Ken Griffey Jr. played four innings in left field Thursday night, then tried to keep a poker face around reporters who wanted to know how strange it must have felt.
“Everything feels strange,” he said. “Just strange.”
Then he smiled and said, “I have played there before.”
He had – all of four times among the 2,521 games he’s played in his major league career, starting in left field only once. The last time he played there for the Mariners was the next-to-last game of the 1998 season when he played center field, left, right and first base.
“So it was like riding a bike?” he was asked.
“Depends on what kind of bike,” Griffey answered.
In cycling vernacular, he kept it on two wheels in the Mariners’ 10-8 split-squad victory over the San Diego Padres at Peoria, Ariz.
He caught two fly balls, including one when he had to run near the left-field corner in the first inning, and fielded two base hits into left, including a screamer by Eliezer Alfonzo that he bobbled.
At the plate, Griffey was spectacular only in the bats he shattered against Cha Seung Baek, the former Mariner who started for the Padres.
He broke his bat on a bouncer back to the mound that became an inning-ending double play in the first inning, then snapped another in his second at-bat when he hit a fly to right field in the third. The barrel wound up in shallow right field. He also struck out in the fourth, swinging through a breaking ball.
Gillies gets a shot
The Mariners’ afternoon game, a 9-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs that was a matchup of mainly bench hopefuls and minor leaguers, featured minor league outfielder Tyson Gillies. He went 2 for 4 with a triple and also displayed his strong arm in center field.
“We’re talking about a kid who was in rookie ball last year,” Wakamatsu said. “He offers an awful lot.”
The Mariners optioned outfielder Greg Halman to Double-A West Tennessee. Halman played only four games in spring training, having spent most of his time with the Netherlands team in the World Baseball Classic. … Brandon Morrow is scheduled to throw 30 pitches in a simulated game today. Reliever Tyler Johnson also is expected to throw. … Matt Tuiasosopo leads the Mariners with 20 hits and a .435 average and is on pace to threaten Edgar Martinez’s spring training franchise record of 33 hits in 1997.
World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic is heading to Hollywood, and what could be more marquee than Daisuke Matsuzaka against Jake Peavy at Dodger Stadium?
That’s the expected pitching matchup for the second semifinal Sunday night in Los Angeles, when defending WBC champion Japan will face hobbled Team USA.
Japan earned that matchup – and an extra day of rest – by rallying for three runs in the eighth inning Thursday night to beat South Korea 6-2 in San Diego and win Pool 1.
•Evan Longoria has replaced Chipper Jones on the United States roster for the semifinal round.