Griffey’s slam sends Mariners over Reds
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP)—Junior’s still got it.
Asked the last time he had hit a game-ending slam in any game—spring training, during any of his 24 professional seasons, at Cincinnati Moeller High School—Griffey said, “Never.”
“Unbelievable,” Byrnes said.
The ace then gave the 40-year-old slugger a fist bump.
Griffey, who has hit 630 home runs in his career, had swung wildly and missed with the count 3-0, looking anxious. On 3-1, he again looked antsy chasing a low pitch.
Then he drove a belt-high fastball from Wells into right-center field. Griffey was grinning as he approached the plate. All the Mariners were waiting with high-fives and back slaps, but spared him the joyous pummeling that he got a couple times last season for late-game hits.
“Just one of those things,” Griffey said. “It’s spring training. Everyone’s working on something. I’m starting to be able to do some things (like wait on pitches). And I happened to get a ball up into the wind tunnel.”
Reds manager Dusty Baker knew the result before Griffey did.
“With that wind blowing out like that, you’re like, ‘Oh Lord, don’t get it up in the air,”’ Baker said. “He’s not Ken Griffey Jr. for nothing.”
The eighth overall pick in last June’s draft allowed one run and three hits in four innings. It was the first spring start for the 22-year-old, who got a $2.27 million signing bonus from Cincinnati last August.
Asked if he could have fathomed being in the running for a spot in the rotation entering the final week of his first big league camp, Leake said: “Realistically, probably not. But I guess I’ve shown them what I’ve needed to so far.”
One of Leake’s only mistakes came when he plunked childhood idol Griffey in the ankle with an off-speed pitch in the fourth.
“I don’t know if I was supposed to say, ‘Sorry’—or not care,” Leake joked.
Griffey was the Mariners’ top overall pick in 1987, the year Leake was born. He barely looked up as he trotted indifferently to first base following the kid’s errant pitch, and he shrugged about it afterward.
Baker said it remains a three-man competition. The manager likes the way Leake has shown no nerves as rookie, but pointed out that Wood has more professional experience and has pitched well, too.
Chapman had been impressive until the injury.
NOTES: Manager Don Wakamatsu said he expects LHP Jason Vargas(notes), Seattle’s most consistent starter this spring behind Hernandez, and RHP Doug Fister(notes) to be in the rotation to begin the season, since Cliff Lee(notes) still has an abdominal strain and won’t throw until at least Wednesday. That’s assuming Fister’s bruised right forearm continues to get better. Wakamatsu wants to see Fister pitch one more time in a game before the team breaks camp Thursday. … Wakamatsu said he intends for Casey Kotchman(notes) to be the everyday 1B, because of his defense.