The Seattle Mariners' 22-year-old All-Star center fielder was fitted with a neck brace late yesterday afternoon, just hours after he was rear-ended by an unlicensed 15-year-old on Coal Creek Parkway near Interstate 405. Griffey did not play in the game last night against the Cleveland Indians in the Kingdome.
"It's a day-to-day thing and not serious," Mariners manager Bill Plummer said before tonight's game against the Orioles. "But Junior was real stiff and that's the sort of thing that generally gets worse by the second day."
Plummer was perhaps more optimistic than most -- he was considering Griffey as a possible pinch hitter last night. But Griffey was given a physical by team doctor Larry Pedegana and after therapy, the stiffness in his neck was getting worse by game time and he didn't dress.
Griffey, waging a nine-game hitting streak during which he was hitting .462, is the sixth-leading hitter in the American League with a .315 average. The 1992 All-Star Game MVP had missed 18 games before last night with an assortment of injuries that included a sprained right wrist (disabled list June 9-25) and nagging hamstring pulls.
Ironically, he had just picked up his car, which had been receiving some work under the hood, and was on his way to pick up pitcher Calvin Jones, according to sources. The accident didn't hurt the front of Griffey's car, pushed at an intersection by a car driven by the 15-year-old, and there were no further collisions. There was no word on charges against the minor.
Henry Cotto started in center field, Kevin Mitchell played left field as opposed to being the designated hitter, and Tino Martinez started at first base instead of Lance Parrish, who became DH. Plummer said Martinez wouldn't have started against Indians left-hander Dennis Cook had Griffey not been injured.
The accident came less than 18 months after Ken Griffey Sr. was involved in a similar car accident in Arizona that required disk surgery and ended his major-league career.
"The accident his dad was in was a lot worse," Plummer said. "He was hit a lot harder. You never know about any car accident, but the doctor said it wasn't serious."