Griffey a success in return to action
Slugger snags two hits in Grapefruit League debut
SARASOTA, Fla. -- As another mundane day of late Spring Training baseball was set to begin at Reds camp Saturday morning, manager Jerry Narron was asked if he had his starting lineup written out.In matter-of-fact response, Narron read off the names. "Freel, Dunn, Phillips, Griffey, Encarnacion, Votto, Gonzalez...," Narron said. Hold it, Griffey? This was no mundane day after all. After Griffey missed all 22 of the Reds' previous exhibition games, the 37-year-old made his spring debut and played his new position -- right field -- against the Phillies. Persistent soreness in his left hand that he broke in December while wrestling with his children has set Griffey back for most of camp. As the days turned into weeks without him playing, Narron started putting the ball in Griffey's court when it came to his playing status each game and said it would be up to the player. Saturday was no different. This time, however, the answer was. "I asked him if he was ready," Narron said. "He said he was ready." On Monday, Narron announced that when Griffey returned, that he would be shifted from his customary center field position to right field with Ryan Freel going to center field. The decision had actually been made behind the scenes a month ago. "It didn't really matter how I felt about it," Griffey said on Thursday. "That's really not important. I'm there and I have to make the best of it. It's really not that big of a deal." If Griffey hadn't come back sometime over the next couple of days, he probably would have begun the regular season on the disabled list. Griffey was 2-for-4 in the game, won 7-0 by Cincinnati. On the second pitch of his first at-bat, he sliced a soft single into center field off starting pitcher Adam Eaton. In the bottom of the second, Griffey hit a routine flyout to right field. In the fifth, he grounded into a double play at second base. And in the seventh, he lined a double near the right-field line and cruised into second base standing up and was lifted for a pinch-runner.
"To be able to get four at-bats was big, and he ran the bases a little bit," Narron said. "We'll see how he is and go from there."Griffey declined to speak with reporters after he left the game. Before Reds starter Bronson Arroyo's first pitch of the game, Griffey was having a little fun and stationed himself really close to the foul line. "He says, 'I'm going to be on the line, dude. Make sure you throw a ball and then wave me over,'" Arroyo said. "I was like, 'Alright.' So I throw the ball five, six inches off the plate and the umpire calls 'Strike!' Griff probably thinks I threw it right down the middle." Beyond that, there were limited chances for Griffey to make plays while playing right field. He fielded a second-inning single by Abraham Nunez and a lazy fly ball by Shane Victorino in the Phillies third. Now, with just one week remaining before camp breaks, Griffey has little time to catch up and adjust to playing his new position before the Reds open against the Cubs on April 2. He also has to stay healthy. "I think he will be. We're all hoping he is," Narron said. "Having simulated games -- that helped him too. It's not like he was going up there without hitting all spring. He's had some at-bats." Narron believed Griffey wouldn't have much trouble adjusting to right field. "I've never been an outfielder, so I don't know to be honest with you. If you can play, you can play," Narron said. The plan is to give Griffey ample playing time before camp ends, but he is not on Sunday's travel roster to play the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla. "I'm sure he won't play in all the games," Narron said. "I hope for him to play as many as he possibly can."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.