Rumor: Mariners interested in Griffey

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2003

SEATTLE - Speculation by Seattle sports columnists that the Mariners might be interested in bringing outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. back has attracted some important attention in Cincinnati - from Griffey himself.

Griffey, who has played the past four seasons for the Reds after being traded by Seattle, can't talk with Mariners' officials under Major League Baseball's tampering rules.

But he did pick up the phone to call The Seattle Times about the recent coverage, even if he didn't say much.

Email newsletter signup

''You know I can't say anything about that,'' Griffey told The Times. ''But everyone's been calling me about the story you had out there.''

''Just say … I'm calling about Edgar,'' Griffey said, referring to designated hitter Edgar Martinez, who may have played his last game in Seattle.

''And I really am. I wish him well in his big decision. He means so much to the city and to the team. Edgar's great for Seattle, great for the Mariners and their fans.''

Seattle sent an unhappy Griffey to the Reds after the 1999 season.

Griffey had been the game's dominant power hitter while the team played indoors at the Kingdome and was on pace to challenge Hank Aaron's career home run record.

When the Mariners moved to Safeco Field, an outdoor stadium with a retractable roof, he complained about its size and how that might hurt his home run totals. He also had strained relations with Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln.

Since returning to his hometown to play for the Reds, Griffey has struggled with injuries. Hamstring, knee, shoulder and ankle injuries have limited Griffey to 234 games over the past three seasons, including only 53 this year.

The Reds also have struggled, losing 93 games this year, one of the worst inaugural seasons for a ballpark in league history. The general manager and manager were fired, then the team dumped much of its payroll with rapid-fire trades of their closer, their top setup men, their top hitter at the time and their only All-Star - third baseman Aaron Boone.

Amid the losing, Griffey has been the target of fan and media criticism. He is the Reds' most expensive player, collecting on the nine-year $116.5 million deal he signed in February 2000.

More roster changes are expected in Cincinnati. The Reds have already tried to trade Griffey once and may do so again - if he can stay healthy.

He is still recovering from surgery on his shoulder and ankle.

''The shoulder is ready to go, full range of motion in less than two months after surgery, and I'm in rehab every day for the ankle,'' Griffey said.

Given his leg and ankle injuries, Griffey said he no longer slides about five feet from a bag, as he did when he was a kid, hitting the base with ankle-bending force.

''I slide different now, not as close,'' he said. ''But it's tough to practice from where I've been sitting the last couple of years … on a training table. I can tell you this: I'm tired of that.''

Other aspects of the baseball future in Cincinnati and Seattle have Griffey wondering as much as many fans, such as who will replace Pat Gillick as the Mariners' general manager.

''Heck, I don't know,'' Griffey said. ''I don't know who's going to be GM in Cincinnati. Or who's going to be manager in Cincinnati.''

Gillick, who will stay on as Seattle's GM until a successor is named, also had a rub with Griffey at the time of the trade. He didn't reject the idea of Griffey returning but said, ''I can't comment on that.''

It's likely that Griffey will return to Seattle next summer in some capacity. The Reds are scheduled to play three or four interleague games on the road against the Mariners.