Ken Griffey Jr. arrived in Mariners camp today, watching from behind a fence near the third-base dugout as his former team played an intrasquad game. Griffey, as always, was a magnet for former teammates, the media, team personnel and well-wishers of all sorts.
This is Junior’s second year in his role as a Mariner special advisor, and he says we’ll see more of him this year than last. He plans to once again take trips to all the minor-league affiliates as well as picking up the major-league team several times through the season.
“I’m mainly coming back here now to get to know the guys,” he said.
Griffey won’t don a uniform in camp, but he expects to offer advise and counsel to players.
“We’ll have a couple of talks,” he said, saying it was good to see “Ichi, Figgy, Smoaky, the Condor” — references to Ichiro, Chone Figgins, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders. Don’t read that as a slight on the others, however — he had a smile (or wisecrack) and good word for just about everyone on the team.
Of the 2012 Mariners, Griffey said, “I think we’re going surprise some people. We have some good kids. The first question I asked is, how’d they come in? Everyone was real surprised how good shape guys came in.”
I asked Griffey if he tried to recruit free agent Prince Fielder, who lives nearby in Orlando, to the Mariners. His answer was enlightening and shed some light on the Mariners’ pursuit of Fielder.
“That’s what everyone thinks because he lives right by me,” Griffey said. “That’s what everyone thinks. Nah. Prince is his own man. You can’t jeopardize relationships. If he had asked me about it, I would have talked about it. My main thing with him was to maintain the same relationaship we always had. I don’t get into anybody’s business financially.
“Jack (Zduriencik) said, ‘Hey, we’re pursuing him.’ I said, ‘OK.’ He said, “If he talks to you, you’ll talk to him?’ I said, ‘Yeah, but I’m not going to seek him out. That’s not fair to either one of us.’ ”
And, Griffey said, Prince never asked. Griffey said he was as surprised as everyone else when Fielder signed with Detroit.
“Nothing in this game surprises you any more, but I didn’t think it would be Detroit. I thought it would be someplace else.”