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Atchison ready for his first Opening Day

04.01.10 at 12:46 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Scott Atchison has only been to Fenway Park once, visiting as a member of Wareham of the Cape Cod League in 1996. That, however, is one more major league Opening Day he has attended as a big league pitcher.

Sunday night, Atchison will not only double his trips to Fenway, but breaking his Opening Day drought, as well, having been told he will break camp as a member of the Red Sox’ bullpen.

“I think as a player that’s the goal,” said Atchison, who was officially informed he made the club Thursday morning. “I’ve been up multiple times but it’s not the same feeling as it is breaking with the team. You’re with them all spring, you get to know them and then you go to Triple A and maybe join back up later. But I feel like I’m part of the team like this. We’ll do the ceremonies and I’m sure for the first day it will be a little different and exciting and and being a part of it, but after that it’s just playing baseball again.”

Other commentary from Atchison prior to the Sox’ game against the Twins at City of Palms Park:

(When he found out) “I kind of had an idea. He’s like, ‘It’s not final, but things are looking good.’ I had a little bit of an idea going into today, but when you’ve never made one until you’ve made one for sure it’s hard to believe. It was a good spring and I felt like I showed them what I can do and I’m glad I have this opportunity. Now I have to go do my thing up there if I’m going to stay there.”

(The biggest change he made since last time in the big leagues) “My slider is the biggest adjustment I made from when I was here to going over there and coming back. I really had been constantly working on that pitch. It’s a pitch I’m comfortable with and I feel I can throw on any count, even behind in the count. It gives me something else to throw besides a fastball. That’s what you have to do, especially with quality hitters. That’s the biggest change from before I was here and then coming back.”

(On why he chose the Red Sox) “They told me I was going to compete for the job and have a chance. They put me on the 40-man roster, and that a big thing because I knew I was going to get a good look. They told me ‘It’s up to you to show us what you got.’ I just tried to do my best and show them that I’ve maybe improved from before, hopefully threw well enough to make the team and it has worked out.”

“Most of the teams were doing the minor league invite, but Boston just jumped ahead and said, ‘We want you. We really want you. What are you looking for?’ They made a good deal and they offered me what I felt was the best opportunity to make the team and in my case if you don’t make the team where are going to get a chance to get called up at. This is a team that is always in the playoff race, because if sometimes teams aren’t they aren’t going to bring up an older guy like me so I want to make sure I was in the situation where you know you’re going to be in the race and get an opportunity if you don’t make it. They expressed there would be a good chance to make the team and that was a big thing for me.”

(On his role) “I’m happy to be here. If they call down I’m happy to be here. If they call down me and want me to get up it doesn’t matter what the situation is, I’ll go in and give everything I’ve got.”

(Team in Japan try to keep you) “They definitely did. With family issues, and I still felt like this is where I wanted to play and felt like I could play and play at this level. I wanted to take that shot again. With my daughter and different things, that was definitely part of it. We’re very excited to be back and I’m glad it’s all worked out. I’m ready to get the season started and show what I can do.”

Atchison told he is officially a Red Sox

04.01.10 at 10:30 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Terry Francona told reporters prior to the Red Sox‘ spring training game with the Twins at City of Palms Park that Scott Atchison has been told he has made the team.

Atchison, who turned 34 Monday, impressed the Sox with his ability to throw strikes throughout spring training. He pitched in 10 games this spring, giving up two earned runs, striking out six and walking a pair in 12 innings of work.

“We like his strike-throwing ability. Three different pitches. Change speeds. His regular season started about a month ago and he knew it but he did a good job. He attacked the strike zone with all his pitches,” said Francona of Atchison, who will pitch in a minor league game Thursday. “I don’t think we see that changing … I think right from the get-go he was certainly on our radar. He just pitched so well, and it was fun to watch that. I think we felt we had a guy who had a chance to make our club.”

As for the final spot in the bullpen, Joe Nelson was told he will be going with the team to Washington D.C. for its exhibition game Saturday against the Nationals, but there is no definitive commitment for the righty to make the Sox.

“He’s still deep in the mix, we just can’t tell him something we don’t know yet,” said Francona of Nelson.

The team will also take another took at lefty Scott Schoeneweis in its game with the Twins Thursday to evaluate him in a Red Sox uniform. Schoeneweis has pitched in two games with the Sox, allowing three runs in 1 2/3 innings.

“We’ll try and get as much of a look at him as we can in our camp and being respectful of the fact that we’re leaving tomorrow,” said Francona, who also announced the reassignment of pitcher Fernando Cabrera to minor league camp. “(Schoeneweis) is a veteran … try and make some decisions.”

As for the fourth reliever in the mix, Alan Embree, Red Sox are trying to arrange for more of a look at the 40-year-old, who has allowed 10 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings with the Sox after getting a late start. Both Embree and Schoeneweis has opt-out clauses that would allow them to become free agents if they aren’t on the major league roster on April 15. Nelson’s opt-out is June 1.

Atchison had spent the last two seasons in Japan pitching for the Hanshin Tigers. He had signed a deal with the Red Sox in early December, 2007 before deciding to go overseas a few weeks later. Although some believed his performance in Japan could have led him to a pay day of close to $3 million a year, he chose to return the United States (where he will make $430,000 this season), in large part to ensure medical treatment for his daughter.

Callie Atchison was born with a rare condition called ‘€œTAR’€ (Thrombocytopenia-absent radius), which is characterized by the absence of the radius bone in the forearm, along with a dramatically reduced platelet count. It is a problem that promises to improve, but also requires specialized medical attention at this stage.

‘€œWe feel more comfortable over here,’€ the 6-foot-2 righty said in Februrary (click here for the story). ‘€œThe medical stuff over there was good but it’€™s not the same.

‘€œShe’€™s done really done well, never had a problem with her platelet. She uses her hands great. It’€™s unbelievable to see the things she does. She still needs to work on different things and it really is restricted because the radius is the inside bone so the thumb is very weak. They get better. She will always have a little different use of her hands compared to the person with normal hands. It’€™s nothing major, but we just felt a little more comfortable being over here.’€

Atchison last pitched in the big leagues back in 2007 when he appeared in 22 games with the San Francisco Giants. He also spent parts of the ’04 and ’05 seasons with the Mariners.

Besides his ability throw strikes, Atchison points to the evolution of his slider as a big reason for his recent success.

“I was curious to see how it was going to translate this (spring) because when I went over (to Japan) my slider was my third-best pitch. It was improving over here and getting to the pitch I wanted it to be. But over there it took off,” Atchison explained earlier this week. “I feel like so far this spring I’ve been able to use it the way I wanted to use it.

Tazawa scheduled for Tommy John surgery

04.01.10 at 10:15 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€” Red Sox pitcher Junichi Tazawa will have Tommy John surgery on his elbow, manager Terry Francona announced Thursday morning from spring training. Tazawa, who suffered a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament, met with renowned specialist Dr. James Andrews, who will perform the surgery Tuesday at his facility in Birmingham, Ala. The 23-year-old Tazawa was called up to the Sox last August and went 2-3 with a 7.46 ERA.

Beltre didn’t expect Lowell trade

04.01.10 at 9:21 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Adrian Beltre said Wednesday that he didn’t expect Mike Lowell would be traded in spring training despite the Red Sox‘ perceived logjam at third base. “It’s not easy to trade somebody in spring training,” Beltre said. “You don’t see that a lot. I had an idea that we would start the season together with this team, and whatever happens from there happens. The main thing was for him to get healthy and whatever happens happens. I wish Mike the best.”

It was learned Wednesday that the Rangers’ interest in Lowell had been tempered by the fact they weren’t prepared to allocate a substantial amount of money for a player filling a back-up role.

Beltre, whose locker throughout spring training has been next to Lowell’s, said that he has learned a lot from his time with the 36-year-old infielder and has enjoyed their time together this spring training.

“He’s a guy you can learn a lot from,” Beltre said. “I’m really surprised that somebody can handle this type of situation the way he does. Knowing that I don’t think there’s any problem with us being so close. I like being next to him.”

For more on how the dynamic of Beltre and Lowell has been through spring training click here.

A look at four-year deals for starters

04.01.10 at 8:46 am ET
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The Red Sox and Josh Beckett are moving toward an extension that would keep the team’s Opening Day starter in Boston for four more years at $68 million. If Beckett agrees to such a deal, he would become the fourth member of the Boston rotation whom the team signed to a deal of at least four years. No other team in the majors has made as many deals of at least four years with starting pitchers. (For more on that subject, see today’s column.)

Here is the complete list of deals of that length, broken down by team:

(UPDATE: Thanks to Tim Dierkes of the indispensable MLBTradeRumors.com for reminding me that the Yankees signed Kei Igawa to a five-year deal. In fairness, the Yankees probably wish they could forget that one as well… The table below has been updated accordingly.)

Team 4+ year deals for starters Pitchers (years of deal, value of deal in millions)
Angels 1 Santana (4/$30)
Astros 1 Oswalt (5/$73)
Athletics 0
Blue Jays 0
Braves 1 Lowe (4/$60)
Brewers 1 Suppan (4/$42)
Cardinals 3 Carpenter (5, $63.5), Lohse (4, $41), Wainwright (4, $15)
Cubs 3 (4)* Zambrano (5, $91.5), Dempster (4, $52), Lilly (4, $40), Silva (4, $48)*
D-backs 2 Webb (4, $19.5), Haren (4, $44.75)
Dodgers 0
Giants 1 Zito (7, $126)
Indians 1 Carmona (4, $15)
Mariners 1 (2)** Lee (4, $15)**, Hernandez (5, $78)
Marlins 1 Johnson (4, $39)
Mets 1 Santana (6, $137.5)
Nationals 0
Orioles 0 (1)*** Millwood (5, $60)***
Padres 1 Young (4, $14.5)
Phillies 1 Halladay (3, $60)****
Pirates 0
Rangers 0
Rays 1 Shields (4, $11.25)
Reds 3 Harang (4, $36.5), Arroyo (2, $25)*****, Chapman (6, $30.25)
Red Sox 4 Beckett (4, $68)******, Lackey (5, $82.5), Lester (5, $30), Matsuzaka (6, $52)
Rockies 2 Francis (4, $13.25), Jimenez (4, $10)
Royals 3 Meche (5, $55), Greinke (4, $38), Arguelles (5, $6.9)
Tigers 2 Bonderman (4, $38), Verlander (5, $80)
Twins 3 Nathan (4, $47), Baker (4, $15.25), Blackburn (4, $14)
White Sox 2 Buehrle (4, $56), Floyd (4, $15.5)
Yankees 3 Sabathia (7, $161), Burnett (5, $82.5), Igawa (5, $20)
* – Acquired after two years for Milton Bradley, with Mariners picking up $9M of remaining deal
** – Acquired for option year of contract from Phillies; signed deal with Indians
*** – Acquired after four years
**** – Three-year contract will begin in 2011, following $15.75M deal in 2010
***** – Signed with two years left on three-year, $11.25M deal
****** – Proposed extension signed in option year of three-year deal

Despite Murphy injury, Mets not interested in Lowell

03.31.10 at 11:33 pm ET
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According to a major league source, the Mets — despite learning that starting first baseman Daniel Murphy will be out for 2-6 weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee — are not interested in a trade for Red Sox corner infielder Mike Lowell. The Mets instead plan to stay in house with a replacement, and GM Omar Minaya told reporters today that New York will use Mike Jacobs as their starting first baseman with Murphy sidelined.

All evidence continues to point to Lowell being with the Sox as a backup on Opening Day. While the Rangers have shown the most interest of any club in acquiring the 36-year-old, the Sox and Texas do not appear to be close to a deal.

Meanwhile, Lowell would appear to have as much value to the Sox — if not more — than he does to any club. Lowell would serve as insurance for the Sox at third and first base, while also giving the Sox a strong platoon option with designated hitter David Ortiz.

Read More: daniel murphy, mike jacobs, mike lowell,

Sources: Beckett talks gaining momentum

03.31.10 at 10:07 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the Red Sox and Josh Beckett are getting closer to an agreement regarding a contract extension for the pitcher. One source confirmed that the annual value of the deal would be $17 million per season, a figure first reported by the Boston Herald.

While the sides appear to have the framework for an agreement, there is a possibility that the discussions could last beyond Sunday night’s opener. SI.com first reported that the team and pitcher were nearing a four-year deal.

On Tuesday, Beckett told WEEI.com that he had not heard from agent Michael Moye about a potential extension. While he said that he wasn’t allowing contract talks to enter his thinking, Beckett did reiterate his interest in remaining with the Red Sox.

“I’m not too concerned with [negotations],” said Beckett. “If it’s meant to be and the Red Sox want me to be here then I’ll stay here because I enjoy playing in Boston. Playing in front of those fans. I can’t imagine going anywhere else. They do everything they can to make us successful as possible and I don’t think there are a whole lot of organizations that do that.”

If Beckett and the Sox do reach an agreement, waiting until after Opening Day to announce it would be beneficial to the Sox in assessing the competitive balance tax. In the past, the Sox have announced extensions with players such as Coco Crisp and David Ortiz shortly after the start of the regular season.

Report: Beckett, Sox near four-year deal

03.31.10 at 6:42 pm ET
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According to Jon Heyman of SI.com, the Red Sox and Josh Beckett are close to an agreement that would pay the right-hander close to $70 million over four years. Heyman cites sources close to the situation in suggesting that the agreement will be announced shortly after the start of the season.

On Tuesday, Beckett told WEEI.com that he had not heard from agent Michael Moye about a potential extension. While he said that he wasn’t allowing contract talks to enter his thinking, Beckett did reiterate his interest in remaining with the Red Sox.

“I’m not too concerned with [negotations],” said Beckett. “If it’s meant to be and the Red Sox want me to be here then I’ll stay here because I enjoy playing in Boston. Playing in front of those fans. I can’t imagine going anywhere else. They do everything they can to make us successful as possible and I don’t think there are a whole lot of organizations that do that.”

If Beckett and the Sox do reach an agreement, waiting until after Opening Day to announce it would be beneficial to the Sox in assessing the competitive balance tax. In the past, the Sox have announced extensions with players such as Coco Crisp and David Ortiz shortly after the start of the regular season.

Read More: contract extension, Josh Beckett,

Lowell belts two doubles, deal still not likely

03.31.10 at 5:47 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Lowell took a few steps toward building his trade value Wednesday, although the impact doesn’t figure to be immediate.

According to multiple sources, the Red Sox and Rangers aren’t close to a deal that would send Lowell to Texas to serve as a back-up for third baseman Michael Young, first baseman Chris Davis, and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero. The main issue continues to be Texas’ reluctance to allocate the kind of money the Red Sox would be looking for the Rangers to absorb out of the $12 million the infielder is scheduled to be paid this season.

Despite the likelihood that nothing is going to get done prior to Opening Day, Texas has shown the most interest of any team in acquiring Lowell.

Lowell did his part in impressing prospective trade partners Wednesday in Sarasota against the Orioles in the Red Sox’ 14-6 win, rifling doubles to left and center field, respectively. He now stands at 5-for-17 (.294), having notched four hits in his last two games. After playing third base against Baltimore, he figures to play first base against the Twins Thursday.

Asked after the game if he is coming to the realization that he is going to be on the Red Sox come Opening Day, Lowell told reporters, “I don’€™t know? Am I. I don’€™t dwell on it, I’€™ll tell you that. But I really don’€™t know. I just don’€™t.”

Other news from Sarasota included:

Jon Lester turned a solid outing in his final spring training appearance, allowing just one run on three hits over seven innings, walking three and striking out three. He will next pitch Tuesday at Fenway Park against the Yankees. Lester finishes his spring with a 3.12 ERA, having struck out 22 and walked 10 in 26 innings of work.

– Offensively, Victor Martinez led the way with two homers and six RBIs. Kevin Frandsen (grand slam) and Dustin Pedroia (3-for-5, 2 runs) also turned in solid performances.

Kevin Youkilis fouled a ball off the back of his right knee, but was deemed OK by Sox manager Terry Francona.

– Neither Scott Schoeneweis or Alan Embree distinguished themselves in the battle for one of the bullpen’s final spots. Schoeneweis, pithing the eighth inning, allowed a run, while Embree surrendered a three-run homer on the way to giving up four runs in one inning of work (pushing his spring training ERA to 38.57 in three appearances).

Bonser, Lowrie to start season on D.L.

03.31.10 at 1:25 pm ET
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Red Sox pitcher Boof Bonser and infielder Jed Lowrie were both placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 26. Bonser, who missed all of 2009 after undergoing shoulder surgery, landed on the D.L. with a right groin strain that he incurred on March 22 in an outing against the Rays. Lowrie landed on the shelf due to his ongoing recovery from mononucleosis.

Lowrie was already expected to start the year in the minors, so his presence on the disabled list does not significantly impact the team’s major league roster. Bonser’s trip to the D.L., on the other hand, removes him (at least temporarily) from the competition for the Red Sox’ last two bullpen spots. That competition currently features right-handers Scott Atchison and Joe Nelson and left-handers Alan Embree and Scott Schoeneweis. Atchison is the only one of those pitchers with options remaining, suggesting that he would be the easiest to move between the majors and minors if Bonser is expected to be available shortly after the start of the season.

Bonser was 0-2 with an 11.57 ERA in four Grapefruit League appearances (7 innings) this spring. Lowrie was 2-for-9 in nine Grapefruit League plate appearances, and last played on March 11.

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