Reds 7, Phillies 0
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SARASOTA, Fla. (AP)—Ken Griffey Jr. was a hit in his first game—with a soft single to center, and with hungry fans in section 114.
Griffey made his long-awaited spring training debut, singled in his first at-bat, later doubled and made two routine plays in his new position of right field Saturday during the Cincinnati Reds’ 7-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
The only thing he didn’t do was talk about it.
Griffey’s absence from the lineup was the biggest drama in Reds camp. He broke his left hand while playing with his children in December, an injury that was expected to be fully healed when camp began.
It wasn’t. Soreness kept him out of the lineup and prompted manager Jerry Narron to raise the possibility of putting Griffey on the disabled list to start the season.
The 37-year-old outfielder has been on the DL eight times since he joined his hometown team for the 2000 season, and didn’t want to be sidelined again. He informed Narron before Saturday’s game that he was fit to play.
Asked if he thinks there’s enough time for Griffey to get ready for the season opener, Narron said, “I sure hope so.”
The public address announcer told fans before pregame introductions that Griffey had been chosen as the player of the game for a local restaurant’s promotion. If he got a hit, fans in section 114 would get coupons for the restaurant.
The section behind home plate cheered loudly when he came to bat in the first inning. Griffey’s timing was a little off, but he managed to drop a soft single into center. The fans got their coupons.
Griffey flied out to the edge of the warning track in right field in his next at-bat, then grounded into a double play. He left the game for a pinch-runner after he pulled a double down the line in the seventh, running hard all the way.
“It was nice to see Griff back in the lineup,” Narron said. “Just his presence there means so much. We’ll see how he is tomorrow and go from there.”
Griffey left the field after the seventh inning, walked past a group of reporters in the clubhouse and headed directly to the trainer’s room, passing word along through a team spokesman that he didn’t want to talk.
His injury and his position change have been sore subjects all spring.
Narron moved Griffey out of center field, giving the faster Ryan Freel a chance to play there. For his first seven years in Cincinnati, Griffey got what he wanted. The switch to right field shows that the old rules no longer apply.
Griffey had a little fun with it in the first inning.
For Bronson Arroyo’s first pitch, Griffey positioned himself at the right-field line. After Michael Bourn took a pitch several inches outside, Arroyo turned and pointed toward Griffey, who jogged to the right fielder’s accustomed spot.
“He says, ‘I’m going to be on the line, make sure you throw a ball and then wave me over,”’ Arroyo said. “I was like, ‘All right.’ So I throw the ball 5 or 6 inches off the plate, and he’s like ‘Hah!’ I’m like, ‘Geez, good thing I didn’t throw it right down the middle!”’
Arroyo threw six shutout innings, giving up only five hits even though he threw only fastballs and changeups—not even one breaking ball in his 90 pitches.
“I just wanted to see if I could get by with it, particularly because we’re going to face these guys during the season,” said Arroyo, who struck out six.
The Reds sent OF Bubba Crosby outright to Triple-A Louisville, a move that could make him a free agent. The 30-year-old Crosby has 72 hours to decide whether to accept the demotion.