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Griffey's future a mystery

SARASOTA, Fla. &

Ken Griffey Jr. didn't want to talk about his move to right field on Thursday, insisting it's no big deal. His reluctance to discuss it suggested something entirely different.

Manager Jerry Narron also dodged the subject of his outfielder-on-the-move. Best to leave that subject alone for now.

They won't be able to avoid it for much longer.

The biggest mystery in the Cincinnati Reds' camp isn't getting any clearer with opening day little more than a week away. Griffey was out of the lineup again Thursday &

he has yet to appear in a game this spring &

and was still trying to avoid discussing one of the most significant changes in his career.

Narron has decided to switch the center fielder to right when he's ready to play. The 37-year-old outfielder has spent his whole career in center, winning 10 Gold Gloves.

Griffey is going along with the decision, but emphasized on Thursday that it's not his idea.

"It doesn't really matter how I felt about it," he said. "That's really not important. I'm going there and I've got to make the best of it."

His feelings about moving to right field could evolve into a long-term issue. For now, the overriding question is when he's going to get there.

Griffey broke his left hand while wrestling with his children in December. The hand was expected to be fully healed by the time spring training started, but is still bothering him when he takes batting practice.

How much? He won't say.

"When I feel I can go out there, I'll go out there," he said.

Asked to provide a better idea of how close he is to playing, Griffey said, "Do I want to expand on it? No."

The vague, evasive answers aren't unusual for Griffey. He'll talk expansively about anything except baseball or himself. When he's hurt, he'll do just about anything to avoid talking, period.

On Thursday, he saw a few reporters edging toward his locker and made a point to have some fun with his teammates and coaches, trying to keep himself busy until the clubhouse closed to reporters.

He spotted former Reds outfielder George Foster &

a special instructor in camp &

walking through the clubhouse in old, weather-beaten shoes and turned the moment into another way of buying time. He rummaged through five of the nine boxes of size-11 shoes in his locker, picked out two pairs gave them to Foster.

"Can't have you looking like that," Griffey said.

Footwear was a fine subject for conversation. Not right field or the hand.

"Not too much you're going to get out of me," he said.

The Reds are wondering how much they're going to get out of him the rest of spring training. Earlier this week, Narron has said he'd like for Griffey to start playing this week. He was less specific on the subject Thursday.

"Are you asking me if there's a deadline or whatever?" Narron said. "Not really."

Narron noted that if a player has to start the season on the disabled list, the move can be made retroactive to the last week of spring training if the player doesn't appear in an exhibition with the major league team during that time.

Griffey missed nearly a month early last season because of inflammation behind his right knee, and sat out 22 of the last 24 games after dislocating a toe. He has been on the disabled list eight times since the Reds got him in a trade with Seattle before the 2000 season.

In the offseason, the Reds approached Griffey about moving to right field, allowing the faster Ryan Freel to play center. Griffey hasn't played right field since Aug. 4, 2004, two days after he came off the disabled list from a torn right hamstring. While making a sliding catch in that game, Griffey tore the hamstring from the bone.

Now, he's going back there, whether he'll talk about it or not.

"You guys are making more of a big deal out of it than it is," Griffey said.