Griffey sidelined by colon flare-up

SEATTLE -- Ken Griffey Jr. was out of the Mariners' lineup for the third consecutive day. Yet his surprising, first-place team was still feeling his unmistakable presence.

Actually, they were wearing it.

The slugger arrived Tuesday morning before the series finale against the Texas Rangers still bothered by the flare-up of a colon condition called diverticulitis that was initially diagnosed in late 2006. Griffey, 39, said on Monday that it feels as if someone kicked him in the side, but the pain usually clears up within a couple of days.

Manager Don Wakamatsu believes Griffey will start Wednesday night in Kansas City. It would be his first start since Saturday.

"They say it's just something that just passes through his system, that it's not something that should linger," Wakamatsu said.

The pain Tuesday didn't keep Griffey from passing out his second set of custom-printed white neckties in as many road-trip getaway days.

One week after he gave each player a white tie with a likeness of Wakamatsu in blue across the bottom, to comply with the team's dress code for traveling, Griffey handed out white ties with his own face on them for the team's trip to Missouri after Tuesday's game.

The tie depicted Griffey wearing a Mariners pullover and a cheesy grin between two thumbs up. The tie's inscription: "World's Greatest Teammate."

"That's outstanding!" fellow veteran and team crackup Mike Sweeney yelled across the clubhouse as Griffey presented him with his tie.

Griffey just kept smiling.

The scene was another example of how Griffey has improved the Mariners -- beyond the field -- in his first month back with Seattle since he left in 2000.

Baseball's active home run leader with 613 home runs entered Tuesday batting .190 with two home runs and five RBIs in 18 games, after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in October. But he has lightened and enlightened an impressionable clubhouse that was bickering to the point of being dysfunctional last season as Seattle lost 101 games.

Griffey has established a rollicking "kangaroo court" in which he levies fines for mess-ups on and off the field. The court's underlying purpose: to ensure accountability. That trait was so lacking in Seattle last season, one of general manager Bill Bavasi's final, desperate acts before he was fired in June was to close the clubhouse's postgame food line and cut off access to towels in an effort to force players to describe at their lockers why they had just lost another game.

"The common thing is, from Day One of spring training they wanted to put last year's situation behind them," Griffey said of his new teammates. "No matter why last year was last year, this was a fresh start for a lot of people. And they are making the best of it."

Griffey has had formerly stone-faced teammates such as Adrian Beltre, who is also struggling offensively so far this season, doubled over in laughter -- while Beltre was standing on base during play.

Wakamatsu noted the mere presence of Griffey's left-handed bat has allowed Seattle to spread other left-handed batters such as Endy Chavez and Russell Branyan across the lineup, setting up the team for late-inning chess matches against opposing managers who seek favorable matchups with their relievers.

Griffey's bat still carries clout, if not as many home runs. He had a team-leading 14 walks entering Tuesday.

Wakamatsu said Griffey has earned the right to keep batting third when he returns -- for now, anyway.

"If he doesn't start producing, at some point, yeah, you've got to look at that," the manager said. "But he's got a track record."

In good injury news for Seattle, closer Brandon Morrow passed his bullpen test Monday and is expected to return from the disabled list this weekend when the team plays at Minnesota. Wakamatsu said Morrow, who went on the 15-day DL retroactive to April 24 with biceps tendinitis in his pitching arm, will throw another bullpen session before he becomes eligible to return Saturday.