Improvised lineup takes on Rays
Several Mariners fighting through nagging injuries
SEATTLE -- Ken Griffey Jr., getting a day off for Thursday afternoon's game, pretended to sit in for manager Don Wakamatsu in the daily manager's media session in the dugout before the Mariners took on the Tampa Bay Rays. He grabbed a bat and held court with humor.
When asked about day games, Griffey laughed and facetiously said he simply wouldn't play in them except for a few select ones.
"Most likely special days, like Mother's Day," Griffey said.
Then, when asked if he could indeed see himself as a future big league skipper, Griffey shook his head.
"I could never be a manager," Griffey said. "I yell and scream too much. I'd be ejected in 10 minutes."
Griffey covered some other topics and induced laughter from the gathered throng, but the fact that he was the Mariners' only option off the bench during the game wasn't quite as funny.
Because of the still day-to-day injuries to regular first baseman Russell Branyan (lower back strain) and fill-in first baseman Mike Sweeney, who suffered upper back spasms after a swing during Wednesday night's game, Wakamatsu was planning on starting regular second baseman Jose Lopez at first and moving utility man Ronny Cedeno to second.
Cedeno then became a late scratch because of a right hamstring strain suffered while circling the bases during Jose Lopez's three-run home run in the fifth inning Wednesday night.
That left backup catcher Jamie Burke as the team's starting first baseman, Lopez moving back to second and Branyan available only as an emergency player.
In other words, if starting catcher Rob Johnson had to leave the game, Burke would take over at catcher and Griffey would have to be used at first.
As Wakamatsu explained, the Mariners were in this curious position because none of the injuries are more than day-to-day maladies, meaning that the team doesn't want to risk putting any of the players on the disabled list to get healthy replacements from the Minor Leagues if they'll have to wait up to two weeks for the big league players to return.
"We'll patchwork it tonight," Wakamatsu said. "Everyone goes through the same thing."
As for Burke at first base, Wakamatsu said he felt fine with the situation.
Burke has played the position in six games over the course of parts of seven years in the big leagues. In a total of nine innings at first base, Burke has made 11 putouts, contributed to two double plays and accounted for three assists while not making an error.
"He's played over there during his career," Wakamatsu said. "He's a body over there today. I feel like he can handle it fine."
As for Branyan, Cedeno and Sweeney, Wakamatsu said he's confident all three will be back on the field soon. Branyan took batting practice for the second straight day Thursday, Wakamatsu said Sweeney is "real close" and he called Cedeno's injury "real minor."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.