Red Sox acquire Graffanino from Royals

Sox acquire Graffanino from Royals

BOSTON -- The Red Sox made a solid addition to their middle infield on Tuesday, acquiring versatile right-handed hitter Tony Graffanino from the Royals in exchange for two Minor Leaguers -- outfielder Chip Ambres and left-handed pitcher Juan Cedeno.

The timing on the trade couldn't have been better for the Red Sox, with starting second baseman Mark Bellhorn going on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with a sprained left thumb. The Red Sox actually tried to acquire Graffanino as a free agent prior to the 2004 season, but the Royals wound up inking him to a two-year deal.

"He's a good player," said Red Sox general manager The Epstein. "We're kind of living day-to-day here. We're in a stretch of at least six left-handed starters in a 10-day span, probably more. Tony hits left-handed pitching really well, historically. This year, his splits are a little backwards.

"He's a good defender at a number of positions. He'll probably figure into our second base mix for the near future with Alex Cora. That's how we're living. These games are all important. We haven't been winning many games lately, and we're trying to put the best team on the field possible. He's a really good player on a club, no matter how he fits in, whether he's a starting player, a platoon guy or a utility guy."

What remains to be seen is how the move will impact Bellhorn once he returns from the disabled list. Bellhorn, who was one of the biggest surprises of last season for the Sox, has struggled mightily this year. The switch-hitter has a .216 average with seven homers and 28 RBIs, while striking out a league-high 109 times in 283 at-bats.

"We'll see," said Epstein. "[Manager Terry Francona] and I talked to Mark about using the trip to the DL as an opportunity to get better physically, to get better mentally, and maybe get your swing back on track and come back with a fresh start. Hopefully, he'll be the player he was last year for us. Again, we're not living too far in the future. We're day-to-day right here. We have to win every game we can. We're in a stretch where we're not winning too many ballgames. This helps us have a better club on the field right now.

With Bellhorn out of the mix, the Sox were left with just one second baseman on the roster in Cora. Graffanino will change all that, and be able to play shortstop and third base when the occasion calls for it. Look for Graffanino to start at second base in Wednesday afternoon's contest against the Devil Rays.

All that has to happen is for Graffanino to report and the Sox to open up a roster spot for him.

"He's a professional who knows how to play," said Francona. "We'll put him right in there [Wednesday], let him start going. I think, right now, between him and Cora, we have a nice combination."

Graffanino is hitting .298 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 191 at-bats. He also has a solid on-base percentage (.377), which fits in well with Boston's offensive philosophy.

"Yeah, he really grinds his at-bats," said Epstein. "He gives you a good quality at-bat."

The 33-year-old Graffanino played for the Braves, Devil Rays and White Sox before joining the Royals last season.

The Sox lost two mid-level prospects in the deal. Cedeno, a 21-year-old left-hander, was signed by the Sox out of the Dominican Republic on Jan. 5, 2001. He went 2-6 with a 5.49 ERA at Class A Wilmington this season, posting 71 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings.

Ambres is a 25-year-old outfielder playing his seventh Minor League season. This was his first year in the Boston system. Playing at Triple-A Pawtucket, Ambres hit .294 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs.

There have been plenty of rumblings surrounding the Red Sox of late. Are they in on A.J. Burnett of the Marlins? How about Twins lefty reliever J.C. Romero? Obviously, Epstein can't comment on names from other teams, but the door remains open for more moves.

"We'll see," said Epstein. "We're just trying to win as many games as possible. This is a time of year where players are available from other clubs, and sometimes you can't acquire them other times of the year, so we'll see. We're pretty happy with the club that we have. We just have to get playing better. Sometimes that means changes from the outside, but nothing is imminent at all."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.