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Mariners' young gun is long on talent but a tad short on control

Ken Griffey Jr. shook his head, smiled and walked away from the batting cage.

On the first day Seattle hitters faced their own pitchers, the AL MVP wanted no part of 6-foot-11 Ryan Anderson, the Mariners' No. 1 pick in last June's draft."I'm not going to face the Space Needle," Griffey joked Friday at camp in Peoria, Ariz.

The 18-year-old left-hander, whose fastball was clocked at 99 mph last fall in the instructional league, faced four batters - Joey Cora, Alex Rodriguez, David Segui and Dan Wilson - and threw 40 pitches.

A chopper up the middle by Rodriguez was the only thing that remotely resembled a base hit.

"That was like playing Wilt Chamberlain one-on-one," Rodriguez said.

Anderson, who was facing big league hitters for the first time, said he was disappointed he didn't get to pitch to Griffey.

"I looked at the chart before I went out there," Anderson said. "I thought he'd be there, but I didn't see him."

Told Griffey ducked him, Anderson said, "That makes me feel good."

Seattle manager Lou Piniella was on another field when Anderson was pitching, but word quickly spread around camp of Griffey's ploy.

"Junior was smart. He went to the other cage to get a little work in," Piniella said. "I don't blame him."

Mariners officials have said Anderson will open the season in Class A Wisconsin of the Midwest League.

Rick Wilkins, who caught Anderson during batting practice, said control will be the young pitcher's top priority.

"The biggest thing he's got to learn is to locate his pitches. That's his monster to overcome," Wilkins said. "He's just learning to stay in the strike zone, the same thing the `Unit' (Randy Johnson) faced when he was a young pitcher."

At St. Petersburg, Fla., Wade Boggs decided to take some early cuts - and almost paid a price.

Boggs, just 200 hits shy of 3,000, was hitting during the first day of full-squad workouts for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays when he was hit in the head by a changeup thrown by Tony Saunders.

Boggs was not injured and joked that at least he knows his batting helmet works.

"I might not have gotten back up if it was a heater," he said. "That would have been a heck of a thing."

At Dunedin, Fla., though, the news might not be so good for Toronto catcher Benito Santiago.

Santiago, injured in a car crash last month, may be sidelined for the upcoming season.

"Santiago is suspected of having ligament damage to his right knee," Blue Jays spokesman Jay Stenhouse.

Santiago, 33 next month, hit .243 for Toronto last season with 13 homers and 42 RBIs.

Santiago was hurt in Florida when he hit a tree while speeding in his Ferrari. He was admitted to the hospital with a fractured back vertebra, blunt head trauma and cuts to his head and face.

The Blue Jays were expected to use Santiago and Darrin Fletcher as their catchers this year. Fletcher signed with Toronto in the off-season after hitting .277 with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs for Montreal.

At Melbourne, Fla., outfielder Gary Sheffield did not show up for the first full-squad workout with the Florida Marlins, who were already short of familiar faces.

The World Series champions gave Sheffield permission at the last minute to report six days late so he could continue working out at home in St. Petersburg with his personal trainer.

The unexpected absence of the moody slugger renewed speculation that he's unhappy with the Marlins. Sheffield has been the subject of offseason trade talk, and he has yet to comment publicly on the dismantling of the championship team.

Sheffield, who starts a $61 million, six-year contract this season, skipped the Marlins' trip this week to the White House, and he hasn't spoken to manager Jim Leyland or general manager Dave Dombrowski since November.

"I don't think anybody is in the exact frame of mind that they were in last year - the ownership, the fans, the manager or anybody else," Leyland said. "Gary's not really a concern. We've got a lot more things to take care of. He'll be our right fielder and the star. I'm not worried about that."