TORONTO -- Alan Embree, who hadn't pitched in the majors since a line drive fractured his right tibia last July 10, was back in a big-league bullpen Wednesday night after being recalled by the Boston Red Sox.
Back in his familiar No. 43, Embree, who made 211 relief appearances with Boston from 2002-05, replaces Fabio Castro, who had been recalled as insurance for an overworked bullpen Tuesday.
Manager Terry Francona wasn't ready to say how he'd use Embree -- or, for that matter, how he'd deal with three left-handers in the bullpen -- but another roster move is coming soon to accommodate the return of Daisuke Matsuzaka for Saturday's start in Baltimore.
"I feel great and I'm here to help out any way they want me," said Embree. "I'm hoping I get the chance to go back to Boston." Which would mean he survived Saturday's roster move.
Embree was with the Colorado Rockies, his 10th big-league team, and in the midst of career relief appearance No. 878, which ranks him sixth among all active relievers, first among left-handers, when he was hit by a shot off the bat of the Atlanta Braves' Martin Prado.
"I was thinking I was probably pretty close to the end," said the 40-year-old Embree. "After 16 seasons, I'd gotten pretty comfortable with the understanding that, when it's the end, baseball will tell you."
But not yet. With the Sox looking for a left-handed complement to Hideki Okajima in the bullpen this spring, they signed Embree to a minor-league deal March 20. Boston would later add Scott Schoeneweis, but Embree had shown enough in his abbreviated camp that the Sox offered an extended run with Triple-A Pawtucket.
"I felt I could've gone somewhere else, but I wanted to be here," Embree said. "I took the chance, stuck with it, and it's paid off."
At Pawtucket, Embree had a 3.68 ERA in eight appearances (7 1/3 innings). All three of his runs were allowed in a single outing; since then he's worked five perfect innings in five appearances.
While Embree made some friends in Pawtucket, he's glad to be back in the majors.
"That's really not the best situation," Embree said with a grin. "You really find out how spoiled we are up here [in the majors]. The mounds are flat and they use these balls with these huge seams. The fields aren't as good, the training rooms aren't as good, the food's not as good. The travel? I'll probably be the only guy on that team this year who used a heating pad on the bus.
"You know, though, when you're around younger guys like that, you kind of get invigorated."