Mariners go quiet on newspaper

Updated: May 12, 2010, 9:45 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The report that Ken Griffey Jr. was sleeping in the Seattle Mariners clubhouse during a game continued to make waves on Tuesday, as the team's players called a clubhouse meeting and stopped talking to the newspaper that published the report.

After the Mariners beat the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night, winning pitcher Cliff Lee started to address the media, then stopped and said he could not continue until the reporter from The Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune left.

Other Mariners players followed suit with the newspaper at their lockers, according to Seattle-area media reports.

On Monday, The News Tribune reported that two Mariners players told the newspaper Griffey, the team's left-handed designated hitter, had gone back into the clubhouse during a game and stayed there, dozing in a chair.

"He'd gone back about the fifth inning to get a jacket and didn't come back," one unnamed player told The News Tribune. "I went back in about the seventh inning -- and he was in his chair, sound asleep."

Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said Tuesday that Griffey was not asleep in the clubhouse in the eighth inning last Saturday night, he was indeed on the bench and available to pinch hit, contradicting parts of a story that appeared in The News Tribune on Monday.

When asked if Griffey had been asleep in the clubhouse during the game Saturday night, Wakamatsu said Tuesday, "He wasn't asleep. He was available to pinch hit and I chose not to use him as the manager."

Asked if he was available to pinch hit in that game, Griffey said Tuesday, "I'm available all the time."

Griffey said he would try to stay as professional as he could despite the furor.

"I can't win this, and I'm not trying to," Griffey told reporters. "I don't have a blog. I'm just hoping that whoever said it is man enough to come to me and talk about it. It's my word against two unnamed sources. It is what it is and I will just let it go."

But that wasn't the end of it for Griffey's teammates. On Tuesday, Mariners designated hitter Mike Sweeney called the players-only team meeting and strongly defended Griffey in comments to the media.

"We will support and fight and take a bullet for Ken Griffey Jr. if we have to. He's our teammate," Sweeney said, according to FoxSports.com. "Nothing is going to divide this clubhouse, especially a makeshift article made up of lies."

"We don't think there are two players who said that [about Griffey sleeping]," Sweeney added, according to the report. "I challenged everyone in that room -- if they said that to stand up and fight me. No one stood up."

A source told ESPN The Magazine's Tim Kurkjian that Griffey was upset and hurt by the story and cried briefly during the meeting. Sweeney chastised the anonymous young players for speaking about something that had happened in the clubhouse, according to the source.

The News Tribune's Larry LaRue, the newspaper's Mariners beat writer since 1988, blogged on Tuesday about the reception he got in the clubhouse.

"Since it was my blog that sparked all this, players approached me after their meeting to ask if I'd identify the two guys I'd interviewed. I wouldn't -- if there's heat from all this, it's on me, not two guys who answered my questions," LaRue wrote.

"I was also told a number of players were angry and hurt by the blog, and that it would be best not trying to talk to them for a few days. Given my job, that's not possible. I had to try and did, and many passed," he wrote. "That's part of my job, and maybe part of theirs, too."

ESPN The Magazine's Tim Kurkjian contributed to this report.

ALSO SEE