Griffey sizzles in White Sox debut
Slugger drives in a pair, scores run in opening victory
KANSAS CITY -- The crowd stood and applauded him, not caring one bit that Ken Griffey Jr. played for the visiting team.
That happened every at-bat. You get the feeling the Royals' Billy Butler, 22 years old, would've done the same if he was out there among them.
"He was one of my idols growing up -- my first baseball card, Ken Griffey Jr.," Butler said. "Eight years old and I even paid with my own chore money for it. He was my favorite player and it's just awesome to see him play."
Yes, this is a new era in White Sox land, and reactions of awe are going to come at every stop. Who knows how it will turn out, but the Griffey trade sure looked like a winner the first time out. Chicago won, 4-2, over Kansas City, with Griffey supplying two hits, two RBIs and a run.
"I think that Junior is going to make everybody better," manager Ozzie Guillen said.
He didn't do it all, though. Not quite anyway. Javier Vazquez pitched six strong innings, and D.J. Carrasco, Octavio Dotel and Bobby Jenks finished the game for him.
Save for Jenks, they all worked out of a little trouble. Griffey made it look easy -- although, he didn't think it would be simple at all.
He didn't eat all day. The last time Griffey grabbed a bite to eat was around 9:00 on Thursday night. From then until after Friday's game, his nerves got the best of him.
His anxiousness just didn't show. In his first at-bat, in the second, Griffey worked Luke Hochevar to a full count. On the seventh pitch, he found one he liked and slapped a line-drive single to center field. Jim Thome scored from second.
That gave the Sox a 1-0 lead. Griffey added to it four innings later. With two outs, and runners on first and third, he ripped a single in between first and second for another RBI. That hit started a rally in which the White Sox reeled off two more runs. Nick Swisher and Juan Uribe each drove one in.
Griffey was pleased. But the hits didn't calm his nerves.
"Jermaine [Dye] asked me that in the seventh inning," Griffey said. "I said, 'I'm still nervous.'"
A media throng surrounded Griffey before the game and after. Most of the questions directed toward Guillen dealt with you-know-who as well. That's why Guillen wanted to remind everyone that Griffey didn't win this game solo.
"I don't care about Junior," Guillen said. "I just care about pitching."
And the arms were solid on Friday, starting with Vazquez. He needed it too. June 17 was the last time he won a game. He hadn't given up fewer than three runs since May 31.
Vazquez did both on Friday. He gave up just two runs and five hits in his six innings and didn't get into any trouble until the sixth.
"I feel good physically," Vazquez said, "and it's good to finally get a win after a long time and get the monkey off my back a little bit."
Vazquez, too, had good words to say about Griffey. He knew this night belonged to the center fielder.
For Griffey, this was Day 1 of what he hopes is a successful pennant race and postseason run. He did what he wanted in terms of production for his first game.
But Griffey knows it's about more than just hits, RBIs and praise from fans and opposing ballplayers. He wants to make sure he fits in exactly right on this team. That's his goal for Day 2.
"Well, these guys, they're different," Griffey said. "From one to 25 you will get talked about, I found out firsthand. It's just a matter of trying to fit in and throw my jabs at them the second day."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.