GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- On the final day of the season three years ago, Terry Francona had a feeling he would not be returning as the manager of the Red Sox. He ran into one of his relievers, Scott Atchison, in the tunnel at Camden Yards in Baltimore and had a simple message for the pitcher.
"We were really falling apart," Francona said of that 2011 season. "He was pitching his heart out and I just said, 'Hey, man, I don't think I'm going to be here, but wherever I am, there will be a day you can pitch for me again.'"
That day has arrived.
Now the manager of the Indians, Francona reunited with Atchison this spring, and their partnership will continue into the regular season. It was revealed on Wednesday morning that the 37-year-old Atchison would be a part of the Opening Day bullpen for Cleveland, which will carry eight relievers.
Atchison smiled when asked about that moment with Francona during their Red Sox days.
"I'm glad to be back with him," Atchison said. "He told me that that year, and I kind of wanted to walk in [this spring] and say, 'Hey, do you remember this?' Obviously, he does. I think that speaks volumes about him also. It's a great staff. It's a great group of guys in here. I'm excited to be a part of it."
Atchison and Blake Wood were given the last two spots in the bullpen, which also includes closer John Axford, setup men Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, lefties Marc Rzepczynski and Josh Outman, and right-hander Vinnie Pestano.
This spring, Atchison posted a 2.25 ERA with eight strikeouts and a walk in eight Cactus League innings. The Indians liked what they saw from Atchison on the mound, but general manager Chris Antonetti said the club also valued Atchison's experience.
"If we didn't think he could do the job, he wouldn't be on the roster," Antonetti said. "I think the combination of all of those things -- the way he's pitched, we feel like he's capable of getting meaningful outs, his versatility, the fact that he can pitch in multiple roles and the fact that he has experience -- all of those things kind of came together and earned him a spot on the team."
Last season, Atchison posted a 4.37 ERA in 50 appearances for the Mets. In his big league career, he has a 3.64 ERA in 205 games among stints with the Mariners, the Giants, the Red Sox and the Mets.
"I know him better than most of the people here," Francona said. "But all the other coaches in a short period of time are already feeling [the same as I do]. He has the ability to pick up innings when you need them. He has the ability to get big outs if need them. He'll do everything."