Thursday, March 05, 2009
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Griffey set to make spring debut with Mariners

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[March 05, 2009]  PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) -- More than four hours before his return to the Seattle Mariners' lineup, Ken Griffey Jr. strolled around the clubhouse wearing dark blue shorts and a gray T-shirt. Notably missing was the bag of ice that had been secured to his left knee recently.

That's an encouraging sign for the Mariners, who have taken a slow, cautious approach with Griffey four months after the 39-year-old outfielder had arthroscopic knee surgery. He was ready to take his first game swings of the spring Wednesday night as the designated hitter against Australia's World Baseball Classic team.

Griffey took batting practice this week, then wore a thick bag of ice on his left knee afterward. But there were no lingering effects and Griffey looked fine as he went through his pregame routine Wednesday. When the Mariners took the field, he went through all the stretching and running drills with no obvious problems.

Manager Don Wakamatsu, who has avoided rushing Griffey into a game for fear of a setback, said he planned to get Griffey two at-bats against Australia. Then, he'll likely be held out of Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Angels.

"We'll see how he feels," Wakamatsu said.


Griffey looked fine before the game. Baseball's leading active home run hitter playfully joked with teammates and flashed the big smile that helped make him a superstar in Seattle, where he began his career 20 years ago.

The next step for Griffey will be playing left field. No timetable has been set yet for that, and Griffey has said he doesn't need much work to be prepared for the Mariners' season opener against Minnesota on April 6.

Griffey faced a pair of minor leaguers in a simulated game Monday and will take additional swings on Friday in another simulated game. Wakamatsu also hasn't ruled out using Griffey in minor league games at some point during the spring.

Griffey's return coincided with the Mariners' first televised broadcast in the Seattle area of a spring training game this season.

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Seattle signed Griffey to a $2 million, one-year contract with a possible $3 million in bonuses based on plate appearances and attendance. The team is banking that Griffey can return to his 2007 form with Cincinnati when he hit 30 home runs and had 93 RBIs, as well as drive up ticket sales at Safeco Field.

The Mariners lost 101 games and drew only 2.3 million fans in 2008, the worst-attended home schedule since 1999 when Griffey last played in Seattle before being traded to the Reds.

Notes: RHP Josh Fields, the Mariners' first pick in the 2008 draft, faced hitters for the first time this spring in a brief workout that went well. Fields threw nearly 30 pitches while Wakamatsu and other Seattle coaches looked on. "He threw hard and looked aggressive," Wakamatsu said. "Exactly what we thought we'd see at this point." ... OF Freddy Guzman underwent surgery on the hamate bone in his right hand and could resume playing in three to four weeks, according to Wakamatsu. ... LHP Tyler Johnson went home sick.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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