Sunday, March 18, 2001

Reds Notebook

Griffey wins consolation prize from Martinez

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MYERS, Fla. — It won't go down in the record books as one of Ken Griffey Jr.'s greatest baseball achievements, but his pair of singles against Boston ace Pedro Martinez were still noteworthy.

        Griffey has never gotten a regular-season hit against Martinez. The Reds center fielder was 0-for-12 with five strikeouts while facing Martinez as a member of the Seattle Mariners.

        “I might as well get it out of the way,” Griffey jokingly said before the game.

        As it turned out, Griffey had nothing to fear. He blooped an 0-1 pitch into shallow left-center field in his first at-bat and doffed his batting helmet to Martinez after reaching first base. The ball also was retrieved for Griffey to keep for posterity.

        Griffey looked much sharper in his next at-bat, stroking the first pitch sharply into right field with two outs in the third inning.

        “This way, I'll be ready for him (Martinez) at the All-Star Game,” Griffey said.

        While Griffey was humorous, Martinez was reverent.

        “I guess he has no idea how much respect I have for him,” said the three-time Cy Young Award winner. “He's such a good hit ter that I have to be perfect to get him out.”

        Referring to Griffey's in-game memento and an autographed ball that he received from the slugger three years ago, Martinez said: “I doubt that he'll keep that ball. But I'm going to keep his.”

        The Reds managed just three other singles off Martinez, who walked none and struck out seven in five innings as the Red Sox won 11-1. He went to the hospital for precautionary X-rays on his left hand, which was struck by a Wilton Guerrero line drive in the fifth inning. The injury was not considered serious.

        “I guess it's good to face him and appreciate that you're in the National League,” Reds manager Bob Boone said.

        TIGHT RACE: Boone said the competition for the remaining spot in the starting rotation will come down to the final days of spring training.

        “That's mainly because you don't have to make a decision. You can put it off,” Boone said.

        One of the starting candidates, rookie knuckleballer Jared Fernandez, was rocked for three runs and four hits in 1 1/3 innings. But this was mainly an exercise to determine how quickly and effectively Fernandez could work in relief after a starting assignment, since he pitched Thursday in a minor-league game.

        Two other contenders, Scott Williamson and Chris Reitsma, will pitch Tuesday in minor-league games.

        BICHETTE REMINISCES: Facing his former team, Red Sox outfielder Dante Bichette wondering about what might have been.

        “I think if they had kept that club together ...” Bichette began, his voice trailing off but his implication obvious. “No way you'd think the season would begin with Junior, (Sean) Casey, (Eddie) Taubensee, Dmitri (Young), every single one of us struggling. Then Barry (Larkin) and Aaron (Boone) getting hurt.”

        Bichette, who the Reds thought would ignite their offense when they acquired him before the 2000 season, was traded to Boston on Aug.31 for Reitsma and left-hander John Curtice.

        Bichette reminisced fondly about Bob Boone, who often drove him to and from Anaheim Stadium when both played for the Angels in the late 1980s. “I'm showing my age,” Bichette said.

        The .299 lifetime hitter also has kept the Reds in his heart, though his partial season with them was hardly special.

        “Really and truly, it's a great clubhouse,” Bichette said.


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