Ken Griffey Jr. and the Mariners appear close to reaching a deal.

The return of Ken Griffey Jr. to Seattle, nine years after he departed for Cincinnati, appears to be imminent.

Baseball sources confirmed that talks between the club and Griffey, a free agent, have heated up in recent days. The parties appear to be on course for a one-year contract that could be announced next week, provided Griffey passes a physical examination.

Griffey had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in October to repair partially torn cartilage and meniscus. The Reds’ team physician, Timothy Kremchek, has said that he expects Griffey to be fully recovered for the 2009 season.

Griffey is currently in California playing in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament, which will end for him Saturday or Sunday, depending on how his team does. If talks continue to progress, he could come to the Phoenix area for a physical early next week.

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Reached in Cincinnati, Griffey’s agent, Brian Goldberg, declined to comment other than to acknowledge there are ongoing discussions with the Mariners.

The Mariners have mulled a Griffey signing all winter, but have pursued other options for offensive help. However, when free agent Bobby Abreu reached agreement with the Angels earlier this week, the Mariners reportedly began moving seriously toward reacquiring Griffey, considered the greatest player in club history.

The sides have reportedly begun talking parameters of a contract. The Mariners are approaching their budgeted payroll figure, so there will have to be creativity from both sides to get a deal done.

However, Griffey is motivated to return to Seattle, where he received a hero’s welcome when the Reds came through in 2007. He ranks fifth on the all-time home run list with 611.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or