripled off Chris Devenski and Sanchez brought Gregorius in with a sacrifice fly.

"I thought Aaron's home run just lit a little spark," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Todd Frazier led off the eighth with a double to left, and pinch hitter Chase Headley then did the same - only after falling between first and second base, taking one step back, then heading for second and sliding in ahead of Jose Altuve's tag.

"Panic," Headley recalled. "I went from one of the best feelings of my career to one of the worst in just a matter of seconds, but fortunately it worked out."

Brett Gardner brought in Frazier on a groundout, and Judge came to bat with the bundled crowd on its feet.

He reached down to stay with a slider and drilled a double high off the left-field wall as a fan in a longsleeve yellow shirt reached down and touched the ball. Gardner came home with the tying run, and Gregorius grounded a single just beyond shortstop Carlos Correa's reach to put runners at the corner. Sanchez, who had been 0 for 13 in the series, scored them both with a slicing drive that skipped to the wall in right-center.

Houston had not lost consecutive games since Sept. 8-10 at Oakland and the major leagues' best road record during the regular season. The Astros had just three hits and are hitting .153 in the series.

Yankees starter Sonny Gray pitched one-hit ball through five innings but again had no run support. His teammates have yet to score for him in four career postseason starts while he's still on the mound, including twice with New York this year.

Houston took a 3-0 lead in the sixth after George Springer walked leading off, and Josh Reddick reached on catcher's interference by Austin Romine - inserted into lineup for his defense.

Robertson walked Altuve and struck out Carlos Correa before Yuri Gurriel lined a three-run double past Frazier and all the way to the wall. Gurriel got hung up between second and third as Altuve scored, and he was tagged out by Judge to end a rundown.

Houston added a fourth run when second baseman Starlin Castro misplayed Brian McCann's grounder in the seventh, allowing Marwin Gonzalez to score from second. It was Castro's second error of the game.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Ron Gardenhire to interview with Red Sox Wednesday

Ron Gardenhire to interview with Red Sox Wednesday

BOSTON — Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire's interview for Red Sox manager is scheduled for Wednesday, a baseball source told NBC Sports Boston. He'll be the third to interview for John Farrell's old job, following favorite Alex Cora on Sunday and Brad Ausmus on Monday — and may be the last to interview as well. 

The Sox could move quickly from here. Announcing hiring is tricky this time of year, because MLB doesn't want personnel moves to detract from the playoffs. 

But if Cora ends up the choice, as is most likely, his introduction is further complicated by the fact that his team, Houston, is still playing — and could be playing in the World Series.

MORE:

Cora, who would be a first-time manager unlike Ausmus and Gardenhire, is close with Red Sox second baseman and leader Dustin Pedroia and is drawing interest across the game.

Gardenhire would be something of a safe hiring, considering his 13 years as manager of the Minnesota Twins. A few days shy of his 60th birthday, Gardenhire would have to prove he could handle a vastly different market than Minnesota, and also connect with players despite being older than both Ausmus (48) and Cora (41). 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE