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March 19, 2009 at 8:09 PM

Griffey Night in Peoria

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The Mariners are clinging to a 10-8 lead as we head to the seventh inning stretch of a game that’s rapidly turning long and uninteresting. There are more scrubs in the game now than in a surgeon’s closet.
Just got back from the clubhouse where a group of us chatted with Ken Griffey Jr. for nearly 10 minutes after his four-inning stint was done. Griffey handled all five chances sent his way in left field and finsihed the night 0-for-3 with a double-play grounder, a deep fly to right and a strikeout.
He said his timing is a bit off at the plate and credited Cha Seung Baek for jamming him with a cutter that sawed his bat off at the handle. Griffey broke two bats in as many trips to the plate before the strikeout.
But it wasn’t his bat that was the main topic of conversation.
“Are you (media) all going to analyze my left fielding all year?” he asked at one point.
There was a smile on his face as he said it. He knows his D is a big topic of conversation and that many of the 7,189 fans in attendance tonight were watching his every outfield step. i asked him what the biggest adjustment was in shifting to left, having played all but three regular season games in center or right. The last time he played left field was back in 2002, but he insisted there was no real challenge to the move.
“Just get to it, throw it in,” he said.
When I asked if it was akin to riding a bike — something you learn once and don’t forget, he smiled and said: “It depends on what kind of bike. I mean, there are different styles of bikes.”
Griffey said there were no real difficult plays, except “the groundball that almost took my ankle off.”
That would be the first inning single by Eliezer Alfonzo, when Griffey had to range to his right and bobbled the ball. Griffey was also spared some difficult work by Adrian Beltre snaring a screaming liner from the game’s first batter, Scott Hairston. The two were seen chatting at length afterwards.
“I told him: ‘That’s a great job, you saved me from running down the line,” Griffey said. “That’s what you’re supposed to do Mr. Gold Glover.’ ”
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It’s a warm night here, and this guy just flew right into the pressbox, landed on my phone and finally settled up next to me on the wall. He’s pretty quiet. Just hoping it’s not poisonous. You never know in Arizona. Attach a hose to him and he could pass for a copperhead.
And he looks like he’s settling in for the night. Just in case you don’t believe me, check out the picture below and look to the right. Guess the fame hasn’t gone to his head yet. I’m thinking of buying him a popcorn kernel.
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8:09 p.m.: Must be spring training, because the M’s have already tied the game 5-5 and we’ve only just completed the third inning.
Let’s talk some Yuniesky Betancourt. Haven’t done that in, oh…five minutes. Betancourt did a lousy job in his first at-bat with a man on first and one out in the first inning. He worked the count to 2-0, but then appeared to lunge at a pitch and grounded into a 6-4 fielder’s choice that was nearly his typical 6-4-3 double-play routine. If you’re going to swing at 2-0, you’ve got to make sure the pitch is in your wheelhouse and make solid contact. He didn’t do the first thing and failed to execute on the second.
His next time up, though, in the third, he did a better job. There was a runner on first with none out and Betancourt actually squared up to bunt. Former M’s pitcher Cha Seung Baek, who — apparently unlike Royals pitcher Zack Grienke last night — knows the story on Betancourt and did not throw him a first-pitch fastball right down the middle. Betancourt wisely laid off, worked the count to 2-0, then took a dubious-looking strike call from umpire David Rackley.
Betancourt was ticked at the call. He then fouled off a bunt attempt to make it 2-2. But then, surprisingly, he laid off some more Baek junk to take the count full. Good things can happen in a hitter’s count and the payoff was a hitter’s pitch. This time, he did something with it, lining a ball into center to put runners at the corners.
An Adrian Beltre sacrifice fly and two singles, by Russell Branyan and Mike Sweeney, later and we’re all tied up. So, good on Betancourt. Looks like he got the memo.
The Mariners scored three in the second to cut the San Diego lead to 5-3. Mike Wilson hit a two-run rocket over the left field wall, his third homer in two games.
7:25 p.m.: Ryan Rowland-Smith had nothing in that first inning, getting smacked around for five runs on five hits. He was saved by Adrian Beltre’s glove snare of a scorching liner by Scott Hairston to start the inning. The other outs came on a towering sacrifice fly by Edgar Gonzalez and Eliezer Alfonzo getting thrown out at second by catcher Jeff Clement (!) as he tried to advance on a pitch in the dirt. No caught stealing on the play, but a nice throw, Alfonzo, however, is a catcher as well and no speed demon.
Ken Griffey Jr. looked shaky catching the Gonzalez sac fly, overrunning the ball a little, but recovering in time. He also bobbled a base hit to left by Alfonzo, though the ball was hit pretty hard and he had to race over to get it. The bobble didn’t cost the M’s anything.
So, it’s 5-0 for the Padres after a half inning.
7:20 p.m.: You’ve seen him as a DH. But tonight, Ken Griffey Jr. gets left field for the first time. Should be an interesting evening here against the San Diego Padres. Not much of a game against the Chicago Cubs earlier today, with the M’s going down to a 9-2 defeat.
First, before we talk any more about the M’s, anyone read this excellent story in our news pages? I mention it only because this space was used often around the Christmas period to criticize the city of Seattle’s response to the winter snowfall that paralyzed the city. Some of you wrote in to say there was nothing more the city could do — that it wasn’t used to handling that much snow. Well, that’s not good enough. As a disaster response, it was horrible. And now, we can see why. These kinds of stories are exactly why the demise of newspapers in this country is terrible news for all. It’s easy to post links to AP news briefs and the latest blog jokes. But when you need people to go and dig a little deeper, you just aren’t going to find that on your average two-minute soundbite.
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Tonight’s lineups:
San Diego Padres (4-11-3)
12 Scott Hairston LF
24 Brian Giles RF
5 Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
23 Adrian Gonzalez 1B
16 Cliff Floyd DH
2 Edgar Gonzalez 2B
33 Jody Gerut CF
77 Eliezer Alfonzo C
15 Luis Rodriguez SS
—————————–
53 Cha Seung Baek RHP
Seattle Mariners (9-10-1)
21 Franklin Gutierrez CF
7 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
24 Ken Griffey Jr. LF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
30 Russell Branyan 1B
5 Mike Sweeney DH
9 Jeff Clement C
61 Mike Wilson RF
6 Chris Woodward 2B
—————————–
18 Ryan Rowland-Smith LHP

Comments | Topics: Chris Woodward

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