And by the evening, a team source confirmed to MLB.com that lefty Scott Schoeneweis, barring a last-minute waiver or trade acquisition, had won the 25th spot on the roster, beating fellow veteran reliever Joe Nelson.
ESPNBoston.com was first to report the news that Schoeneweis will break camp when the Red Sox leave Florida on Friday afternoon for an exhibition game at Washington against the Nationals. The Red Sox open the 2010 season at Fenway Park against the Yankees on Sunday night.
Schoeneweis was a late addition to camp, signing as a non-roster invitee on Friday. However, he had a full Spring Training with the Brewers, being released three days before the Red Sox picked him up.
The competition came down to the wire. Schoeneweis and Nelson both pitched a scoreless inning in Boston's 4-3 Grapefruit League win over the Twins on Thursday. Even in the immediate aftermath of the game, the Red Sox were still debating their options.
One thing that worked against Nelson was that his opt-out clause isn't until June 1, meaning he can pitch at Triple-A Pawtucket for the first two months of the season if need be.
By the time the clubhouse opened to the media after Thursday's game, Nelson and Schoeneweis were two of the only players left.
"Me and Schoeneweis were sitting here, and we were pretty much the only two guys in here," Nelson said. "I said, 'I wonder if they're going walk out like The Bachelor and give one of us a rose or something.' Then we were debating: 'If they call you in first, is that good or bad?' We both understand the situation. There's no animosity, there's no nothing. We both want it really bad, and only one of us is going to get it."
As Schoeneweis and Nelson waited, Francona, pitching coach John Farrell, Epstein, assistant general manager Ben Cherington and assistant to the general manager Allard Baird were huddled in the manager's office, discussing the situation.
While Schoeneweis waited to hear his fate, he pitched batting practice to a couple of his kids on the outfield grass at City of Palms Parks. His wife died on May 20, 2009, and he has four children who live in Arizona.
"I think they realize my family situation -- that it really has to be worth it for me to leave my kids behind," said Schoeneweis before learning he was most likely on the team. "I just want to see how this year goes -- on my family and on me. I'm not ready to quit as a baseball player. If there were any signs that it's hard on my kids or something like that, I wouldn't even try. They like Daddy being a baseball player. They understand. Everyone has been great. I feel good about playing. They feel good about me playing."
The 25-man roster the Red Sox will submit to Major League Baseball by Saturday night is all but certain to consist of the following:
Catchers Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek; infielders Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, Bill Hall and Mike Lowell; outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew and Jeremy Hermida; designated hitter David Ortiz; and pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Tim Wakefield, Clay Buchholz, Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, Atchison and Schoeneweis.
Meanwhile, left-handed reliever Alan Embree, who hadn't been pitching for anyone until signing a Minor League deal with the Sox on March 20, has been asked to pitch in the Minors for a couple of weeks so he can continue to get his feet under him. Embree has an opt-out clause in his contract on April 15, and he will likely pitch at Pawtucket until then.
"They have me 'till the 15th, regardless," said Embree. "If we decide to go longer, I think it would be something that might be on a wait-and-see approach type of thing. My arm feels good. It's about getting consistent work. We'll see in that window. I knew coming in that it would be a reach to make the team. Did I want to? Absolutely. Who doesn't? I think it's a matter of just getting some reps under my belt and seeing if they want me at that point."
Atchison, who is 34, last pitched in the Majors in 2007, when he was with the Giants. The Red Sox thought he was a nice under-the-radar signing when they landed him in December, but he exceeded their expectations in camp.
"He's pitched really well from the first day of camp," said Epstein. "Before we even got into games, he's been impressive. We've developed some trust in him pretty quickly. He always brings the same stuff to the mound. He's had an impressive spring. He's a great guy. We think we can help us, so we feel really good about having him in our 'pen."
Though embracing the challenge of earning a roster spot appealed to Atchison, his main motive in returning to the U.S. was so he could get better medical care for his 2 1/2-year-old daughter Callie, who has a disorder called thrombocytopenia-absent radius. Callie doesn't have radial bones in her arms, and needs therapy and surgeries to stretch her arms as she grows.
"I still felt like this is where I wanted to play, and I felt like I could play and play at this level," Atchison said. "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 more than stood up to the challenge of his Spring Training audition.
"He has strike-throwing ability and three different pitches," Francona said. "He changes speeds. His regular season started about a month ago, and he knew it and he did a great job. He attacked the strike zone with all his pitches. I don't think we see that changing. He will go down in a Minor League game [Thursday]. He was scheduled to pitch here. Since we've made our decision, he'll go pitch in a Minor League game so he can get his innings there."
"Despite his age and his strange journey, we thought he could be a useful guy," Epstein said. "We probably anticipated him being a guy who would start in Pawtucket and then come up, but he was so sharp right from the get-go and he emerged out of that group."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.