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Griffey felt pressured by Wakamatsu?

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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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Read his statement.

Ken Griffey Jr. chose his words carefully, saying “ . . . nobody in the Mariners’ front office has asked me to retire . . .”

Griffey specifically avoided mention of manager Don Wakamatsu — and not by accident.

Wakamatsu, according to three major-league sources, asked Griffey about retirement at least once in recent weeks.

Wakamatsu, in a telephone interview Wednesday night, would not reveal the specifics of any talk with Griffey, but said he did not pressure him to retire.

“I won’t be quoted talking about any private conversation I had with a player,” Wakamatsu told FOXSports.com.

“In no way would I ever force a player of that magnitude to retire. This was Ken’s decision. I would honor Ken and his career and never even approach that.”

But Griffey, 40, apparently got the impression that Wakamatsu no longer wanted him on the team.

On Wednesday, Griffey ended his career after 21-plus seasons, including the past two with the Mariners under Wakamatsu.

“While I feel I am still able to make a contribution on the field, and nobody in the Mariners’ front office, has asked me to retire, I told the Mariners when I met with them prior to the 2009 season and was invited back, that I will never allow myself to become a distraction,” Griffey said in his statement.

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“I feel that without enough occasional starts to be sharper coming off the bench, my continued presence as a player would be an unfair distraction to my teammates and their success as a team is what the ultimate goal should be.”

Griffey, 40, made his last appearance Monday night, hitting into a fielder’s choice as a pinch-hitter in a 5-4 loss to the Twins. He had not started since May 23, when he went 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored in an 8-1 loss to the Padres.

His ineffectiveness — Griffey was batting .184 with zero homers and seven RBIs in 98 at-bats — put Wakamatsu in a difficult spot, particularly with the Mariners struggling offensively.

Wakamatsu also was in the uncomfortable position of dealing with a future Hall of Famer at the end of his career. Any attempt by Wakamatsu to probe Griffey’s mindset might have been interpreted by Griffey as pressure from the manager to retire.

Mike Sweeney, 36, usurped Griffey’s playing time at designated hitter in recent weeks, batting .310 with six homers and 14 RBIs in May. Griffey initially seemed comfortable with a reduced role; he did not expect to play every day when he re-signed with the Mariners last November. But by the end, he had virtually no role at all.

Griffey’s departure was not acrimonious, despite his apparent differences with Wakamatsu. Griffey goes back with club president Chuck Armstrong more than 20 years, and the two sides plan a long-term relationship now that Griffey’s playing days are over.

Tagged: Mariners

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