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News » Seattle Mariners Inside Pitch 2009-02-24

Seattle Mariners Inside Pitch 2009-02-24

Seattle Mariners Inside Pitch 2009-02-24
There was much made of the phone call Willie Mays made to Ken Griffey Jr. just before Griffey decided Feb. 18 to play for Seattle and not Atlanta.

It was not, however, the only key moment of the Mariners' pursuit of Griffey.

On Feb. 15, Griffey and his wife, Melissa, flew from Pebble Beach to Phoenix, then drove to nearby Peoria, Ariz., to meet with general manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Don Wakamatsu of the Mariners.

Neither side knew the other particularly well, except by reputation. For the Griffeys, it was a chance to size up Zduriencik and Wakamatsu as employers.

"Ken and Melissa came in and talked to Jack and me," Wakamatsu said. "They wanted to know us."

While the learning process took place, two of the Mariners' top doctors, Dr. Edward Khalfayan and Dr. Mitch Storey, remained nearby to administer a physical exam.

"At that point, there was no agreement to have a physical until he got comfortable with them," Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said Feb. 19. "But Khalfayan and Storey hung around until Ken was ready."

The two sides hit it off well enough that Griffey submitted to a three-hour physical, including X-rays and an MRI exam.

If the meeting with Zduriencik and Wakamatsu had gone badly, not even Mays' phone call urging Griffey to go back to his Seattle roots to finish his career likely would have stopped Griffey from playing for Atlanta instead.

WHERE, WHEN: Peoria Stadium, Peoria, Ariz., First exhibition game is Feb. 25 in Peoria against San Diego (Padres are the home team).

TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: INF/OF Mike Morse was the top surprise last spring training, leading the team in hitting, but missed most of the season because of a separated shoulder. He's got a chance to land a job in left, at first or as the designated hitter.

TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: 1B/DH Mike Sweeney. The Mariners badly want him to succeed, but he's had three knee surgeries in the last two years, and there is no telling if his legs are up to the challenge.

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Manager Don Wakamatsu (0-0) is a rookie at this job after having coached in Texas and Oakland in recent seasons. His coaching staff also is new to Seattle, and pitching coach Rick Adair and hitting coach Alan Cockrell have their work cut out for them on a team that seriously under-performed last season. General manager Jack Zduriencik also is a first-timer.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: February 24, 2009

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