Graffanino faces uncertain future

Graffanino faces uncertain future in Boston

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- These are not the easiest of times professionally for Tony Graffanino.

The 33-year-old veteran infielder reported to the Red Sox's camp this year with no idea whether he will start the season with the club or be traded. Adding to the complexity of the situation, his bosses don't know either.

Graffanino started last season with the Royals, but with the Red Sox needing a second baseman to take over for the injured Mark Bellhorn, Kansas City shipped the veteran to Boston on July 19 in exchange for a pair of Minor League prospects.

Graffanino impressed his new club immediately, posting a .319 average with four homers and 20 RBIs in 51 games with the Red Sox.

Bellhorn, who was also slumping at the same time he went down with a thumb injury, would never return to Boston due to Graffanino's solid work at second base.

Unfortunately for Graffanino, his lasting impression came when he allowed a potential inning-ending double play off the bat of Juan Uribe to pass through his legs in Game 2 of the American League Division Series in Chicago, allowing the White Sox to rally from a four-run deficit and take a 5-4 victory.

That play signaled the start of an uncertain offseason. The Red Sox, looking for more production from the No. 2 hole in the batting order, acquired Mark Loretta from the Padres for backup catcher Doug Mirabelli on Dec. 17.

Meanwhile, the club chose to tender arbitration to Graffanino, who was a free agent, further restricting his options.

"When they offered me arbitration and [having been] classified a free agent, the team I would have signed with would have given up a first-round draft pick ... so all the teams that were talking to me pulled back. It kind of messed me up a little bit," Graffanino said.

"Ending the season, they didn't really talk to me about bringing me back. It was almost like I wasn't wanted back here. ... When they signed Loretta, it was almost a final [statement] to me saying that I wouldn't be back here, so I talked to other teams about going elsewhere."

So, this spring, Graffanino will need to show that he can still be an everyday player at second or third base, so that his potential trade value remains high.

"It's a little bit [different]," he said. "You get into camp and you're with a bunch of guys you start bonding with, you develop a relationship with [them] and you start to feel comfortable. Like I've always said, I've enjoyed every minute of being with the Red Sox. Thinking about something being a little different, a little weird but again, professionally, if I can go somewhere that I'm going to get an opportunity to play every day, especially at second -- which is my favorite position -- then I'd be excited about it. I don't want to leave Boston, but I'd be excited about that opportunity."

Red Sox skipper Terry Francona has every intention of making sure Graffanino get his chance to shine in Grapefruit League games.

"Tony's in an interesting scenario," Francona said Monday. "He comes in last year and really plays well, elects to come back with the arbitration -- and we've already traded for Mark Loretta -- so what we did was [general manager Theo Epstein] and I sat down with him the second day here, rather than him go through camp wondering."

With Alex Cora (Puerto Rico) and Alex Gonzalez (Venezuela) off to compete in the World Baseball Classic, Francona will have playing time to give to Graffanino, but that could change once the regulars return to camp.

"We just talked about his situation, how he'll be treated, and we told him, to be quite honest, we're in a bit of predicament as far as playing time goes, at least looking at it right now," Francona said. "But because of who he is, he's going to be treated like he should be, which is as a professional with a lot of respect, and that these things usually have a way of working out, which they do.

"In the meantime, we'll keep communicating as well as we can and see where that leads."

For his part, Graffanino said Monday he's not sitting around Fort Myers waiting for a trade.

"It's the same, really," he said. "I can't assume something's going to happen, so I go about it preparing myself as a Red Sox, and getting my work in at second and moving myself around all over the place, because if I'm here, that's probably what I'll be doing. If something changes, then I'll make the adjustment."

One position Graffanino has played in the past is left field, but not so far this spring.

"I would if they tell me to, but so far that hasn't come up -- just second and third," he said. "With [Cora] here, I'm sure Alex would play short if something came up. I played a lot of first last year. I could pretty much play anywhere if they wanted me to. It's just a matter of how it's going to play out. "

All he can do now is play, wait and remain confident that something will work out.

"I don't know how much I'd play here," Graffanino said. "You have three right-handed hitters at first, short, second and third, and another right-handed hitter at first. I don't really know how much I would play, and as a professional, I want to play, especially after playing as much as I did last year.

"I feel like I did pretty well and I want to continue that. This is just a time of uncertainty, but we all go through times of uncertainty. You just have to play it out."

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.