PEORIA, Ariz. – Whatever star power is, Ken Griffey Jr. has it.
Just by walking into the Seattle Mariners spring training clubhouse Friday, Griffey changed the morning for the more than 40 players already on hand.
Rookies stared, wide-eyed – and Griffey approached them all, introducing himself with a handshake and a “Hi, I’m Ken Griffey Jr.,” as if the words were necessary. Veterans got man-hugs, coaches came out of their office.
General manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Don Wakamatsu got their hugs, and laughter followed Griffey every step of his visit.
“I knew he was coming in, and I knew when he got here – it got real loud,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s just good to see him again.”
Junior arrived clad in “casual sportswear,” as he described it – a sweatsuit and a hat he called ‘a bucket.’ He fielded questions, poked and played with new teammates and listened to players who are back from the 2009 team.
“I spent a lot of time rehabbing after knee surgery, where they took out a bone spur that was biting at me,” he said. “I did the same workout as (son) Trey – and he burned out my home treadmill. He killed it, made it start smoking.”
Chone Figgins, a 5-foot-8 free agent signed away from the Los Angeles Angels, walked into Griffey’s field of vision.
“You looked a lot taller in red,” Junior hollered. “I thought you were at least 6-foot-2 – what happened to you?”
So, how is Griffey’s surgically repaired knee?
“Well, I ain’t limping, and last spring I was,” Griffey said. “That’s a good start.”
Junior said he had been swinging the bat at home and was more comfortable now than he was much of last season, when that bone spur began bothering him. He told stories about the football exploits of his sons, Trey and Teven, and the basketball acumen of daughter Taryn.
And wife Melissa?
“We had a difference of opinion over what kind of car Trey should get,” Griffey said. “Melissa won. She always wins.”
New Mariners Cliff Lee and Brandon League shook Junior’s hand, and Griffey showed he hasn’t lost his memory. Lee, with Cleveland at the time, put a pitch behind Junior’s head during a 2004 interleague game.
“I’m going to stick around and throw bunting practice to the pitchers,” Griffey said, smiling. “And I’m going to put one right behind that guy’s head.”
He pointed at Lee, who laughed.
“Kenny lights up a room or a ballpark,” Zduriencik said. “He looks in good shape, and it’s good to see him a few days early, chomping at the bit.”
Someone asked Wakamatsu if Griffey would have to run the dreaded 300-yard shuttle once the position players report next week.
“We’ll let Junior run the 50-yard shuttle,” Wakamatsu said, winking.
Right-hander Jess Colomé arrived Friday, delayed by visa problems. The only pitcher still not in camp is right-hander Yusmeiro Petit. … Erik Bedard threw for 12 minutes Friday, continuing a program of throwing on back-to-back days, then taking a day off. … Among the pitchers throwing bullpen sessions on Day 2 of camp, two impressed Wakamatsu a bit more than the others – left-hander Ryan Feierabend and righty Steven Shell. Feierabend is coming off major elbow surgery; Shell missed about half the season in ’09 after being hit in the face by a line drive back to the mound. “Ryan looked very good, and I liked the ease with which the ball jumped out of Shell’s hand. You pull for guys like that,” Wakamatsu said. … Rob Johnson caught his first bullpen session and took full batting practice, building off a pair of hip surgeries toward being ready to play in games next month. … Michael Saunders is working out with teammates such as Franklin Gutierrez, Greg Halman, Ryan Langerhans, Erik Byrnes, Dustin Ackley, Figgins and Ryan Garko, all of whom are here early. They can’t work with coaches, so they work without them. “I ran, I threw, I hit, and I shagged in the outfield,” Saunders said. “Good day at the park.” … Lee could begin taking part in pitchers’ fielding drills today or Sunday, testing his surgically repaired foot. On Friday, after playing catch, he signed autographs for anyone who wanted them – even taking requests like, “Could you sign it ‘To Robert?’ ”