Cincinnati Reds reserve outfielder Ken Griffey says he remains one of the best hitters in the National League and can still do his job.
The 39-year-old Griffey has received more playing time than he might have expected this season because of injuries to front-line players.He also is having to adjust to attention that has been given to his 19-year-old son, Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners, who is becoming one of the American League's most highly prized center fielders.
The Reds have benefited this season since signing Griffey, acquired as a free agent last August, to a one-year contract March 29 for $320,000. He has served as a veteran utility player who could start in a pinch.
But Griffey, who played on the Reds' world championship teams in 1975 and 1976 and now gives the Reds depth in the outfield and at first base, is not finding the going is easy.
Last week, he slipped while running bases at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium during the Reds' 5-1 victory against St. Louis.
When a ball bounced in front of catcher Tony Pena in the third inning, Griffey - on first after a single - started to run to second base. About a quarter of the way there, he saw it was best to turn back. But he slipped and crawled the remaining 10 feet.
Griffey was safe at first but not from the good-natured ridicule of teammates and coaches, who got a good laugh a second time when the play was shown on the ballpark's video scoreboard.
"It was the most embarrassing moment I had in my career ... It's stupid anyway. Since he's (Ken Jr.) doing so well, nobody notices my career," Griffey said.
Griffey has played in more than 25 games, including starting 10 in left field and one at first base. His batting average has hovered around the .300 mark. He has generally fared better at the plate as a starter than as a pinch hitter.
Griffey may not have to worry about pinch-hitting for a while. He is expected to fill the left field spot until regular starter Kal Daniels, sidelined with a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery, returns from the disabled list sometime in July.
"I knew that if somebody got hurt they would call on me to help," Griffey said. "And that's just the way it is. I still think I'm one of the better hitters in this league. I can do the job, that's all. My job."