BOSTON -- When the Red Sox traded Marco Scutaro to the Rockies for Clayton Mortensen, it was perceived as mainly a cash dump. As it turns out, Mortensen has been a pretty useful member of Boston's bullpen when he's been at the Major League level and not Triple-A Pawtucket.
In 16 games for the Red Sox, Mortensen is 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA. He has held opponents to a .178 batting average over his 31 1/3 innings.
"Gosh, Clay has pitched in a lot of different situations to a lot of different types of hitters and has been consistently good," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "His breaking stuff is different than anyone we have on our 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 against right-handers."
Mortensen can also start, though the Red Sox haven't asked him to perform in that role yet.
"Remember, we were thinking about having him start in the Minor Leagues and then there was a necessity to put him back in the bullpen," Valentine said. "So I guess there's some curiosity and, again, I'm not always of the opinion that you build championship teams by taking good pitchers and always making them starters. I think championship teams are built with bullpens also and he can be a very valuable person."
Back in Boston, Dice-K ready for return to field
BOSTON -- Daisuke Matsuzaka returned to Fenway Park on Wednesday, eager to start his latest comeback with the Red Sox.
That recurring story line could be entering its final chapter.
Matsuzaka, who came to Boston amid much fanfare in December 2006, has just more than a month left on the six-year, $52 million deal he signed to leave Japan.
It seems doubtful that Matsuzaka will return to the Red Sox once he reaches free agency, though he is open to the idea.
"I've really enjoyed my time in Boston and my family has also enjoyed our time here, so of course I'd like to," Matsuzaka said through interpreter Jeff Cutler. "But it's a little early to say where I'm going to be or to be talking about that. But no matter how long I'm going to be here, I'd like to wear the Red Sox uniform with honor and play hard for the rest of season and do what I can to contribute to the team."
Matsuzaka's first two seasons were nothing to complain about, as he went 33-15 and helped the Red Sox to one World Series championship and a trip to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in '08.
But over the last four seasons, injuries (seven stints on the disabled list) and underperformance (16-18, 5.17 ERA) have been the overriding story lines.
After coming back from Tommy John surgery this season, Matsuzaka went 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA before being shut down with a neck injury.
Now, he feels the best he's felt in some time.
"After I had the surgery, my body definitely feels better than it did before, which is a good thing," Matsuzaka said. "It's definitely been stressful and frustrating at the same time to have to fight through all these injuries. But I think I'm finally at a good place and I'm looking forward to getting better and better every time I pitch."
Matsuzaka will huddle soon with manager Bobby Valentine and pitching coach Randy Niemann to see when he will be slotted into the rotation. It could be as early as Sunday.
Lefty Felix Doubront, who was shut down for a couple of starts for rest purposes, should also be slotted back into the rotation soon. He is eligible to return from the disabled list on Saturday.