Notes: Graffanino returns to Royals

Notes: Infielder Graffanino returns to Royals

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Infielder Tony Graffanino is back in the Royals' fold.

The Royals claimed Graffanino off waivers from the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, and he fits right into the picture in a backup role.

Also picked up in a waiver claim was right-handed pitcher Steve Andrade from the San Diego Padres.

Designated for assignment was outfielder Chip Ambres. There is a 10-day period in which he can be placed on waivers and claimed, traded, released or sent to the Minor Leagues.

"We'll explore the value for him," general manager Allard Baird said.

In the wake of Graffanino's acquisition, the Royals cut loose veteran infielder Joe McEwing, who had been battling with Esteban German for a backup job.

"I love the fact that Graffanino is coming back, but also, telling Joe McEwing we're not having him back is the toughest thing I've had to do," manager Buddy Bell said.

Oddly enough, the Red Sox obtained Graffanino on July 19, 2005, in a deal that sent Ambres and pitcher Juan Cedeno to the Royals.

Graffanino, who played second base for the Red Sox, hit .319 in 51 games for them after being dealt by the Royals. His overall mark last season was .309 in 110 games.

In the postseason, he was 3-for-12 and made one crucial error in the American League Division Series against the Chicago White Sox.

"I'm glad it worked out good for me," Graffanino said from Florida. "It was a bad situation for me. Now I'll get some playing time and be able to contribute."

Graffanino had been replaced as the Red Sox's regular second baseman by Mark Loretta.

"From the first day I got there, they were talking about trading me," Graffanino said.

After signing as a free agent, Graffanino batted .263 for the Royals in 2004. He played just 75 games, missing the last 60 because of a knee injury.

Designating Ambres, who had a .180 average this spring entering Tuesday, narrows the backup outfield chase to Aaron Guiel (.343) and Shane Costa (.265).

Baird said the Royals would like to keep Ambres in the organization.

spring training 2006
News and features:
Multimedia:
• Royals' low-key Stairs on Classic:  350K
• KC's Huber ready to join Aussies:  350K
• Royals arms, skipper talk pitching:  350K
• Reggie Sanders camp interview:  350K
• Harvey interview from camp:  350K
• Buddy Bell on Zack Greinke:  350K
Spring Training info:
MLB.com coverage  |  Schedule  |  Ballpark  |  Tickets

"If I clear waivers, I'll be back with Omaha and try to battle my way back," Ambres said.

Andrade was a Rule 5 Draft pick last December, picked from the Toronto Blue Jays by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who subsequently traded him to the Padres.

Andrade, 28, is a reliever who was 3-2 with three saves and a 1.97 ERA last season for New Hampshire in the Double-A Eastern League. He held left-handed hitters to a .111 average (8-for-72) and gave up just three homers in 50 1/3 innings.

"That tightens the competition for the 11th spot [on the pitching staff]," Baird said.

If the Royals decide to keep Andrade, he must remain with the Major League club all season because of his Rule 5 status.

The competition for the final bullpen spots also includes Joel Peralta, Steve Stemle, Luke Hudson and Leo Nunez. Bell said the final makeup of the bullpen likely won't be decided until this weekend in Houston.

Pitching coach Bob McClure said he watched Andrade pitch for the Padres during a Cactus League game last Thursday night. Andrade worked two scoreless innings against the Royals.

"He had a pitch nobody could hit," McClure said. "I don't know what it was -- a palm ball or what."

McEwing was signed last spring after being released by the New York Mets. He started last season with Omaha, but was called up on April 13 and stayed with the big-league club, batting .239 in 83 games, playing in the infield and outfield.

This spring, he was hitting .436 (17-for-39).

"I basically had the best spring of my life," McEwing said. "I was brought in and knew who my competition was. And I have confidence in myself to go out and play the game and I did it. I basically did everything I was asked and, obviously, it wasn't enough."

McEwing was offered the chance to join Omaha again, but he will explore Major League opportunities.

"That's why you play this game, to play in the big leagues," McEwing said. "And I feel like I was one of the 25 best guys to make this team."

German said the Royals have not discussed his final role on the club with him.

"I don't know anything yet," he said.

Sweeney spot: Wouldn't you know it? Mike Sweeney, playing his first game since March 9, knocked a foul tip off his left ankle on Tuesday. That's where the bone bruise that has kept him out of the lineup resides.

"Same spot. It found it," Sweeney said. "But I'm OK."

Sweeney was OK enough to follow that foul trip with two RBI singles.

Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek left the game after four innings after his right hand was stepped on during a play at the bag.

"He's probably not going to be available [Wednesday]," Bell said. "It's a deep bruise, but the trainer didn't think anything was broken."

Outfield duel: Aaron Guiel, in his battle with Shane Costa for a backup outfield spot, blasted his second home run in two games. Costa had two hits, including a double and an RBI.

"I just had a couple good swings," Guiel said. "[Costa] has hit the ball pretty good all spring."

Two in top 50: The Royals have two players in MLB.com's top 50 prospects of 2006.

Third baseman Alex Gordon was ranked No. 13. He had a successful Spring Training, batting .333 and impressing Bell with his poise. His only previous pro experience came in the Arizona Fall League after he signed for $4 million as the second overall draft choice in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

Left fielder Billy Butler was ranked No. 26. Butler has batted .352 in his first two pro seasons after being the Royals' top draft pick in 2004.

Both are expected to start the season with Double-A Wichita.

More moves: The Royals also placed left-handed pitcher Bobby Madritsch, who is in rehabilitation from arm surgery, on the 60-day disabled list.

On deck: Scott Elarton will have his final tuneup for Opening Day when he's matched against Seattle's Jamie Moyer at 2:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Peoria, Ariz.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.