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Mets sign reliever Atchison to Minor League deal

NEW YORK -- The Mets have signed right-handed pitcher Scott Atchison to a Minor League contract and invited him to Spring Training, the team announced Tuesday.

Atchison, 36, posted a career-best 1.58 ERA in 42 appearances out of Boston's bullpen last season, ranking fourth in the Majors in ERA among relievers with at least 50 innings pitched. He struck out 36 batters and walked nine, three of which were intentional.

But his age and injury history dampened his market. Atchison partially tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow in July and elected not to have surgery, returning in September to make five appearances.

"Some teams were pretty cautious with the elbow," Atchison said Monday. "I think some of that was more to do with my age than anything, age and the elbow. It's kind of like, 'OK, well, you're 36, going to be 37, and you do have this tear.' Everybody knows about it, obviously."

Atchison intimated Monday that although he would be signing an unguaranteed Minor League contract, he would have an excellent chance to make the Mets' Opening Day roster.

"It's not going to be a Major League deal, but it's going to be a situation where I'm going to have a pretty good chance to make a team," he said. "There are some openings in their 'pen, and they're not bringing in a whole lot, I don't think, at this time. There was a little caution in my health, and we tried to find the places that weren't worried about it as much and get the best deal we possibly could. I'm going to have a very good chance to make the team."

Though general manager Sandy Alderson has said he would like to import at least one reliever on a Major League contract between now and the start of Spring Training, the list of remaining candidates is slim. Alderson does plan to watch former Giants closer Brian Wilson work out for a second time, though there are no guarantees that Wilson is fully recovered from surgery, or that the Mets would be a match.

As currently constituted, New York's Opening Day bullpen figures to include closer Frank Francisco, setup man Bobby Parnell and left-hander Josh Edgin. After that the picture blurs significantly, with Greg Burke, Robert Carson, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia, Darin Gorski and Jeremy Hefner among those competing for jobs. That leaves plenty of opportunity for Atchison.

Originally selected in the 49th round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft, Atchison owns a 3.48 career ERA over 155 appearances with the Mariners, Giants and Red Sox. He also spent two years with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's Central League.

New York Mets, Scott Atchison