CHICAGO -- One day after Ken Griffey Jr. left the game because of stiffness in the back of his right knee, he reported feeling better Thursday. But in a precautionary decision, the Reds did not start their center fielder against the Cubs.
Griffey, who also did not take batting practice Thursday morning, was available to pinch-hit.
"He had a little work here early with heat and massage," Reds head trainer Mark Mann said. "It's a lot looser than when he left yesterday."
Utility man Ryan Freel started in center field for Cincinnati.
The 36-year-old Griffey said he hyperextended his knee chasing fly balls during batting practice Wednesday. He took himself out of the game in the fourth inning after striking out with an awkward swing against Greg Maddux.
"With his medical history, we're obviously going to err on the side of caution," Mann said.
Several of Griffey's recent seasons have been derailed because of various injuries, including a torn patellar tendon in the same right knee in 2002. He played just 70 games that season, followed by 53 games in 2003 and 83 games in 2004. Last season, he played 128 games and batted .301 with 35 home runs and 92 RBIs.
This injury was not considered serious enough for Griffey to be sent for an MRI. But the 12-time All-Star is prepared for nearly any contingency and travels with special equipment so he can get treatments at the hotel when on the road.
"It's something to have your own [stimulation] machine. I did the ice and stim all night," said Griffey, who is 12th on the all-time list with 538 career home runs.
Griffey will be evaluated again Friday before its determined if he can start the series opener at St. Louis.
Through eight games this season, Griffey is batting .258 with two home runs and seven RBIs.
Even after they are told one of their players is ready to return, some managers will give that player one more extra day of rest before putting them back in the lineup. Reds manager Jerry Narron doesn't have that plan with Griffey.
"With Junior, he's going to be definitely up front with it," Narron said. "What Junior tells me, I'm going to definitely trust. I think he's secure enough with his ability and his place in this game, that's he's not going to try and prove something."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.