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Originally published Friday, February 13, 2009 at 12:00 AM


Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez thrilled that Junior might be back

News that Ken Griffey Jr. may be coming back to Seattle thrilled Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez, two of the former Mariners star's most prominent teammates.

Seattle Times staff reporter

News that Ken Griffey Jr. may be coming back to Seattle thrilled Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez, two of the former Mariners star's most prominent teammates.

"It sounds like it's a locked deal. Let's hope so," said Buhner from Hawaii, where he is vacationing with his family. "I think it's a win-win. I'm an optimist. I'm not looking at the negative side -- he's too old, he's been hurt, all those different things some people are saying.

"He's still got the prettiest swing in baseball, even if he's lost a little bat speed. He'll be in comfortable surroundings around people he knows and loves, with the fans on his side. If he comes in healthy, an offense that's now stagnant gets a little resurrection.

"Not only that, but look what he'd bring to the clubhouse. He and Mike Sweeney are well-respected guys that know what it takes to grind out a season. The new manager can come in and just worry about the lineup. Those guys will semi-police the clubhouse."

Martinez, whose double that drove in Griffey from first base in the 1995 Division Series remains the signature moment in franchise history, was also excited by the prospect of Griffey's return.

"That would be such a great move by the organization and also for the city," he said. "It would be great to have him back and finish his career here. Hopefully, it's more than one year."

Both Buhner and Martinez believe that Griffey's overwhelmingly positive reception when the Reds came to Seattle in June of 2007 whetted his desire to sign with the Mariners.

"I'll be honest -- he was worried about his reception," Buhner said. "When 50-plus thousand gave a standing ovation for 10 minutes, I saw him get emotional, shed a tear. That's when he realized how beloved he was in the community, and the impact he's made."

Said Martinez, "I think he realized this is home. This is where he belongs. Any player would want to be on a team where the fans accept him and want him that bad. I think that probably had a lot to do with it."

Griffey made the All-Star team 10 times in his 11 seasons with the Mariners, and was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1997, the first Seattle player to earn that honor.

Buhner can't wait to see his old friend back in Seattle.

"I'm holding my breath like all other fans, hoping this is not a smoke screen," he said. "I think it's a good deal. Look at what he can bring. There's been such a facelift and shift in the organization. There's no real identity left between the fans and players. All the names are gone. You bring a guy like Junior back, just from that standpoint it's a win. He pays for himself just in that."

Martinez is also crossing his fingers.

"Not only as a friend and teammate, I'd love to watch him play every single day, to have the ability to watch him up close again," he said.

Buhner says that not only the Mariners, but the game needs Griffey.

"Let's face it: Baseball needs a feel-good story for the game," he said. "He's one of those. And this organization needs a feel-good story after enduring what it has for the last six or seven years."

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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