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Griffey injures hamstring during game

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Posted: Monday March 26, 2001 3:32 PM
Updated: Tuesday March 27, 2001 9:06 AM

  Ken Griffey Jr. Deion Sanders (left) and Jason LaRue (right) help Ken Griffey Jr. from the field. AP

HAINES CITY, Fla. (AP) -- Ken Griffey Jr. had to be helped off the field Monday after sustaining another hamstring injury only a week before Opening Day.

The Cincinnati Reds center fielder slipped as he rounded third while trying to score on a single during the seventh inning of Kansas City's 3-2 victory, straining his left hamstring.

"You look forward to starting the season and right now, I can't do it," Griffey said in a downcast voice in the visitors' dressing room. "That's right now. Things could change day by day, though."

The Reds didn't rule him out for next Monday's opener against Atlanta, initially taking a wait-and-see approach.

Hamstring injuries can take weeks to heal, and the Reds will be cautious in light of Griffey's problems with his left hamstring during the last two years. It bothered him for much of last season, his first with his hometown team, and he partially tore it Sept. 11.

Griffey strengthened his hamstring in the offseason, but it bothered him once again early in spring training. He had been running at full speed without a problem for about the last 10 days, diving for balls and making running catches in the outfield without pain.

He reinjured it Monday when his foot slipped in the dirt by third base as he tried to score from second on Alex Ochoa's single to left field. Griffey made it less than halfway home before pulling up lame and falling on his back, grabbing his leg in pain.

Catcher Gregg Zaun caught the throw from left fielder Mark Quinn, walked over and gingerly tagged out Griffey as Reds players, manager Bob Boone and coach Ken Griffey Sr. headed toward them, fearing the worst.

"It was pretty scary," Boone said.

The Royals stood in place on the field, watching Griffey roll on his back with what initially appeared to be a severe injury. The crowd of 2,786 was hushed.

"When a guy goes down like that, usually it's a tear," Royals manager Tony Muser said. "I hope it's not as bad as it looked."

It wasn't. After trainer Mark Mann examined Griffey on the ground, the center fielder was helped up. He put his arms around Deion Sanders and Jason LaRue and kept his left leg raised as they helped him off the field.

Mann said there was no indication that Griffey had torn the hamstring. The Reds planned to wait a day before making a guess at how long he'll be sidelined.

The strain occurred in the lower part of the hamstring. Last year, he tore the top part of the muscle.

The hamstring problems are a recent development for Griffey, a 10-time Gold Glove outfielder who hasn't been on the disabled list since he broke his wrist in 1996. The leg problem has the Reds concerned.

"Anytime anybody hurts a muscle in the leg area, even years later, you get scar tissue," Boone said. "That's something he's probably going to have to work on hard for the rest of his life, as long as he's in baseball."

If Griffey isn't ready for the season opener, the Reds could use Michael Tucker or Ruben Rivera in center. Sanders, who is in camp on a minor league contract, isn't eligible to join the Reds until May 1.

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