CINCINNATI -- Ken Griffey Jr. was reinstated from the disabled list Thursday, a month after he strained a tendon behind his right knee while chasing a fly ball during batting practice.
The 36-year-old outfielder was in the Cincinnati Reds' starting lineup, playing center field and batting third, even though it was raining before the game and temperatures were topping out in the mid-50s.
Once he got clearance to play, Griffey didn't want to wait one more day.
"I'm going to have to play sooner or later," Griffey said. "No time like now. It was going to happen in the next couple of days anyway, so I might as well."
The Reds optioned outfielder Chris Denorfia to Triple-A Louisville to open a roster spot. Denorfia played in seven games with Cincinnati, going 4-for-8.
Griffey never expected to be out so long when he initially hurt the knee. Inflammation underneath the tendon was slow to go away, and it was only during the last few days that he felt able to run the bases full-speed without concern.
"I was able to start doing things that I wasn't able to do last week or the week before," he said.
The question was whether to put him in the lineup despite the wet outfield grass or to wait for at least one more day when conditions might be better. General manager Wayne Krivsky, manager Jerry Narron and the team's medical staff discussed it with Griffey and decided to let him play.
"Everybody was concerned about that," said bench coach Bucky Dent, who was filling in Thursday while Narron attended his daughter's graduation. "But talking to the doctors and Griff, he wanted to play. And everybody said it was OK, so he's going to go."
Since Griffey hurt the knee on April 12, the Reds have gone 17-9 and taken over first place in the NL Central with their best start since 1990. Griffey said the team's start made his injury easier to handle.
"It's been fun to watch them," he said.
The knee injury extended Griffey's run of woes since he returned to his hometown team for the 2000 season. He went on the disabled list seven times from 2001-04 with a variety of major injuries -- torn knee tendon, torn hamstrings, torn ankle tendon, dislocated shoulder. He avoided the disabled list last season, hit .301 with 35 homers and won the NL's comeback player of the year award.
Griffey appeared ready to have another big season when he showed up healthy for spring training. He hit .524 during the World Baseball Classic and homered twice in April to pass Mickey Mantle for 12th on the career list with 538.