He knows he's not the Kid he once was, the backward-hat-wearing
free spirit who moved so easily around the field. These days the
periodic sting in his right shoulder and in his right ankle, both
surgically repaired last summer, remind Ken Griffey Jr. that, at
34, he is, in his words, "no spring chicken." But Griffey also
knows that he is finally getting over the injuries that limited
him to a career-low 53 games in 2003. "The aches are less and
less as days go by," he says.
Griffey's stats through Sunday were unspectacular (he was hitting
.248 with eight homers), but pitchers beware: The 11-time
All-Star centerfielder is heating up. Griffey's two-run homer
last Saturday night in the Reds' 4-0 win over Los Angeles was his
fifth in nine games and brought him to within 11 of 500. "With
the time he's missed, it's still going to take him time to get
all the way back," says Cincinnati G.M. Dan O'Brien. "The player
you see now and the one you'll see in August will be very
That Griffey has been a fixture in the Reds' lineup this year is
significant. Not since 2000, his first season in Cincinnati, had
Griffey gone through April without a trip to the disabled list.
His continued good health could set the stage for an intriguing
summer for the only active position player voted to baseball's
It's no secret that the Reds would like to rid themselves of
Griffey's contract; he has five years remaining on the nine-year,
$116.5 million deal he signed in February 2000. Before the 2003
season, then Cincinnati G.M. Jim Bowden had a trade in place that
would have sent Griffey to San Diego for third baseman Phil
Nevin, but Nevin used his no-trade clause to block the deal.
(Griffey doesn't have such a clause in his contract.) O'Brien
says Griffey's name hasn't come up in discussions with other
teams this year but acknowledges that Griffey could be moved,
especially if the Reds (20-17 at week's end) fall out of
contention. "We lost 93 games last year," says O'Brien. "As the
season progresses, we do have to be open-minded on ways to
improve this team."
If Griffey is traded, it would end a marriage that has been a
failure for both the Cincinnati native and the Reds, who were
just 318-367 since acquiring him from Seattle in February 2000.
"Most people [in Cincinnati] wish all the best for me," says
Griffey, who has spent more days on the DL (200) in the past two
seasons than on the Reds' active roster (170). "But the ones who
come to the ballpark and yell at me, they don't get that I'm more
frustrated than anyone else. It's been tough with all these
injuries. [But] I've never done anything to disrespect anyone--my
family, the organization, anyone. My name has never been
associated with anything negative off the field."
Given Griffey's recent history and his hefty contract, any team
that tries to acquire him would be taking a considerable risk.
"You need to see him play half a year healthy at least to know
that he's O.K.," says an executive from the Mariners, which
during spring training was rumored to be interested in bringing
Griffey back to Seattle. "Even if the Reds picked up half of
[Griffey's contract], it's still a bunch of money. It's a
five-year commitment, and he'd be 39 years old by the end."
For now, Griffey isn't concerned with the trade rumors or
anything more than just staying healthy. The run of injuries
hasn't dampened his drive, and he says he doesn't linger on the
what-ifs of his lost seasons. He knows he has a lot of baseball
ahead of him. "The past doesn't do me any good now," Griffey
says. "The most important thing for me is to make the best of
today. To me, that's the only thing that counts."
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS Though he was hitting .248, Griffey had eight home runs and was just 11 short of 500.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees
Since April 18, when he was hitting .156, A-Rod has returned to
form: .350 with eight homers, 17 RBIs and 19 runs scored.
Ben Sheets, RHP, Brewers
In a dominating performance on Sunday, the 25-year-old Sheets
struck out 18 and and scattered three hits in a complete-game 4-1
win over the Braves.
Wilson Alvarez, LHP, Dodgers
Moved into the rotation from the bullpen to spark the staff, the
34-year-old Alvarez was unhittable in his first two starts (0
ER, 13 Ks in 1421/43 innings).
Aubrey Huff, DH/3B, Devil Rays
After hitting .311 with 34 homers in 2003, he was batting .211
with just eight extra-base hits this season.
Bobby Crosby, SS, A's
Miguel Tejada's successor has been dreadful, hitting .221 and
leading the AL in strikeout rate (every 3.3 at bats).
Robb Nen, RHP, Giants
Nen, who hasn't pitched since having shoulder surgery in 2002,
announced that he was shutting himself down from baseball
activity for a month, leading to speculation that he might soon