ATLANTA -- It only took Tony Graffanino's dad three years to convince his son to return to his old stance, but when he finally did, he started hitting again.
"I was always doing fine, at least at the minor league level with pitchers who couldn't hit that lower part of the plate, so I didn't need to change," Graffanino said. "But I did a lot of tape-watching and I saw I was real vulnerable low and away and up. It's probably the only time I'll say going through a slump was good."
Graffanino's 8-for-56 skid and infrequent starts gave him plenty of time to work on his stance. During the last three weeks, as he worked on his stance and his swing, he took over 200 swings a day. When his dad, Doug, noted a tone of frustration in his voice before the All-Star break, he drove down from his home in Seneca, S.C., and offered some advice.
"He's seen me my whole life," Graffanino said. "He was there every day, every game. He helped me develop my swing. I needed to change my stance back to the way it was. He's been saying that for three years."
Between his dad, strength and conditioning coach Frank Fultz, who threw hours of batting practice to him, and hitting coach Clarence Jones, Graffanino got straightened out. He's moved closer to the plate and up in the box, aligned his feet in a parallel stance and raised his hands to ear level.
Graffanino got away from his former stance when he hurt his back in 1995 at Class AAA Richmond and was out from July 3 through the remainder of the season. The next year he opened his stance so he wouldn't have to use his hips as much and lessen the strain on his back, but what worked against inexperienced pitchers in the minors left him vulnerable in the majors.
The change back to his old stance produced a career-high four hits Sunday and earned him another start Monday night, the first time he's started consecutive games since June 19-20.
"I had tons of time to work on it," he said.
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