As Ken Griffey closes in on another major milestone, it's clear 500 home runs means a lot more to his family than it does to the Reds slugger.
While his wife, children and father made the journey to Oakland to see if Griffey can hit the two homers he needs to become the 20th player in that exclusive club, Griffey tried to deflect any questions about the meaning of the milestone.
"I haven't hit it yet, so I can't tell you how it will feel," Griffey said before Monday's game against Mark Mulder and the A's. "We'll see when the time comes. ... I'm just worried about today."
Even though the 34-year-old Griffey is poised to reach 500 faster than all but five players, getting there has taken longer than many thought.
Griffey finished the 2000 season - his first with Cincinnati - with 438 homers, trailing Barry Bonds by 56, and seemed ready to reach 500 in early 2002.
But three injury-plagued seasons have delayed the milestone by two years. Now, instead of Griffey being the player mentioned as most likely to break Hank Aaron's career record of 755 home runs, it's Bonds who has that label with 674 homers.
"If he had stayed healthy, he would have done some awesome things," said Expos manager Frank Robinson, one of the members of the 500 club. "It just wasn't to be. But he's still a young man as far as this game is concerned."
After a slow start this season it seemed as if Griffey would never regain the form that made him an All-Century player ahead of Bonds. Pitchers challenged him with impunity and even intentionally walked Sean Casey to face him.
But over the past couple of weeks, Griffey once again is hitting the way he did when he was younger. He had nine homers in his previous 14 games, including two Sunday against Montreal, coming into the series with the A's.
"They started missing the label and hitting the barrel," he said. "For a while the balls were hitting the label. A few minor adjustments had to be made, and that's it."
PUJOLS REMAINS DAY TO DAY: Albert Pujols might be available to pinch hit after getting treatment on his sore left hamstring, but Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he would try to avoid using his first baseman. "He is still getting treated, so we'll have to wait and sit," La Russa said. John Mabry started at first Monday at Chicago in Pujols' place.
ALL-STAR VOTING: Edgar Renteria of the Cardinals overtook the Astros' Adam Everett for the lead among NL shortstops in voting for next month's game. Updated AL totals are to be released today.
GARCIAPARRA ON HOLD: Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra will test his ailing right Achilles' tendon today before the team decides if he can make his 2004 debut against the Padres. GM Theo Epstein said he was not ready to activate him from the DL.
BREWERS-EXPOS TRADE: Expos outfielder Peter Bergeron was traded to the Brewers for two minor-leaguers: outfielder Jason Belcher and pitcher Jason Childers.
GIANTS: Marquis Grissom missed his third straight game with a stomach problem that has been bothering him since a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to play the Expos two weeks ago.
RANGERS: Right-hander Jay Powell was placed on the 15-day DL because of a sore right elbow.
ROCKIES: Left-hander Brian Fuentes was placed on the DL with a strained back muscle.
YANKEES: Reliever Steve Karsay is scheduled to make his final extended spring training appearance Thursday and could rejoin the team late this month. Karsay is coming off rotator cuff surgery in May 2003. He is to begin a minor-league rehabilitation assignment next week. Orlando Hernandez is scheduled to start Thursday's extended spring game against Tampa Bay minor-leaguers.