FORT MYERS, Fla. Scott Atchison figures theres little more he could have done this spring and he still wasn't a lock for the major league roster. But now, because of injury, he may get his chance.
With the news that Andrew Bailey may need surgery, Atchison is among those competing for the open roster spot.
The right-hander appeared in eight Grapefruit League games (plus a B game on March 7), spanning 12 23 innings, posting a 2.84 ERA and an opponents batting average of .250, with nine strikeouts and two walks.
I feel like I had a good spring, Atchison said. Im healthy, and Im the same guy Ive been for the last two years. So I got no complaints. I feel like Ive put everything I could out there, and its up to them now.
Atchison, who turned 36 on March 29, is entering his third season in the Red Sox organization. Theres a comfort level hes achieved over the past two seasons.
Im familiar with the teammates, familiar with the place, he said. I feel like Ive, over the last two years during the regular season, I built up a lot of confidence in myself in knowing that I can pitch in the big leagues and I think just having that confidence when I step on the mound makes it easier for me to get done what I want to get done.
Atchison knows its not just his spring performance that will be considered when it comes to decision time. He has appeared in 60 games, spanning 90 13 innings, over the past two seasons for the Sox, posting a record of 3-3 with a 4.08 ERA.
In 2011, he was a frequent traveler on the Boston-Pawtucket shuttle, giving him six separate stints with the Red Sox. In 17 combined appearances (all in relief), he threw 30 13 innings, posting a record of 1-0 with a 3.26 ERA. Between Boston and Pawtucket, he pitched a total of 91 23 innings over 53 appearances with a 2.85 ERA.
With a new manager and pitching coach, in Bobby Valentine and Bob McClure, respectively, Atchison wanted to make a good impression. Being healthy at the start of the spring helped. He wasnt sure until his second bullpen session this spring if that would be the case.
It was in his final outing last season, in the first game of a doubleheader in Yankee Stadium on Sept. 25, that Atchison felt something.
Initially, he thought it was just a groin strain. But, returning home after the season, after attempting rehab and therapy, there was no improvement.
So Atchison had hernia surgery the first week of December, putting him on schedule to start his throwing program in early January as he normally does. But, it wasnt until he got on a mound for his first bullpen session in early February that he would really test it.
The first bullpen I was kind of like I dont know. There was still some tightness, he said. The second bullpen I threw the first three or four pitches and I was like well I dont feel anything this is great.
From there, to be honest, I havent thought about it much since. The groin part after the surgery was still a little tight. But its loosened up great now. I feel 100 percent, I dont even worry about it when Im out there pitching, which is where you want to get to with any surgery. Its not in the back of your mind so youre not compensating or not throwing with everything you have. I dont feel that. So about the second bullpen early February I really felt like, Its fixed, alright no problem.
But Atchison is out of options for the first time this season. He was designated for assignment over the winter, taking him off the 40-man roster. If he is the pick of Valentine and McClure to joinm the bullpen, he would have to be added back. Hes not concerned about his option situation, though, just as he wasnt in the last two seasons.
I havent worried about it, he said. I hope that it eliminates maybe some of the ease of sending me up and down all the time. But, in turn, two years ago having an option helped me make the team out of spring. Last year having an option probably hurt me making the team out of spring. So I think it can go either way with it sometimes.
But as far as for me I dont really worry about it. Theres not much I can do. It is the situation Im in now. Hopefully if I make the team and something has to happen, maybe Im not the first guy in that time to go down because I dont have the option, whereas in the past it was pretty much everybody could see the writing on the wall a week in advance. So, helpfully, it changes that.
Atchison hadnt been told anything beyond packing for the trip to Washington, D.C., Tuesday afternoon to play the Nationals in an exhibition game. From there, he could be going to Pawtucket, or he could stay with the major league team for Opening Day in Detroit on Thursday and then on to Toronto.
Valentine has said he didnt anticipate any decisions before Tuesdays game.
But Atchison is packed for the whole trip, and hopefully thats what Im there for, he said.
There is some anxiety in not knowing, but Atchison is not focused on that.
When Im here at the park I dont worry about it too much, he said. Especially when we get going with the day and the workout and everything. You just forget about it and go about your business and do what you need to do that day to get ready.
Id be lying if I said I never thought about it. How can you not? Thats my livelihood. But if Im on the mound and doing my stuff, thats the farthest thing from my mind.