Griffey Returns as M's Assemble Shutouts

Ken Griffey Jr. makes his first return to Seattle since the Mariners traded him to Cincinnati after the 1999 season when the Reds open a three-game series at Safeco Field on Friday. While the Seattle media has made much of it, Griffey is being as low key as possible, mostly refusing to talk at length about it.

"Not only have I not been back to the ballpark, I haven't been back to the city, not once," he said. Manager Jerry Narron considered DHing him for all three games, but thought better of it, knowing the fans want to see Griffey in the outfield as well as in the batter's box. But he won't return Griffey to center field, where he played his entire career until this year, when Narron moved him to right field.

Griffey will be part of a pregame press conference and will address the crowd before Friday's game. All three games are sellouts.

The Mariners held a players-only team meeting before Thursday's game, consuming most of the time up until batting practice. The meeting, called by some of the veterans, allowed players to have the floor and talk to their teammates about the direction the team is taking.

Seattle had lost six games in succession before right-hander Jeff Weaver threw a four-hit shutout Wednesday. After Thursday's meeting, right-hander Felix Hernandez and closer J.J. Putz combined for a seven-hit shutout.

Players didn't talk about the meeting on the record. Only a couple would talk off the record, and only to say it was mostly a feel-good meeting. The meeting lasted 40 minutes, and apparently many of the Mariners got up and had their say.

The basic idea was that despite the losing streak, the Mariners are in decent shape as long as everyone on the roster continues to pull together.

MARINERS 3, PIRATES 0: Felix Hernandez gave the Mariners back-to-back shutouts for the first time since the 2004 season when he pitched eight scoreless innings against Pittsburgh. After Jeff Weaver had thrown a four-hit shutout Wednesday, Hernandez combined with J.J. Putz for the Thursday win, Putz running his saves streak to 20-for-20.

The two shutouts came after a battered pitching staff was mostly responsible for a six-game losing streak.


--C Kenji Johjima has caught back-to-back shutouts (RHP Jeff Weaver on Wednesday and RHP Felix Hernandez combining with RHP J.J. Putz on Thursday). "When you give up no runs," Johjima said, "it not only means you can't lose, but it means as a catcher you're calling a very good game."

--RHP Felix Hernandez was 1-3 with an 8.13 ERA in his seven starts since coming off the disabled list before throwing eight shutout innings Thursday. He struck out nine, matching his second-best total of the season.

--CF Ichiro Suzuki, who doubled in the third inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, during which time he's hit .457 to get his average up to .358, second to Magglio Ordonez in the American League. Ichiro also has hit in 41 of his last 43 games, batting .413 in that stretch. He has seven multiple-hit games in his last 10.

--RHP J.J. Putz has collected 20 consecutive saves this season, all of them since April 23. Over the past two seasons, he has successfully converted his last 22 opportunities.

--2B Jose Lopez was hitless in his previous 15 at-bats before stroking a two-run double Thursday that pushed Seattle's lead over Pittsburgh from 1-0 to 3-0, which is where the game finished.

--RHP Ryan Feierabend will move into the rotation over RHP Cha Seung Baek on Friday. Baek likely will be returned to Class AAA, with the Mariners looking to get a pitcher back from Tacoma, possibly LHP Jake Woods.

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