Yesterday’s win over the Minnesota Twins demonstrated the developing tasks Cleveland Indians reliever Scott Atchison is beginning to take on. In a 5-3 game with two men in scoring position, Atchison was called into the seventh inning to clean up the mess Justin Masterson had left behind. Instead of deferring to Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepczynski or even Cody Allen, manager Terry Francona went with Atchison, placing a great deal of trust on the 38-year-old journeyman.
Signing on with the Wahoos in January on a minor league deal with little reassurance of having a job come April, Atchison set out to prove that age is just a state of mind. After making the big league club easier than anticipated, Atchison took on the early responsibility of logging garbage innings in the wake of occasionally poor starting pitching.
In less than a month’s worth of work Atchison has graduated from Matt Albers‘ role in 2013 to tossing meaningful innings. Between Shaw and Allen, the two righties have pitched 31.1 innings, being used as the primary tight situation guys. On pace for nearly 90 innings each for the entire season, somebody else in the bullpen needed to emerge to take away the brunt of the work so these bulldogs don’t get worn out down the stretch. Atchison earned that nod on his way to escaping the seventh yesterday with the lead doing what he does in inducing ground ball outs.
One thing that sticks out with Atchison is that he isn’t a specialty reliever as he pitches to batters on both ends of the plate. His BAA southpaws is .182 and righties .074 with his 2013 totals bridging almost identically at .250 against lefties and .246 versus right-handed hitters. Atchison’s career splits are frighteningly similar with a .240/.313/.386 line against lefties and .243/.286/.362 against his counterparts hitting righty.
Another aspect of Atchison’s game that has held him over since entering the league in 2004 is his career BB/9 of 2.47. The Tribe couldn’t ask for much more from the Texas native as he is enjoying one of his best seasons ever. Atchison has accrued 7.53 K/9, 1.88 BB/9, 78.4% GB% and 2.04 FIP in 14.1 innings. He has pitched the third most of all Indians relievers, excluding Carlos Carrasco who started the season as a starter. Leave it to Francona to see the silver lining in what a player like Atchison is capable of despite the gray hair and reoccurring minor league stints in years past.