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Archive for Sunday, July 29, 2001

Griffey frustrated by Reds’ dismal year

Outfielder’s season could end early because of hamstring injury

July 29, 2001

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— Ken Griffey Jr. is frustrated by his torn left hamstring. He's unhappy that the Cincinnati Reds are trading players to cut payroll.

He's not sure whether the injury will allow him to finish the season, and he's not entirely sure the leg will ever fully recover from two tears in the same hamstring.

Griffey's second season with his hometown team started badly and isn't getting any better.

"This year has been messed up for me from Day 1," Griffey said Saturday, before a game against the Florida Marlins.

Some of his frustration spilled out Friday evening, when he was out of the lineup to rest his hamstring. He suggested to a Cincinnati Enquirer columnist that he was considering retirement and would go home if the Reds made any more trades.

He backpedaled on Saturday, saying the remarks were misinterpreted or made in jest. He also reiterated what he and several other players have said publicly for the last few weeks they're disappointed that the floundering Reds have traded three veterans to save money and stock up on prospects.

"I want to win and I don't want to see a bunch of good players on this team go somewhere else and win," he said. "If I didn't care, I wouldn't have deferred as much as I did and offer to defer more if they needed it."

When Griffey returned to his hometown in February 2000, he agreed to defer most of his nine-year, $116.5 million contract to help the small-market club get through lean budget years leading up to a new ballpark in 2003.

Griffey also lobbied for the club to keep team captain Barry Larkin last year, before the Reds gave him a three-year, $27 million extension. Those two contracts consume roughly one third of the payroll and have forced the club to get rid of veterans to save money.

Griffey is learning what it's like to struggle on a small-market team one squeezed financially by his salary.

"When you get over 30, you never know how long your career's going to be," he said. "Even though I have eight years (left) on the deal, if they start rebuilding, that means I'm probably going to be one of the guys to go."

Griffey's remarks about the team's direction prompted a meeting with general manager Jim Bowden on Saturday. Griffey promised Bowden he wouldn't talk about it, and the general manager declined comment.

Chief operating officer John Allen also had no comment about the outfielder's complaints.

Griffey also backed off his suggestion a day earlier that he might retire because of the hamstring, which he tore during the last week of spring training.

He started the season as a pinch hitter and went 0-for-12 before aggravating the injury and going on the disabled list for six weeks. Since returning on June 15, Griffey has hit .291 in 37 games with eight homers and 21 RBIs.

On some days, he can run pretty well. On other days, the hamstring limits him. Instead of taking more time to rest, he wants to play as long as the leg allows.

"Some days are better than others," he said. "Some days I think, 'What the hell am I doing out here?' The whole thing is about my leg and how it feels.

"Ten percent of me does say, 'Go home.' That's just the fact with not being able to do everything I want to do on the field."

He's not sure whether the hamstring will allow him to finish the season. He'll see a specialist later in the year to discuss how to treat it in the offseason.

Although doctors think he can make a full recovery with hard work in the offseason, there's a chance the hamstring will continue to give him problems. He said he will consider retiring if it becomes a chronic problem.

"I'm not going to be sitting around for six or seven years with a hamstring injury just to collect a check," he said. "That's not what I'm about."

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