SEATTLE -- Ken Griffey Jr. is "ripped" and ready to go for spring training.
Baseball's active home run leader had his second arthroscopic knee surgery in 12 months in October, to remove a bone spur. And Seattle Mariners trainer Rick Griffin says Griffey is "better now than he was at any time last year."
Griffin spent a few days with Griffey at his home in Florida this winter. The trainer said Thursday the slugger who turned 40 on Nov. 21 has lost about 7
Griffey's even bragging about his new physique.
"He told our general manager that he's going to be ripped. We'll see," Griffin said, smiling three weeks before the Mariners begin spring training.
"He knows he has to lose weight. And he has," Griffin said.
Griffey hit .214 last season in his return to Seattle, with 19 homers and 57 RBIs in 117 games. He was a designated hitter for all but the first weeks of the season.
The man with 630 career home runs had his knee drained repeatedly in 2009, and often walked stiffly around the clubhouse with a bulbous ice pack wrapped around his leg.
Yet he still produced thrilling, late-game home runs, reminders of what made the 13-time All-Star a Seattle icon from 1989-99, beginning as a grinning Mariners teenager.
"A lot of people don't realize, not being in the clubhouse every day, how bad his knee was last year," Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said.
He has Griffey penciled in as his designated hitter. Wakamatsu, who led Seattle's turnaround from 101 losses to an 85-77 record last season, said Thursday at the team's annual pre-spring training luncheon that the Mariners will again slowly work the 1997 AL MVP into everyday shape.
"When he can play, he's going to be in there," Wakamatsu said.
Griffey is Seattle's clubhouse leader and the key to maintaining the environment of trust Wakamatsu created last year in his first season with the Mariners.
But just as Seattle is expecting more out of its rising team, its manager expects more out of Griffey now that he's healthy.
"We're expecting production," Wakamatsu said.
The Big Unit is also coming back to Seattle for opening day.
The Mariners announced Thursday that former ace Randy Johnson will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before April 12's home opener against Oakland.
The 46-year-old, five-time Cy Young Award winner retired this month from the San Francisco Giants after 303 wins, 4,875 strikeouts and 22 major league seasons.
Johnson was 130-74 in 10 years with Seattle -- his most wins among any of his six teams -- before he was traded to Houston midway through 1998. He led the Mariners into their first postseasons in 1995 and '97.