Notes: Graffanino turns the page
After offseason of discontent, infielder focuses on baseball
PHOENIX -- Tony Graffanino's long, strange offseason came to a happy end on Friday, when he became the final Brewers regular to report for Spring Training."It definitely didn't go according to any plan or script," the 34-year-old infielder said of his winter of discontent. "But it worked out." Here are the crib notes: The Brewers acquired Graffanino last July to replace injured second baseman Rickie Weeks, and they liked him enough that they offered a two-year contract in November to return in a backup capacity. But according to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, Graffanino's agent, Dan Lozano, was slow to respond. Melvin, worried about the depth of an infield that has seen its share of injuries in recent seasons, quickly shifted gears and signed Craig Counsell to a two-year deal on Nov. 29. Then it got complicated. Graffanino was a Type A free agent, so the Brewers offered him salary arbitration hoping to reap a supplemental draft pick from the team that eventually signed him. Trouble was, no team was willing to give up the first- or second-round pick (depending on their 2006 finish) it would have taken to sign Graffanino, so he was forced to accept the offer. Both sides later agreed to a one-year, $3.25 million contract. "I guess that stuff happens as part of the business of the game," Graffanino said. "That stuff is all behind us now. I'm just in camp trying to get ready for the season." Graffanino said he was "confused and maybe a little upset" by the way things went down. Lozano has told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Melvin wasn't clear enough that a deadline was on the table. But after a workout with the team Friday, Graffanino said he had turned the page. "It doesn't matter anymore," he said. "I'm here to help this team win. I want to win. ... I was just telling Prince [Fielder] today at the batting cage, a lot of guys go into Spring Training confused and they don't know what's going to happen, and everything always seems to work itself out. I've been around long enough to see that happen." Graffanino could play a major role with the team, if third baseman Corey Koskie's recovery from post-concussion syndrome continues at its current slow pace. Manager Ned Yost has discussed the idea of using the right-handed Graffanino and left-handed-hitting Craig Counsell at third. Prospect Ryan Braun will get an opportunity to win the job, if he shows defensive improvement, and Wisconsin native Vinny Rottino has also been taking extra ground balls at the hot corner before and after the team's regular-scheduled workouts. Graffanino's most natural position is second base, and he will also prepare to see action at first this spring. But he has played 156 career games at third including 27 last season with the Royals. "When you go over to third [occasionally] it's a tough place to play," he said. "But the more you play at it, the more comfortable you feel at it. I feel like if I spend some time over there and get some good action, I'll be fine with it."
Graffanino played in 60 games for the Brewers last season, batting .280 with two home runs and 27 RBIs. He will turn 35 in June.Small ball: Outfielder Geoff Jenkins has not recorded a sacrifice bunt since 1999, but he has impressed Yost this week with his technique in that area. Bunting has been a focus during the first week in camp. Because teams sometimes employ a dramatic infield shift against the pull-happy, left-handed Jenkins, positioning three players to the right side of the diamond and leaving the third baseman to cover everything on the left side, Yost thinks the bunt could be a weapon for Jenkins. "All he needs to do is just get it down, and he's been really, really good about it here in practice," Yost said. "If you get it down, you can walk to first. You walk to first one time, they're not going to [shift] again." Baby steps: Weeks, who had a cortisone injection earlier this week for a sore wrist, took 25 swings off a tee Friday morning. He will not be allowed to hit against live pitching for at least several more days. "He's got to build up a little," Yost said. Weeks had surgery last August to repair a painful tendon in his right wrist, and he felt sore after taking some swings before reporting to camp. Camp notes: At the end of Friday's workout, position players were broken down into "basestealers" and "movers" for the daily baserunning drill. Speedsters like Braun, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Weeks were in the first group, and the latter was stocked with players who, for example, would break from first base on a 3-2 pitch to try to stay out of double plays. Yost will add a new wrinkle to workouts Saturday, when hitters will face pitchers for the first time. Until now, hitters have only bunted against live pitching. Yost said the pitchers are being told to throw at about 70-75 percent of maximum effort to work on "touch and feel." Still, it is too early to make serious evaluations. "Some guys may stand out a little bit, catch your eye," Yost said. One of those guys is right-hander Grant Balfour, who is attempting a comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery. Yost is the second Brewer to mention Balfour; catcher Johnny Estrada said last week that the right-hander was looking surprisingly sharp. Early start: By Thursday night, fans were already staking out a place in line at Miller Park for the start of single-game ticket sales Saturday morning. The box office will open at 9 a.m. CT, and tickets are also available online at Brewers.com or via the team's phone center at (414) 902-4000. Fewer than 2,000 tickets will be available for Opening Day, mostly standing room only. But fans can still get tickets to that game if they buy a nine-game ticket package, which includes Opening Day for free.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.