The Oakland Athletics boast one of the best young starting staffs in the AL, a large reason why its future is still bright even as the squad falls further behind the AL West-leading Rangers. Even their backup starters are quality, as Vin Mazzaro has stepped in impressively for an injured Brett Anderson.
Now, Clayton Mortensen has stepped in for Dallas Braden, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday with elbow tightness. The 25-year-old fired six innings, whiffing seven, walking two and allowing three earned runs in his 2010 debut after posting a 7.81 ERA over six starts.
Those six starts came between the Cardinals and A's as Mortensen was dealt to Oakland along with Brett Wallace for outfielder Matt Holliday. Mortensen has been pitching in Triple-A where he posted a 3.58 ERA in 15 starts, although that doesn't tell the whole story. In his last six starts, he's twirled the ball for a sparkling 1.85 ERA. The groundballer figures to have a future in the rotation at some point -- whether for Oakland or elsewhere.
Ben Sheets is a free agent after the year, and with Mortensen and Mazzaro (4.25 ERA in nine starts) both pitching admirably, it's likely Oakland will let Sheets walk. Even though Mazzaro received the call ahead of Mortensen, his 24/20 K/BB ratio in 42 1/3 innings may actually place him behind Mortensen for a 2011 starting gig. Despite being two years younger, he's already been lit up for seven home runs and has benefited greatly from Oakland's flyball-surpressing park and tight defense.
-- Evan Brunell
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