When Ken Griffey Jr. Vents, Clouds Of Writers Gather

For about two hours yesterday, Ken Griffey Jr. threw a small group of Seattle sportswriters into a major tizzy. It turned out to be nothing more than a well-executed practical joke.

In the midst of early batting practice, Griffey loudly proclaimed that he wanted to be traded. He intimated that he was unhappy with the handling of his brother, Craig, who asked for and was granted his unconditional release from the Mariner organization on Monday.

"You think I'm playing around?" Griffey said. "I'm not."

But guess what? Playing around is exactly what he was doing, as he finally revealed after the Mariners finished batting practice. By this time, of course, editors had been alerted to the "breaking news," and Mariner officials had been called for reactions.

After a short meeting in manager Lou Piniella's office, a relaxed and joking Griffey fessed up to the ruse while holding court from the easy chair in front of his locker.

"Trade talks are off," he said. "I just wanted to see how people would react."

Griffey finally did talk about his brother, whom he called his best friend.

He said he was particularly upset that Craig's statistics - he was a career .224 hitter with 11 home runs in six-plus minor-league seasons - had been compared to the rest of the Griffey family.

"The only thing I'm mad about is people comparing people, and they shouldn't be," he said. "Everyone has different styles. My brother is not a home-run hitter."

Griffey said the release wasn't a surprise to him. "I knew about this before you all did. I knew what was going on.

"It was harder for him to tell me than tell my Mom and Dad. I only got one brother. What's his is his, and what's mine is his."

Asked what's next for Craig, Griffey replied: "Whatever he wants. He'll come to the All-Star Game, and we'll hang out.

"We're brothers. Whatever he needs, I'm there."