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February 18, 2009 at 8:52 PM

Griffey “one of the greatest”

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NOTE: 9:30 p.m.: We’ll have a special edition of Geoff Baker Live! coming up at 10 p.m. So, gather your questions and I will try to have some more answers for you.
That’s what Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said earlier tonight (see picture above, with his wife Debbie, speaking to a handful of us in the media center) about Ken Griffey Jr., who is returning to Seattle after a decade-long absence.
“He certainly is, arguably, one of the greatest athletes that’s ever played in the Seattle area,” Zduriencik said. “His leadership, his experience and him coming back is a tremndous, tremendous thing for this organization.”
Griffey won’t join the team until Friday or Saturday at the earliest. He’s now wrapping things up back in Orlando. You have probably all heard the story tonight, from former teammate Harold Reynolds at the new MLB Network, that Willie Mays called Griffey late in the day and may have tilted his decision in favor of Seattle.
Mariner president Chuck Armstrong, reached tonight by Larry Stone of the Times, also played a key role in the stunning reversal by Griffey. Armstrong was the first person in the organization that Griffey called tonight to reveal the news.
I spoke to pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith a little while ago. He hadn’t heard the news until coming in from dinner, a couple of hours after the announcement.
“I thought it was a pretty good and pretty cool thing,” he said. “I ran into Chuck Armstrong earlier in the day and tried to see if he knew anything but he told me he still hadn’t heard.”
Rowland Smith said the clubhouse had been buzzing with news of Griffey’s pending arrival over the weekend. But the past couple of days, he said, talk had stopped as players began to feel Griffey would head to Atlanta.
“I’m sure tomorrow, it will be a main topic of conversation,” he said.
You can bank on that.
Zduriencik told me he can’t imagine Griffey wearing any number other than 24. He expects him to see some
“We found out the issues and the surgeries, the things like that,” he said, adding that he took a physical in Peoria on Sunday and passed with flying colors. “As we did the work on our end, we felt more comfortable.”
I asked Zdureincik whether Griffey will play the field all that much.
“That will be a decision that will be made here in spring training,” he said. “No question. I think the advantage is, coming into the American League is that on certain days, he can DH. And his body will dictate that. So, I’m anxious to see him out here. His knee is rehabbed, if you will. Rehabilitated if you will. And again, that will be dictated by his physical status, for sure.”
No press conference until he arrives here in coming days. We’ll get about 24 hours notice.



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