The Mets made possibly their most underrated signings of the offseason in late-January when they signed right-handed relief pitcher Scott Atchison to a minor league contract.
Atchison, 36, has bounced around baseball in his 14-year professional career. He came out of TCU as a starting pitcher in the late ’90s. Drafted by the Mariners, he rose up through the system, but stalled at Triple-A. He was eventually converted to a relief pitcher, and made his debut with the Mariners. Over the next few years, he bounced around, pitching for Seattle, San Francisco, and even played two years in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers in the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
Atchison finally settled down with the Red Sox organization in 2010, becoming a major part of their bullpen. That year, he tossed a career-high 60 innings and posted a 4.50 ERA. He didn’t pitch very well, but got significant time thanks to injury after injury to Red Sox relievers. In 2011, he bounced back and forth between Triple-A Pawtucket and the Boston bullpen. He pitched very well for both teams in a long-man type role, not seeing too much late-game action. With the Red Sox, he posted a 3.26 ERA in 30.1 innings while putting up a 2.64 ERA in 61.1 Triple-A innings.
2012 was by far, the best season of Atchison’s career. Finally a permanent fixture in the bullpen, Atchison spent most of the season as a setup man. He was flexible, however, and was often able to give the team more than one inning, which, if he could do with the Mets, would be immensely helpful considering the health problems in the rotation. He missed two months of the season after he tore his UCL in his right elbow. The put him out from mid-July to late September. He was able to return to the Sox, and finished up the season with 5.1 scoreless innings in five September appearances. Atchison’s overall numbers for the season are outstanding. In 51.1 innings over 47 games, he had a 1.58 ERA, 4.00 K/BB ratio, and only allowed two home runs all season.
Atchison has pitched well thus far in spring action, allowing only two runs on seven hits in 8.2 total innings, striking out four and walking two. He has almost guaranteed himself a spot on the Opening Day roster. It’s still unclear who will have what role in the bullpen, but my guess is Atchison will have the same role he had last year in Boston. The key for Atchison has always been keeping the ball down and preventing home runs. That’s what has made him so successful over the past two seasons. It’s unlikely that he will pitch as well as he did last year, but if he can stay healthy and keep the ball down, he will have a very solid season for the Mets.