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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

November 11, 2009 at 1:38 PM

Jack Zduriencik on Junior’s return

Here are some key quotes from Jack Zduriencik’s conference call with reporters:

“I’m looking forward to Ken’s contributions for the 2010 season. All of us realize what Ken meant to the ballclub last year, his contributions on and off the field, in the clubhouse, his leadership. It was pretty special. He’s excited about being back.

On the playing time issue: “I think that’s to be determined. There’s a lot of pieces here we’re trying to put together, with the free agent situation, the injury situation. In his particular case, we talked to about lot of different scenarios. He’s open to anything. His driving force, he wanted to be part of this organization as we moved forward. He’s exctied about being back. A lot will be determined in spring training. He’s coming off surgery, but we think he’s fine.”

More on that: “I think right now we’ll leave all of our options open. A year ago, we were trying to figure out what our club would look like. As the winter unfolded, we still had a lot of concerns about how all the pieces fit. I don’t’ think it’s a lot different than a year ago. One difference is Kenny is on board. He doesn’t have to wait until the beginning of spring training to decide where to play.’

“We’ll have to see how this thing unfolds. The positive part is he wants to be part of the program. He’s excited about being back, and we’re excited about having him back.”

Could you have imagined last year he’d be here for two years?: “There weren’t any pre-conceived expectations about what Ken’s long-term desire was. I knew he wanted to play. We were concerned about just that year. We’ll let the future take care of itself.”

On his impact on the whole organization: “I think in the back of my mind I had a little inkling he would come in here and relish the opportunity to be where he started his careeer, to be part of an organization that drafted him, to be part of their turnaround. I thought he would be a good influence. He went beyond that. He went beyond anything I would have expected. He was never asked to do that. It was never part of the discussion. But he’s a smart player. He analyzed where we were headed, bought into it, and realized his role could be enormously influential.

“What can you tell Ken Griffey Jr.? He’s been there, done that. He’s a great guy, a fun guy. He loves life, loves baseball, loves the Mariners, loves the community. It’s a real bonus to have him back.”

On why it happened so quickly: “It’s part of the puzzle. I talked to Melissa (Griffey’s wife) this morning, and she’s really excited about the opportunity. She can plan for the winter and offseason and be ready for next year. Peace of mind is something he has. At the end of the year, he said, ‘It’s your decision. If you want me back, I want to come back.’ That was a driving force — we wanted him back. It’s not a guessing game. He knows where he’s going to be. That’s a real positive about having it done so soon.”

“I also would like tosay the support from (CEO) Howard Lincoln was terrific, and Chuck’s (team president Chuck Armstrong) relationship with Ken and Brian Goldberg (Griffey’s agnet) is a tremendous positive. There weren’t a lot of guessing games. It was strictly, ‘Let’s get down to business.’ Both gentlemen were very influential.”

On what he expects to get from Griffey: “A lot of it depends on Ken: How does he come off knee surgery? We think it’s not a major surgery. Now he has the opportunity to have the next several months to get in shape. He told me he would come back in great shape. I believe that. His presence — there’s going to be a lot of players on this club excited right now that they’re going to be teammates of Ken Griffey Jr. next year. His influence goes way beyond what you see in the box score.”

On what he would tell fans who view Griffey’s return as a sign the Mariners are not serious about winning: “I have tremendous respect for the fans; I listen to what they say. They trusted us a year ago when we were able to bring players in. I’d ask them to trust us again.

“A lot of pieces have to fall into place this winter. We have to do things to help the club get better. It’s still so early in the process. I think when you look at a club that had 24 more wins that the year before, Ken was a big part of that team. I don’t know how anyone can second-guess that it wasn’t a very strong move for us.”

On the possible economic impact of Griffey’s return: “This is a baseball-related decision, and that’s what really drove this.”

On whether this will be Griffey’s final year: “I think in any scenario when you sign a one-year contract, you realize that player will be there for that year, and you let the pieces fall where they may as you go forward. Last year, I had no pre-conceived notions it would be just one yaer. At the end of the year, so many of those questions will be answered by how he feels physically, how he performs. ”

On whether he has taken, or will take, a physical exam: “We’ve got all his medical stuff. Our doctors talked to Dr. (Tim) Kremchek (who performed his recent arthroscopic left knee surgery). At this moment, we feel really good about everything. We didn’t feel like there was anything to be overly concerned about. When Ken comes out, he’ll get a physical like all our players. But we’re feeling real good about the information we received from Dr. Kremchek.”

On whether Griffey would have any concerns about a reduced role: “He was very humble. We sat down with him at the close of the season, and talked about the season, his family, his desires for the organization. And what he said was, ‘I want to be a part of this. If you would like to have me back, I’d like to be a part of it. But I’d like it to be a decision made by you guys, a baseball decision. When we talked about roles, Ken said, ‘I’m part of a 25-man club. Let the pieces fall where they may. I’m not trying to dictate anything.’ What he made clear was he wanted to be part of an organzation, and part of a team, and he would let the manager be the manager, the general manager be the general manager, and the player be the player.”

And more on that: “Ken’s going to be part of a 25-man club. Although he’s had a spectacular career, his driving force is to be part of the club. He wants to contribute any way he can. His role will be dictated by his performance on the field and different situations through the course of the season. He’s like a lot of players. Players want toplay and they want to perform. I don’t get any indication except Ken wants to be part of this as we move forward. He’ll go out and do the best he can, and let the manager make the call.”

On Don Wakamatsu: “Don’s well aware of everythign. We’ve talked over the last several weeks about many issues, and certainly Ken was one of them.”

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