Griffey open to Seattle return

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Ken Griffey Jr. sure seems like someone who wants to stick around the Seattle Mariners for another season.

"If it works out for both sides, I'm fine," Griffey told The Associated Press before the Mariners opened a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday night. "We'll figure it out at the end of the year. We've still got 30 days."

Griffey is as happy as he's been in years, back where he began his 21-year big league career in 1989 and is still beloved despite leaving for nearly nine seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. He believes he can still produce. While Griffey won't go as far as to say he's leaning toward playing in 2010, he'd be game for another year in Seattle if the situation was right for both himself and the club. And as long as his body holds up, of course.

The 39-year-old Griffey returned to the lineup as the designated hitter batting in the cleanup spot against Oakland after missing six games with inflammation in his left knee. He entered with a .221 batting average, 14 homers and 43 RBIs.

Griffey said he has always waited until the end of a season to evaluate things and make decisions, discussing the future with his wife and kids, too. And this year won't be any different, even when he faces constant questions about whether this year might be the last in his decorated career.

Griffey is amused by the constant speculation of will he or won't he? That's just what happens when you spent 11 seasons as the face of a franchise then came back for another go. He has brought a spirit and energy back to Safeco Field this season.

"They all want to know," Griffey said with a smile.

The slugger said his representatives have had preliminary talks with the Mariners and another meeting would take place soon after the season ends.

Griffey was an All-Star in each of his final 10 seasons in Seattle until he got the trade he asked for to Cincinnati in 2000. He rejoined the Mariners in February, signing a one-year contract worth $2 million, plus a possible $3 million in incentives.

This club certainly has appreciated Griffey's leadership and veteran presence in the clubhouse. He dug his fingers into Ichiro Suzuki's armpits Thursday while the star leadoff hitter was on the floor doing his array of stretches.

"This is easy," Junior said. "He has no body fat. He's all muscle and ribs."

"Ahhhh," Suzuki laughed. "Please. ... You are the master!"

Later, Griffey made the rounds behind the batting cage to offer handshakes and hugs to members of the A's. The Coliseum is the spot where he picked up his first career hit in his major league debut, on April 3, 1989.

He has enjoyed his role as a mentor for the young players and believes this franchise is close to turning the corner.

"I want to be part of this," he said. "We're building something."