Bonds arrives in camp, not itching to decide future
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Bonds' decision about whether he plays next season might not come until next winter.
But he made one thing clear when he reported to spring training with the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday -- if he does play in 2007, he doesn't want it to be as a designated hitter for some new team. He wants it to be with the team he grew up around and in the same uniform he has worn while becoming the game's biggest star over the last decade.
"San Francisco is my home. That's the love of my life right there," Bonds said. "The fans there, the people there, everything about it is just great for me. Thinking that there could be a possibility, just hypothetically, to go somewhere else and DH or something like that. I really don't want to think about that at this time right now. I know I can swing a bat. I take a lot of pride to be on that field and stay in this uniform."
Bonds has often talked about the wear and tear that playing in the field and being on base so much takes on his knees, leading to speculation that he might follow the path of a player like Hank Aaron and switch leagues at the end of his career in order to be a designated hitter.
Bonds has even complained in the past when he didn't get to DH in interleague games in American League stadiums. His manager admits that Bonds is not the same defensively but still among the best hitters in the game.
"I see a guy with a quick bat. I don't see the end here," Felipe Alou said. "I compare the guy with Hank Aaron, who could hit a fastball to the end."
Comparisons to Aaron are appropriate as Bonds chases the Hammer's home run record of 755 -- the final 22 of which came in Aaron's final two seasons, when he was primarily a designated hitter with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bonds enters the season with 708 home runs, seven shy of passing Babe Ruth for second place and 48 shy of breaking Aaron's record. Like Aaron, Ruth also switched teams at the end of his career, playing 28 games with the Boston Braves in 1935.
Since Bonds has only hit 48 or more home runs twice in his career, it seems unlikely he would pass Aaron this season.
"The record is what it is," Bonds said. "The record is Hank's record as far as I'm concerned. It's still Hank's record until somebody passes it. Whoever that person, I wish them well. If it happens to be me, that's it."
Bonds arrived at Scottsdale Stadium shortly before 8 a.m. Wednesday and went straight to his corner locker. At the end of last season, Bonds vowed to be "skinny" when he showed up at spring training, but it didn't appear he lost much weight, if any.
Bonds took part in a nearly complete workout, stretching with his teammates, throwing, shagging flies and hitting in the batting cage before taking three rounds of batting practice off Jason Schmidt and Noah Lowry.
With a bulky brace on his injured right knee, Bonds took his first 11 pitches and hit only one ball hard -- a home run to right field against Schmidt.
Bonds exclaimed "Ouch! That hurt," and then shook his hands after hitting the homer on a cool morning, with the temperature in the 50s. In all, he took 17 pitches, had two swings and misses, two grounders, four balls hit into the netting of the batting cage and the one home run.
After having three knee operations and playing only 14 games last year, the Giants are eager to learn what they can expect from Bonds this season. Bonds said it was too early to know if he'd be ready to play in the Giants' opener April 3 in San Diego.
"Last year, I saw him favoring his knees," Alou said. "I didn't see him favoring the knee today. I didn't see it when he was batting. When he was swinging the bat, it was OK with me."
Bonds' arrival was greeted by scores of media members, who drew bemused looks from other Giants who watched them gather around an empty seat in the dugout waiting for Bonds.
This year's question-and-answer session was much less contentious than last year's, when he dodged questions about steroids and called reporters liars. He talked for about 15 minutes Wednesday, remaining calm throughout the entire process.
"I only throw a stone if there's a stone thrown at me," he said. "As long as there's not a stone thrown at me, you won't get one thrown back."
Bonds, 41, has already caused a stir this spring with contradicting interviews he gave in the past week about whether he would or wouldn't retire after the season. Bonds, who is in the final season of a $90 million, five-year contract, did little to clear up his future Wednesday.
"I've played a long time," he said. "I've had a lot of fun doing it. We'll tackle that bridge when it happens. I'll sit back and talk with my family and take a long, long vacation and see how I feel. I could do that and get in the wintertime and say, 'That's enough,' and somewhere in January wake up and say, 'That's not enough.'"
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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