MINNEAPOLIS -- Scott Atchison has been teased all season by his Cleveland teammates about his graying hair and advanced age. The 38-year-old has taken the jokes in stride and used his experienced arm to net a contract extension with the Indians.
On Tuesday, the Indians announced that Atchison has been signed through 2015, and the team also has a club option for the right-hander for the '16 season. Atchison signed a Minor League contract with the Tribe over the winter, earned a spot on the Opening Day roster as a Spring Training invitee and has since become a key cog in Cleveland's relief corps.
"You hope to play this long, and I've been lucky to and I've been fortunate," Atchison said. "My arm, my body, eveything feels great right now. I'm going to play until I can't play or my family says no. I'm having a good time. I enjoy it. I feel fresh."
Not bad for an old guy.
Even Indians manager Terry Francona had a quip ready when discussing Atchison on Tuesday afternoon.
"What'd they give him?" Francona said with a smirk. "A year, an option and an AARP card?"
Under his new deal, Atchison will earn $900,000 next season. For 2016, Cleveland will either pay Atchison $1 million via his club option, or terminate the contract by paying a $100,000 buyout.
Not included in the deal was a clause to cease the old-man jokes.
"I don't think that's ever going to change," Atchison said with a laugh. "It's all good. It keeps it loose. I throw it back at them a little bit, too."
More to the point, Atchison has pitched a little bit this season, too.
Entering Tuesday's game against the Twins, Atchison had a 6-0 record to go along with a 2.95 ERA in 53 games. The righty had logged a team-leading 17 multi-inning appearances, posting a 0.33 ERA in 27 1/3 innings in those games. That ERA is currently the lowest in multi-inning games among the 14 American League relievers with at least 17 such outings.
In 55 innings this year, Atchison has turned in a 0.96 WHIP while piling up 37 strikeouts against nine walks for Cleveland. He has held right-handed batters to a .214 average (.565 OPS), while limiting lefties to a .225 average (.643 OPS).
"He's really valuable," Francona said. "In the past, I think he's been that type of pitcher on a team where he can save a staff, because he'll suck up innings he's not supposed to. I think we realized early on that we wanted him to pitch meaningful innings and get big outs. He's been a huge addition to our bullpen."
Francona, who also managed Atchison with the Red Sox in 2010-11, has used the pitcher as a kind of utility reliever this season. Atchison has appeared in every inning with the exception of the first and the second, and the right-hander has six outings in extra innings. The bulk of Atchison's work, however, has been as a setup man in the seventh and eighth frames.
The elder statesman of the 'pen has enjoyed every minute of it.
"I've thrown the ball well," Atchison said. "I've felt good all year. They've done a good job of using me in good situations that set me up to be successful. They've done that with everybody in the 'pen. It's been a good year."
In parts of eight Major League seasons, Atchison owns a 16-10 career record with a 3.51 ERA in 258 games between stints with the Mariners, Giants, Red Sox, Mets and Indians. Atchison has never pitched in the postseason, but he logged a career-best 1.58 ERA for Boston in 2012. All but 31 of Atchison's career outings in the Majors have come after his 30th birthday.
Away from the mound, Atchison has emerged as a leader for Cleveland's relatively young crop of relievers.
"The guys look up to him," Francona said. "He's just a really good influence, and he gets people out. "He's been pitching for so long. He may not have the most time in the big leagues, but he's been to Japan, he's been up and down, he's been through it all. He's always had a really good attitude. I think our guys are smart enough to listen.
"You don't always have to have the biggest-name player to give good advice. Atch is a really solid teammate, and I think the guys appreciate him."
Atchison's teammates also enjoy ribbing him.
"I'm excited to see what kind of physical test they put him through," Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall said. "Maybe it'll be the first colonoscopy to complete a contract."