Mariners Have Just One Griffey Now

Ken Griffey Jr.'s younger brother is no longer playing in the Mariner organization.

Craig Griffey, 26, asked for and yesterday was granted his unconditional release from the Mariners after six-plus seasons in their farm system, said Larry Beinfest, the Mariners' director of player development.

Griffey spent most of this season with Class AA Memphis, where he hit .217 in 35 games. His best season was in 1993, when he split time between Class A Appleton and Riverside and hit a combined .246 with five homers and 45 runs batted in. His cumulative career average was .224.

"We were all hopeful Craig would make the big leagues and play with Ken," Beinfest said. "This was purely his decision. There was nothing on our end that would have prohibited him (from) playing with us. He had an opportunity to play with us at Double-A this year. We wish him well."

Beinfest said Griffey had not played for the past two weeks while contemplating his future.

"There was no definitive reason given," Beinfest said. "He wanted to explore other opportunities in or out of the game."

Ken Griffey Jr. declined comment after the game.

Junior leads AL voting

Griffey Jr., who leads the major leagues with 29 homers, is the top American League vote-getter going into the final week of balloting for next month's All-Star Game.

The center fielder, selected to start each year since 1990, had 2,048,265 votes in totals released yesterday. He was the overall vote leader in 1994 and 1996 and topped the AL in 1991 and 1993.

Alex Rodriguez, with 1,072,879 votes, leads shortstops, and Edgar Martinez leads designated hitters with 708,210.

Voting continues through Friday. AL starters will be announced Monday and reserves July 2. The game is scheduled for July 8 at Jacobs Field in Cleveland.

Kingdome survives quake

The Kingdome was inspected shortly after the 4.9 earthquake yesterday, and no damage was observed throughout the facility. The inspection was conducted by Kingdome maintenance staff, which examined concrete masonry walls, concourse bridges, columns and beams, along with nonstructural elements such as television monitors, overhead piping, lighting fixtures and the emergency generator.

Big Mac to face Big Unit

Oakland manager Art Howe gave Mark McGwire a rest last night, starting Matt Stairs at first base. McGwire will be back in the lineup tonight against Randy Johnson. Howe said he never considered delaying McGwire's day off until tonight.

"You want me to put a left-handed first baseman out there (against Johnson)?" Howe asked. "That would be sadistic."

Cruz reunion

Howe, who played for Houston from 1976-83, had a warm greeting for Mariner rookie Jose Cruz Jr., son of his longtime Astro teammate, Jose Cruz.

"I remember having to wait for (Cruz Jr.) to get out of the batting cage so we could hit," Howe said. "Jose would take him to the cage early to work with him. He could swing even as a kid."


-- Griffey, who jammed his right shoulder attempting a diving catch Sunday in Texas, went 2 for 4 with a run batted in. "He bruised it a little, but he's out there playing," Piniella said. "He's a trouper."

-- Oakland right fielder Geronimo Berroa left the game in the third inning after aggravating his sore right shoulder. Berroa is reportedly on the trading block.

-- Jason Giambi extended his hitting streak to 25 games with his fifth-inning homer, breaking Carney Lansford's 1984 Oakland record.

-- The Mariners' Russ Davis extended his hitting streak to 12 games.

-- The Mariners surpassed Oakland in a dubious category. They have given up 93 homers, most in baseball. Oakland has allowed 92.