Griffey to have knee, hamstring surgery Monday

CINCINNATI -- Ken Griffey Jr. is finishing another season prematurely because of injury. This time, it's an upbeat ending.

The Cincinnati Reds center fielder decided Thursday to give up his attempt to overcome a foot sprain and play again this season. Instead, he'll have a minor knee operation that has been anticipated for weeks, giving him a head-start on rehabilitation.

"I think overall in the situation we're in, it's probably the smartest thing to do," Griffey said, a day after the Reds were officially eliminated from playoff contention. "If it were the playoffs and we had a chance, then we'd be doing something different. But we're not, and it's time that I can get my hamstring closed up for good and my knee fixed."

He'll have surgery on Monday to clean out a knee that has bothered him occasionally over the last three years. Doctors will also treat the troublesome incision from his hamstring surgery a year ago.

The 35-year-old Griffey tore the hamstring loose last August and had it reattached to the bone with three titanium screws, a rare operation that required months of difficult rehabilitation. Part of the incision never fully healed.

Although it's another premature finish, this one is a lot more upbeat. Griffey met his goal of playing into September, overcoming four years of career-threatening injuries.

"He was really excited after that game on Aug. 31 and he was playing in September," interim manager Jerry Narron said. "He was talking about that. He was really excited about being able to go into September playing."

Not just playing -- playing very well.

He batted .301 with 35 homers and 92 RBI in 128 games, his highest total since he joined his hometown team in a 2000 trade with Seattle. He also climbed up the career homer list, joining Mickey Mantle in 12th place with 536.

Homer by homer and catch by catch, the All-Century outfielder proved he wasn't washed up.

"I don't know if he had to prove it to anybody, but I think he definitely showed everybody he's still one of the best players in the game," Narron said.

He was on target to hit 40 homers and drive in 100 runs when he hurt his right foot while rounding second base on Sept. 4 in Atlanta. There was no serious damage, but the foot was still a little sore on Thursday and doctors advised that it was best to let it heal with a couple more weeks of rest.

The foot injury aside, Griffey is proud of the way he came back from the career-threatening hamstring injury.

"Just being able to go out there day in and day out where a lot of people counted me out says a lot for the work I put into it and for the medical staff and the team," Griffey said, standing in a hallway outside the trainer's room.

Despite Griffey's impressive comeback, the Reds fell from contention early in the season, dooming them to a fifth straight year without a winning record.

In July and August, there were reports the AL Central-leading White Sox tried to trade for Griffey. His agent said Griffey had no desire to leave his hometown team, and the talks never went anywhere.

The Reds acquired Griffey in a trade with Seattle in February 2000. He has three years left on his nine-year, $116.5 million contract and is still owed $41.5 million.

He played in 145 games in 2000, batting .271 with 40 homers and 118 RBI. His run of serious injuries started the next season, when he tore a hamstring during spring training. He has also torn a knee tendon, strained a hip and thigh, dislocated a shoulder and tore tissue in his ankle.

Last year's injury was the most serious. Griffey wasn't fully recovered when spring training began and didn't hit a home run until April 30, the slowest start of his career. Once the leg came around, he looked like the old Junior.

Trainer Mark Mann said Griffey will recover from his latest operation in a few weeks and should be at full strength long before spring training begins.

"For once in the offseason, he'll be able to work out and come into spring training in the best possible shape," Mann said. "He hasn't been able to do that for the last five years. He's either had a season-ending injury or season-ending surgery, and he's been rehabbing until the first day of spring training."