Notes: Mientkiewicz back in Boston

Notes: Mientkiewicz back in Boston

BOSTON -- Monday night marked the return of first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to Fenway Park for the first time since the 2004 World Series.

Traded to Boston in midseason and used mainly as a defensive substitute during Boston's championship run, Mientkiewicz earned a World Series ring, and a heap of controversy when he decided to keep the ball that he used to record the final out of the World Series and not give it to the Red Sox organization.

"You understand the significance of what went on in this city. I don't wanna be remembered as the guy who stole the World Series ball. You hear 'stole' and stole's kind of a harsh word. It was the first one I ever won, too," Mientkiewicz said. "Every other player [who caught the last out] has had ... the last guy who caught it kept it. I think I'm one of the very few, if not the only one [to give the ball back] ... My side of the story is I've been trying to give it to the Hall of Fame for two years, but someone [Larry Lucchino] on the other side wasn't about to give it up.

"All of the teammates on the team that I talked to said they would do the exact same thing."

Mientkiewicz has since parted with the ball, giving it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, where it will be displayed to the public.

"The thing that makes me really upset about the whole thing is if this had been done behind closed doors, if they would have come up to me before three months after the World Series, this never would have been an issue," Mientkiewicz said. "Why was it so important three months later? If it was that important to you, you wouldn't have waited three months to figure out where it was."

"I just felt that it's a tough thing because who deserves it? Which guy on the team deserves it the most? Obviously, I know I didn't, but what? Do you cut it up into 25 pieces? What do you do? So, I'm kind of glad it ended up where it ended up."

Mientkiewicz is glad to return to Boston and would love to hear cheers from the Fenway faithful, but he certainly understands if boos come instead.

"[My wife and I] have nothing but fond memories of this place," Mientkiewicz said. "I get a chance to see some old friends. ... I try to put it past me now and forget about it, but the one thing I will say is that the Red Sox fans have been the most understanding throughout the whole thing. I can't say that for everyone else in the country. ... I was hoping it'd end a year ago, but it's like a roach -- they never die."

On fire: Also making his return to Fenway Park was infielder Tony Graffanino. He played in 51 games with the Red Sox in 2005, batting .319 with four home runs and 20 RBIs.

Graffanino has been putting on a hitting clinic in July and is riding a 10-game hitting streak. He is batting .395 (15-for-38) and has Royals manager Buddy Bell looking for ways to get his hot bat to the plate each day.

"He's been great. He's just a good player," Bell said. "In terms of improvement, the guy's always been a good player. He can just play. Even when he was hitting .220 or .230 early in the season, it was never a big issue for me. Graff is always gonna do fine."

"It's just hard. He's been playing a lot more and maybe [it is] probably my fault more than anyone else's in the year. Now, we just try to be creative to get him in the lineup as much as we can. I don't know if that's been an issue or not. He's just a good player. A lot of people think he's a utility guy, but he's a [heck] of a lot more than that."

Mac's back: Pitching against the Major League-leading Detroit Tigers on Sunday, Mike MacDougal resumed his role as closer and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to record his first save of the season. MacDougal had strained his right shoulder in Spring Training and had been on the DL before pitching two shutout innings in the last two games.

"He looks good. He's just been back two days, but he's throwing good. He got the save against Detroit. He feels good and he's had no problems," Bell said.

The first-round pick of the Royals in 1999, MacDougal has amassed a career record of 10-14 with a 3.92 ERA and 50 saves. Appearing in 68 games in 2005, MacDougal went 5-6 with a 3.33 ERA and 21 saves.

Lineup change: Outfielder Reggie Sanders was scratched from the lineup for Monday night's game because of a right groin strain. Emil Brown replaced Sanders in right field and hit fourth in the lineup.

Coming up: Right-hander Brandon Duckworth, (1-2, 5.40) will make the start against Red Sox rookie southpaw Jon Lester (4-0, 2.89) on Tuesday night at 6:05 p.m. CT at Fenway Park.

Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.