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Atchison somebody worth rooting for

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  April 1, 2010 12:07 PM

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Yeah, it's corny. But if you aren't happy for Scott Atchison today, you have no heart.

Scott is a 34-year-old guy who has been pro ball since 1999 when he was drafted in the 49th round by the Mariners out of TCU. Against all odds, he got to the majors in 2004 and played parts of three seasons with the Mariners and Giants, appearing in 53 games out of the bullpen.

To try and make some money, he went to Japan in 2008 and pitched for two seasons. But the medical care required by his 2-year-old daughter Callie led to Atchison signing with the Red Sox in December. While he had been successful in Japan, Callie's access to quality care took precedence.

It was a line in the notebook when the Sox signed him, something that reporters and fans dismissed at the time. But today he learned that he had made the roster. Sunday will be his first Opening Day.

"That is special," he said. "I've been up and down before but I've never made a team out of spring training."

Atchison, smiling widely, said it was third-happiest day of his life behind the day he got married and the day Callie was born. Can't beat that. The last time he was in Fenway Park was in 1996 when he took in a game while playing for Wareham in the Cape Cod League.

"I think we had seats down the first-base line," he said. "I can't wait to see it again."

Atchison is a righthander with a nice cutter and slider, a bit of a funky release point and the ability to get lefties out. He could be around for two weeks or maybe he'll turn out to be an important member of the bullpen. That's the nature of relievers, you just don't know.

"I'll do whatever they want me to do," he said. "This is a great opportunity."

Terry Francona, who was released a few times himself and had to fight to make teams, happily talked about giving Atchison the good news this morning. It had been clear for a few days that he would make the team but it wasn't official until today.

The Sox signed him originally in 2007 but let him go to Japan. There, international scouts Jon Deeble and Craig Shipley kept an eye on him and liked what they saw. When Atchison wanted to come back, the Sox made him the best offer.

UPDATE, 2:29 p.m.: Theo Epstein's take on Atchison:

“We followed him. (in Japan). Jon Deeble, Craig Shipley, both those guys did a real good job with Atchison. I just reading Deeble’s report again a couple of weeks ago and it’s exactly what we see now.

"I think he learned a lot in Japan, too. I think he learned how to vary the break on his breaking ball a little bit. Tightened it up, can get it in on lefties. Spread it out a little bit against righties and got some swings and misses. He was one of the better relievers in all of Japan last year. At the time we signed him, we were excited. We felt it was coup to be able to sign him for basically the league minimum with some options.

"We thought despite his age and his strange journey that he could be a useful guy. We probably anticipated him being a guy that would start in Pawtucket and then come up but he was so sharp right from the get-go and he emerged out of that group."

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A few other notes:

* David Ortiz was scratched from today's game with a stiff neck.

* RHP Fernando Cabrera was officially reassigned today.

* The roster is essentially picked with the exception of the final bullpen spot. The bench: Varitek, Lowell. Hall and Hermida. The bullpen: Papelbon, Bard, Okajima, Ramirez, Delcarmen, Atchison and either Schoeneweis or Nelson.

* Tug Hulett, Angel Sanchez, Dusty Brown, Kevin Frandsen and Josh Reddick are among those going to Washington on Saturday as extras along with a few pitchers.

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