Griffey gets the night off in Philadelphia
Reds slugger has 'general soreness,' talks about homer chase
PHILADELPHIA -- It was called "general soreness."That was the term used as the reason for Reds right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. being out of the starting lineup for Monday's series opener vs. the Phillies. However, Griffey has been favoring his left knee and has been seen wearing a wrap for several weeks. "It's been there for a while," said Griffey, who hoped to return to the lineup Tuesday. Rookie Jay Bruce shifted from center field to right field while Ryan Freel started in center. The bottom line was that Griffey's pursuit for 600 home runs remained in a holding pattern. Sixth on the all-time list, he belted career homer No. 599 on Saturday at Great American Ball Park. Griffey dislikes days off and has fought many a manager that's tried to rest him. The 38-year-old has taken only three full games off in the previous 57. The last one was Thursday. After four plate appearances on Sunday vs. Atlanta, he was lifted in the eighth inning in a double switch. "He's just a little sore today," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "That's why we took him out of the game [Sunday]. You could see he was ailing a little bit. That's the time you normally don't take a chance. If you have general soreness and start favoring something, then you end up throwing something out. One day could be worth a week. The other way could be a loss of two weeks." While Griffey didn't move the milestone meter, talk about his proximity to 600 didn't subside. And for once, Griffey was doing some of the talking. It's the first time he's discussed the situation at length this year. The last time was almost a year ago, also in Philadelphia. While talking to over a dozen writers inside the visitors' clubhouse, Griffey was asked about not enjoying the pursuit of 600 home runs like others might. "Who said I'm not enjoying it?" Griffey responded. "I enjoy baseball. Whatever comes, good or bad, I enjoy the sport. It's done a lot of good things, a few bad things. I don't really think about the numbers. My dad [Ken Griffey Sr.] wasn't a numbers guy. It's just how I grew up. A lot of people don't understand that in a day where hype is everything, I was fortunate enough to have a dad that played Major League Baseball and worried about how we were as kids, not what numbers we put up." Only five players -- Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa -- have crossed the 600-homer threshold. One more homer, and Griffey will be among them. "Some of those guys I played against more recently," Griffey said. "It's just weird, overwhelming at some point, embarrassing sometimes. Because I never dreamed I'd be in the position I'm in. "My dad was a guy I wanted to be like. If I looked at his career and everybody else looked at his career, they'd say he had a pretty good career. That's the guy who looked like me, acted like me and took care of me. I didn't think I'd be better than him. He said I would be. I was like, 'Yeah, right.' I was 14 at the time when he said it. Sometimes, dad does know best, but you don't want to listen to him when you're 14. I'm going through that now with my 14-year-old [son Trey]." Unlike Bonds and Sosa, who have faced accusations for using performance-enhancing drugs, Griffey's numbers have been above suspicion. He was asked if there was more pride for him that his totals aren't in doubt.
"My main thing was don't embarrass your teammates, your organization and your family," Griffey responded. Some things are better than others. As long as you try to work hard and do things ... touchy situation."
Griffey Sr. posted 152 career home runs from 1973-91, with most of his playing years spent in Cincinnati. He also won World Series rings in 1975-76. In Florida, he was expected to come to Philadelphia to see his son try for homer No. 600.Griffey Jr. has yet to play in a World Series during his career, now in its 20th season. "Some people are luckier than others," Griffey said. "Some people just have a horseshoe that they find. I figured I'll get mine. I don't really worry. It's not going to affect me doing what I'm supposed to do, which is to help this team win." In the final year of a nine-year, $116.5 million contract, Griffey's time could be running out with the Reds. He has a $16.5 million club option for 2009 that carries a $4 million buyout. There have already been questions about whether Griffey would seek a trade for a chance to win a World Series. There also have been speculation about whether he'd try to orchestrate back to the Mariners, where his Hall of Fame career started. Complicating any deal is that he has full no-trade protection and the heavy option the other team would have to likely pick up. How many more years does Griffey want to play? He couldn't say. "I have a 12-year-old [daughter Taryn]. When she says come home, I guess I'll be going home," Griffey said. "She still likes me out of the house. I know the boys do. We haven't really discussed it. I'm still having fun. As long as you're still having fun, you still want to go out and play."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.