Griffey still in good spirits

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2004

SARASOTA, Fla. - Ken Griffey Jr. was out of the lineup but in good spirits Tuesday, an indication his latest injury is no worry.

The Cincinnati Reds outfielder strained his right calf while running out a grounder on Monday night, adding to his legacy of getting hurt near opening day.

This time, it appears to be a minor setback.

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Griffey's leg was doing much better Tuesday, when he was out of the lineup for a game against Minnesota. The Reds planned to give him a couple of days to recover fully.

''He looks a lot better today than he did yesterday,'' Dr. Timothy Kremchek said. ''Yesterday he had some soreness in the calf. Today he has much less soreness and nice motion and good strength.

''Of course, we're going to be more cautious than not, but we're very optimistic.''

Whenever Griffey gets hurt, the Reds flinch.

The 34-year-old outfielder is trying to break a streak of three straight years with major injuries that scuttled a season from the outset. He tore a hamstring in the final week of spring training 2001, tore a tendon in his knee during the first week of the 2002 season and dislocated his shoulder in the fifth game last season.

He returned from the shoulder injury and tore a tendon in his knee, ending his season in July. He has surgery to repair the ankle and tighten the shoulder.

Griffey has been able to run hard in spring training, showing that the ankle is fine. He has struggled at the plate, hitting only .158 with one homer, but had avoided injury until Monday night.

He slipped as he took off after hitting a soft grounder. He didn't feel any pain at the time, but the calf started to tighten when he played the field the next inning.

Griffey said the ground was damp around home plate, causing him to slip on his first step. Several players have complained about the soft field.

''It's been the same problem we've had as long as I've been here,'' Griffey said Tuesday.

Griffey didn't want to talk about the severity of the injury, referring questions to the medical staff. He said the calf was getting better.

''It's loosening up,'' he said.

Manager Dave Miley is inclined to give Griffey a few days to let it heal. The Reds open the season at home on Monday against the Chicago Cubs.

''It's the old standby day-to-day, but I wouldn't see any reason to push it,'' Miley said.

Reliever Todd Jones also got hurt on Monday night, taking a liner off his pitching arm. The ball struck muscle in the back of the right arm, just above the elbow.

Jones, who was signed to a contract last week and is competing for a setup job, is likely to be sidelined for a few days.

''He's still got some swelling,'' Kremchek said. ''Actually, you can still see the marks from the stitches on the baseball. He got whacked pretty good. I'm not real concerned about him having more than a bruise right now.''