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Mortensen off to a strong start

SARASOTA, Fla. — The Red Sox have a split-squad doubleheader today and took a bunch of prospects and suspects to Ed Smith Stadium. But the Baltimore Orioles had just one game and used a solid lineup for their sold-out home game.

Nate McLouth, Brian Robers, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and Manny Machado were among those who came up against righthander Clayton Mortensen.

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No problem. Mortensen allowed two hits and a walk over three shutout innings. He threw 46 pitches.

“Clayton once again, he pitches to get outs,” John Farrell said. “He’ll move the ball off the bat head, change speeds. He’s not afraid to attack the strike zone.”

Mortensen has been a long reliever for the Red Sox. The start came because Felix Doubront will pitch against the Twins tonight.

“It was my first start in over a year. It was kind of interesting going back to the old routine that you had and trying not to make it any different than I do as a reliever,” Mortensen said. “But you get antsy to get out there and throw. It was nice to go out there and get a start in. It felt good.”

Mortensen is not a lock for the Opening Day roster. But he is out of minor league options and the Red Sox value his versatility. He posted a 3.21 earned run average over 42 innings and averaged 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings last season.

Getting some extra work spring training will make him available if a spot start is needed down the road.

“At the end of the game I felt better than I did the first two innings. My delivery felt more in rhythm and my stuff had a little more snap to it. I felt good to go back out a couple of more,” Mortensen said.

A few other notes:

- The Yankees have signed free agent outfielder Brennan Boesch for $1.5 million plus incentives according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It was a major league deal. The Red Sox discussed Boesch internally but did not pursue him.

- Christian Vazquez, the rocket-armed catcher, threw out Brian Roberts trying to steal in the fifth inning. He also made a nice play later in the game on a slow roller in front of the plate.

- Lefty Chris Hernandez threw 3.1 innings, allowing one hit and striking out one. He does not have impressive velocity or above-average pitches. But he gets outs. Hernandez has shown good command in camp, walking one in 11.1 innings.

- Ryan Lavarnway had a rough day as the DH. He was 0 for 5 with a strikeout and twice grounded into double plays. He left five runners on base. He is hitting .133 in Grapefruit League games.

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