Clayton Mortensen seems intent on showing that the Red Sox gained more than $5 million in payroll flexibility when they traded Marco Scutaro to Colorado in January. The 27-year-old right-hander has been outstanding in a pair of long-relief appearances since being called up from Triple-A. Were it not for Mark Reynolds, he would be almost perfect. The Orioles third baseman has homered and doubled against Mortensen — while hitters not named Mark Reynolds are a combined 1 for 20 with 11 strikeouts. Eight outs have come via ground balls.
Mortensen credits an ability to mix and match within the zone for his success. Of his 104 pitches during the two games, 44 have been either a two- or four-seamer, 32 have been changeups and 28 have been sliders. He has thrown strikes with 66% of his deliveries. Nearly 70% of his changeups have been strikes.
Mortensen talked about his repertoire over the weekend at Fenway Park.
Mortensen on his slider: “My slider isn’t a typical slider. It doesn’t necessarily break right-to-left. It has more depth to it, so it’s more of a down-ball. It also has three different movements, depending on where my release point is. When I really accentuate staying on top of it — away to a righty — it will have a little depth and a little right-to-left movement. If I try to throw it down the middle, it’s more straight down. Sometimes it kind of screws. It’s basically because of the way I grip it. I kind of cock my wrist a little bit. To be honest, I try to throw it as hard as I can and it just kind of does what it wants to do.
“I threw one to Brandon Inge that he took for a strike, and then I threw another one that had a little more sideways action. I could see that he was kind of like, ‘What was that?’”
“How it moves is kind of by chance right now. It’s kind of a new pitch for me. I’ve always had a slider, but it’s been inconsistent over the years. In Spring Training, I was messing around with what I was originally calling a cutter, but it’s not like a true cutter, because it doesn’t go sideways. It depends on my release point, and I’m starting to get a better idea of where it’s going to go.”
On his two-seamer: “I was happy with the way my two-seamer was moving the other day. It’s nice to see that movement again. I felt like I could throw the ball hard and not try to manipulate the ball for it to do certain things. I could just throw a normal fastball and it would move — rather than trying to manipulate it to make it move. My ball had some life to it.
“One reason hitters can have a hard time with me is that I keep my arm speed pretty consistent with all of my pitches. I’m throwing each one pretty much as hard as I can. It’s three different speeds and three different movements. My fastball is about 87 mph and my slider is about 84-85. My sinker is going one way and my slider is going the other way, and the hitter doesn‘t know which one it‘s going to be. It’s tough for him to pick that up and get a barrel on it. ”
On his four-seamer: “My four-seam sinks, so [PITCHf/x] probably can‘t tell the difference between it and my two. Just by the way I pronate, it’s always going to have a little bit of movement. A straight four-seam fastball is a hard pitch for me throw, because of the way my arm operates. Nothing is ever really straight with me. It’s something I wish I could do. I wish I could throw a 92 mph straight fastball.
“A lot of it depends on where I’m at on the ball. Usually, when I finish on top of it, it’s going to have some kind of run to it. If I stay behind it, I’m going to have more of a backspin. It will still be moving a little bit, but not as much as when I’m on top.”
On his changeup: “My change is a circle-two-seam change [averaging 81 mph]. I grip it the same as I would my sinker, but I spread my fingers out on it and kind of get it deep in my hand; I just let the action of my arm do the rest. I don’t try to roll over the top of it, or anything. I just try to stay on top and finish down, out in front.
“It kind of has a split-finger action — a straight-down action. It has a little left-to-right, but mostly just down. I have a three-quarter arm slot, so the way I throw it, it’s going to have kind of a sideways spin and some depth.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me, ‘You threw a lot of changeups.’ And, I do throw a lot of changeups. It’s a good pitch. I’m throwing it for strikes and if guys aren’t putting good swings on it, I’m going to keep throwing it. If a guy has an electric fastball, he’s going to throw a lot of fastballs. If guys aren’t hitting it, stick with it. Right now, guys aren’t squaring me up.”