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Originally published Monday, March 9, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Mariners' Griffey has a vintage moment

Call it the first vintage Junior moment of the spring. Not Ken Griffey's sharp single in the fourth inning off Arizona pitcher Billy Buckner in a game the Mariners won 11-7 Sunday at the Peoria Sports Complex. True, it was the inaugural base hit of his second incarnation as a Mariner, but it was what happened after he crossed first base that was pure Griffey. He turned around and saw pinch-runner Chris Shelton trotting out to first. So Griffey gave a crisp wave to manager Don Wakamatsu and simply kept running — down the first-base line, out of the stadium through the gate in the right-field corner, and into the clubhouse.

Seattle Times staff reporter

PEORIA, Ariz — Call it the first vintage Junior moment of the spring.

Not Ken Griffey's sharp single in the fourth inning off Arizona pitcher Billy Buckner in a game the Mariners won 11-7 Sunday at the Peoria Sports Complex.

True, it was the inaugural base hit of his second incarnation as a Mariner, but it was what happened after he crossed first base that was pure Griffey.

He turned around and saw pinch-runner Chris Shelton trotting out to first. So Griffey gave a crisp wave to manager Don Wakamatsu and simply kept running — down the first-base line, out of the stadium through the gate in the right-field corner, and into the clubhouse.

"I told Don I was going to hit a single, and I was just going to keep running down the right-field line if I had to beat it out," explained Griffey of his third at-bat in the game, already earmarked as his final one after two walks.

"I hit a single, I turned around, looked at [Wakamatsu], saw someone coming out, and gave him a little wave and ran on in. That's all."

It's not the first time Griffey has pulled that particular stunt, either.

"I did it once with Lou [Piniella]," he said. "With Lou, I never stopped because it was an infield hit. I kept running."

Once safety ensconced in the clubhouse — he sent someone back to retrieve his bats and glove — Griffey regaled Mike Sweeney, who had been working in the batting cage, of his antics.

Sweeney gave Griffey a high-five, but pitcher Miguel Batista handed out some good-natured razzing over the fact that Griffey had hit a single rather than a home run.

"I can't hit them [homers] now; I've got to spread them out," Griffey said.

On a more serious note, Griffey said he can feel himself getting sharper. He will now go on a schedule of playing exhibition games every other day, and simulated games or batting practice the other days.

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"I'm probably a week behind everybody," he said. "It just takes simulated games to get caught up.

"It's a matter of seeing pitches. The games are just a bonus. It's all the work you guys don't see. The games are just to see live pitching and react. All the work is done early or late. It's just a matter of me getting comfortable."

In his first at-bat Sunday, facing his old Reds teammate Seth Etherton, Griffey took a called strike, then watched four straight balls.

"I talked to Seth before the game, told him I wasn't swinging at the first one," Griffey said. "He threw a cutter down the middle. I said, 'Damn!' "

Griffey also walked his next at-bat before driving the single into right field.

He asserted that he would now be playing in back-to-back games, temporarily startling reporters. Then it dawned that the Mariners have an off-day today. Griffey is scheduled to play again Tuesday against the Cubs.

"So technically, it is back-to-back games," he said triumphantly.

Griffey joked that he's not quite ready to play on consecutive days.

"Do you go out there and have a quarter horse run 3 miles?" he said. "No, you work him up. You've got to build into it."

What about Thoroughbreds?

"I used to be that," said the 39-year-old Griffey with a wide smile. "Now I'm a Clydesdale. A big horse."

Notes

• Mariners starter Ryan Rowland-Smith gave up five hits and two runs in three innings, but Wakamatsu said he progressed, and Rowland-Smith agreed. "It was a lot better than the last couple of outings," he said. "I felt like I was on top of the ball, making lot of quality pitches."

Russ Branyan had a big day, with a homer and a two-run double off the top of the 30-foot-high "Blue Monster" in center field.

"It's interesting — those guys were working on that today in BP, seeing who can go over the Monster. Then he almost did it in the game," Wakamatsu said.

So far this spring, one person has hit it over the high wall in batting practice — Griffey.

Wladimir Balentien launched a three-run homer in the first inning, his second of the -spring.

Sean White came in to work out of a jam in the seventh and had two hitless, scoreless innings.

• The Mariners broke a 7-7 tie with four runs in the seventh, a rally fueled by three straight bunts, two of them bringing in runs (one via a throwing error).

Sunday's box score

Arizona Seattle
AB R H BI AB R H BI
Roberts 2b 4 2 2 0 Gutierrez cf 4 2 2 0
Upton rf 3 1 2 2 T.Gillies cf 0 0 0 0
P.Ciriaco ss 1 0 0 0 Betancrt ss 4 0 1 0
Jackson lf 2 0 0 0 Woodwrd ss 1 0 0 0
Watson lf 2 0 0 0 Griffey Jr. dh 1 2 1 0
Reynolds 3b 3 0 2 2 Shelton dh 2 0 2 2
R.Ryal 3b 1 1 0 0 Balentien lf 4 2 1 3
Clark 1b 3 1 2 1 Redman lf 1 0 0 0
E.Frey rf 2 0 1 0 Branyan 1b 4 1 2 3
Snyder dh 3 0 0 0 LaHair 1b 1 0 0 0
J.Hester dh 1 0 1 1 Tuiasospo 3b 4 0 1 0
Montero c 2 1 0 0 Navarro 3b 1 1 0 0
Whitesell 1b 2 0 0 0 Morse rf 4 0 2 0
Roberson cf 4 1 1 1 M.Wilson rf 1 1 0 0
J.Wilson ss 2 0 0 0 Burke c 3 1 1 0
J.Skelton c 0 0 0 0 Phillips c 0 0 0 0
Cedeno 2b 3 0 1 1
R.Corona 2b 0 1 0 0
Totals 35 7 11 7 Totals 38 11 14 9
Arizona 011 022 100 7
Seattle 430 000 40x 11
E — Etherton (1), J.Wilson (1), Korecky (1), Roberts (1). DP — Seattle 2. LOB — Arizona 10, Seattle 8. 2B — Roberts (4), Clark (2), Roberson (2), Branyan (1). HR — Balentien (2), Branyan (1). SB — Woodward (2), Balentien (1). S — T.Gillies, Burke, Cedeno.
Diamondbacks IP H R ER BB SO
Etherton 1 2/3 6 7 4 2 1
B.Brown 1/3 0 0 0 0 1
Qualls 1 2 0 0 0 0
Buckner 2 1 0 0 0 1
D.Schlereth 1 2 0 0 0 1
Korecky L, 0-1 1 3 4 4 0 1
Rosales 1 0 0 0 0 1
Mariners IP H R ER BB SO
Rowland-Smith 3 5 2 2 1 0
Walker 1 0 0 0 0 0
Vargas 1 3 2 2 2 1
L.Pena 1/3 1 2 2 3 1
M.Vega BS,1-1 2/3 2 1 1 1 0
White W, 1-0 2 0 0 0 1 2
Munoz 1 0 0 0 1 2
A — 11,062.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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