Griffey, who is batting just .179 this spring, delights the fans and teammates with a walkoff grand slam against Cincinnati.
PEORIA, Ariz. — In a spring when time hasn’t always appeared kind, Ken Griffey Jr. once again found a way to make it stand still.
Griffey swung at a full-count pitch from Kip Wells in the bottom of the ninth on Friday and gave it a ride back to the days when the guy with 630 career homers could find the sweet spot seemingly any time he chose. The 9,009 fans at Peoria Stadium let out a collective gasp as their hopes were answered and Griffey gave them the flashback they’d envisioned on an otherwise uneventful day to that point.
It was only spring training for a guy hitting .179, but somehow the ball that carried over the right-field wall for a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds seemed to instill hope of more magic to come. Both for a Mariners team facing numerous hurdles heading into the season, and for No. 24, trying to show he still has something left in what will likely be his final season.
“I saw all my guys at home plate,” Griffey said. “That’s one of the best feelings in baseball, to see all your guys waiting for you. It doesn’t matter who it is. You saw it last year when Ichiro hit a walkoff (home run). When the guys come in, that’s the part of being a team everybody wants to see.”
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Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu joked afterward that Griffey did a good job of setting up reliever Wells by swinging at two pitches in the dirt after the count had run up to 3-0. Griffey had been hit in the ankle by a pitch from Reds first-rounder Mike Leake earlier.
Leake said after the game that Griffey had been his boyhood idol and he didn’t know whether he was supposed to apologize to him or not care.
Griffey hasn’t looked much like that player Leake idolized for a good part of the spring. The Mariners plan to go with Griffey as their main designated hitter against right-handers, but he’s had trouble making solid contact.
Griffey himself shrugged off questions about his slow start.
“It’s spring training,” he said. “It’s spring, everybody’s working on something. I just started being able to do some things. I just happened to get the ball up in the wind tunnel.”
One of the things Griffey’s been doing is sitting back and looking at pitches.
“I’ve been out front on a lot of things,” he said.
Griffey attributed that to being overanxious, something he quickly added is normal for him in just about every at-bat. One guy feeling anxious as Griffey battled at the plate in the ninth was Reds manager Dusty Baker.
“With that wind blowing out you say ‘Oh, Lord! Don’t let it get up in the air,’ ” Baker said. “He’s not Ken Griffey Jr. for nothing.”
And on a day time stood still, he reminded folks he still was.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners
|Stubbs cf||3||1||1||0||Ichiro rf||4||0||1||0|
|Dickerson cf||1||0||0||0||Patterson rf||1||0||0||0|
|Cabrera ss||1||2||0||0||Figgins 2b||3||0||1||0|
|Miles ss||1||0||0||0||JDminguez ss||1||1||1||0|
|Votto dh||4||1||3||3||Lopez 3b||3||0||0||0|
|Phillips 2b||3||0||0||0||D.Carroll cf||0||1||0||0|
|Burke 2b||1||0||0||0||Griffey Jr. dh||4||1||1||4|
|Gomes lf||1||0||0||1||Byrnes lf||4||1||2||0|
|Nix ph-lf||2||0||0||0||Gutierrez cf||3||0||1||0|
|Bruce rf||2||0||0||0||Tsosopo 3b||1||0||0||0|
|Balentien ph||2||1||1||0||Garko 1b||4||0||1||0|
|Cairo 1b||2||0||0||0||Johnson c||2||0||0||0|
|Sutton ph-1b||2||0||0||0||Bard c||2||0||1||1|
|Janish 3b||2||0||0||0||Ja.Wilson ss||2||1||1||0|
|Francisco 3b||2||0||1||1||Woodwrd 2b||1||1||1||0|
|Cincinnati||200 020 001||— 5||7||1|
|Seattle||001 001 004||— 6||11||1|
E — Burke (1), Johnson (1). DP — Seattle 2. LOB — Cincinnati 4, Seattle 9. 2B — Stubbs (4), Balentien (3), Garko (2). HR — Votto (2), Griffey Jr. (1). SB — Stubbs (1), Phillips (2), Ichiro (6), Ja. Wilson (2). SF — Gomes.
|Wells L, 0-2||1/3||3||4||4||1||0|
|Colome W, 1-0||1||2||1||1||0||0|
HBP — by Leake (Griffey Jr.). Balk — Leake, French. A — 9,009.