Griffey hitless against Australia in spring debut with M's


PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ken Griffey Jr. went hitless in two plate appearances as a designated hitter Wednesday night, his first spring training game since rejoining the Seattle Mariners.

More importantly, his left knee held up just fine.

Facing Australia's World Baseball Classic team, the 39-year-old Griffey walked and flied out to center field before being taken out of the game as planned by Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu.

Afterward, Griffey tried to downplay the significance of his first game back in a Mariners uniform since 1999, calling it part of the spring training process.

"It was bound to happen sooner or later," Griffey said, adding that his surgically repaired knee was fine. "Just doing what I'm supposed to. Take as many pitches, see pitches, get guys over, do the little things."

More than four hours before Australia beat Seattle 11-9, Griffey strolled around Seattle's 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 veteran outfielder had arthroscopic knee surgery.

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.

It was the same once the game began, giving Wakamatsu reason to be optimistic.

"We'll just take it day by day," Seattle's first-year manager said. "He had some swelling earlier and that seems to be gone. So now it's just checking with him after the game and the next day to see how he feels. We're going to kind of take it pretty slow with him for the next week and a half or so."

Griffey drew a six-pitch walk from Australia starter Travis Blackley, then went to second on a passed ball. He moved to third on Adrian Beltre's sharp single to center but was stranded there.

In the second, Griffey hit the first pitch he saw from Blackley to the warning track in center for the third out.

After grabbing two bats from the Mariners' dugout, Griffey walked off the field, pausing to shake hands with a few players in Australia's dugout before continuing on to Seattle's spring complex.

Though many fans gave him a standing ovation and numerous flashbulbs went off each time he batted, Griffey said he couldn't understand what all the fuss was about.

"I think [the media] puts too much effort into making this such a big story," Griffey said. "The focus should be on this team. I understand a little bit, but after last year we've got to turn this thing around."

Wakamatsu, who avoided rushing Griffey into a game for fear of a setback, said before the game that Griffey would 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.

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.

Game notes
Mariners LHP Ryan Feierabend had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Feierabend went 1-4 with a 7.71 ERA in eight games with the Mariners in 2008. ... 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 ... 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." ... LHP Tyler Johnson went home sick.