PEORIA, Ariz. – Don Wakamatsu celebrated his 46th birthday Sunday, and before the Seattle Mariners ended their workout, veteran player Mike Sweeney asked everyone to gather around their manager near the pitcher’s mound.
“For your birthday, Skip, we decided to get you something,” Sweeney announced.
Then Sweeney pushed out Wakamatu’s gift – Ken Griffey Jr., who gave the manager a hug.
“I was afraid it was going to be a pie in the face,” Wakamatsu said.
Griffey seemed like everybody’s gift Sunday, when he took part in his first spring training workout as a Mariner since 1999. Reporters and photographers followed him like the Japanese media have followed Ichiro Suzuki. The eyes of the organization watched Griffey, especially during batting practice, as did a larger-than-usual turnout of fans.
What they saw was Junior being Junior, cutting up with teammates and reporters and yanking several balls over the right-field fence.
But he also looked like the new guy, occasionally finding himself in the wrong place, including one time when he wound up with a group of pitchers doing pickoff drills.
“I feel like a high school kid on a recruiting trip,” he told a few reporters after being told where he should go next.
Afterward, Griffey downplayed the importance of his first day back.
“It was just like any other day,” he said.
If nothing else, it was a start.
It was a relative low-impact workout for Griffey, who had surgery on his left knee less than five months ago. He will take it easy until his legs are in shape.
Wakamatsu won’t say how long that will take, only that Griffey won’t play in intrasquad games today and Tuesday, and he’s questionable for the first few exhibitions. When he does start playing games, he’ll probably be the DH.
Wakamatsu threw batting practice to Griffey and three veterans – Sweeney, Russell Branyan and Adrian Beltre.
“There were a couple of low balls that he handled well,” Wakamatsu said of Griffey. “That’s kind of a gauge, how you use your legs to handle the low ball.”
After his group finished batting practice, Griffey trotted to left field and began to get acquainted with his new position.
“I saw some smiles on his face,” Wakamatsu said, “and him being Junior.”
Braves get Anderson
Free-agent outfielder Garret Anderson has reached a preliminary agreement with the Atlanta Braves on a one-year deal.
Anderson is expected to undergo a physical today or Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been finalized.
Anderson hit .293 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs in 145 games with the Los Angeles Angels last year.
Nats GM investigated
Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden is part of a federal investigation into the skimming of signing bonuses given to prospects from Latin America, according to an SI.com report posted Sunday night.
The Web site reported, citing an unidentified baseball executive familiar with the investigation, the FBI is looking at Bowden’s actions as far back as 1994, when he was GM of the Cincinnati Reds.
Bowden met last year with FBI investigators looking into an alleged scam involving skimming signing bonuses for prospects from the Dominican Republic.
Ten Arizona Diamondbacks players and one coach missed spring training drills Sunday with unspecified stomach illnesses.
“I’m not an authority on gastrointestinal conditions,” manager Bob Melvin said, but after talking with the team physician he expects all to return to practice today.