SAN FRANCISCO -- A cheerful Barry Bonds looked upbeat and
relaxed Sunday as he prepared to come off the disabled list and
play for the first time this year.
Bonds will start in left field and bat cleanup when he makes his long-awaited return to the San Francisco Giants' lineup Monday night as they open a three-game series against the NL West-leading San Diego Padres at SBC Park.
He even shook hands with a baby.
"Right now, I'm just trying to keep my mind clear, that's it,"
Bonds said while quietly gripping his bats in his black recliner in
the corner of the clubhouse.
The slugger, coming back from three operations on his right knee
since Jan. 31, has been eager for months to resume his quest of
Hank Aaron's home run record. He received medical clearance to play
Saturday from Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Angels' team orthopedist who
worked with Bonds for more than two months in Los Angeles until the
slugger rejoined his teammates last week at Dodger Stadium.
Bonds has 703 homers, trailing only Babe Ruth (714) and Aaron
(755) on the career list.
"He will hit a home run," said 6-year-old Darren Baker, son of
Cubs manager Dusty Baker. "That will be 704."
Just like little Darren, manager Felipe Alou is sure Bonds will
pick up right where he left off, despite going nearly a year
without facing major league pitching.
"I expect a lot with the bat," Alou said. "What I see in BP
is the same BP I've seen before. ... I wonder what's going to
happen tomorrow in his at-bat, the reception."
The 70-year-old Alou, fighting a cold, met briefly with Bonds on
the field and they determined he would start in left field and bat
in the No. 4 hole. Bonds won't be limited to a certain number of
innings, Alou said.
Bonds waved to fans who swarmed around the San Francisco dugout,
then visited with a family on the field -- greeting a baby and
signing several baseballs. He caught up with Dusty Baker behind the
"Barry, please!" hollered one boy hoping for a signature.
For now, Bonds refuses to think much about anything beyond
making a solid comeback this season and staying healthy.
The seven-time NL MVP hasn't considered whether he would play
for the United States in baseball's first World Cup-style
tournament next spring, to be called the World Baseball Classic.
"I don't know," he said. "I'll bridge that when we get there.
I haven't thought about it. I don't think about baseball. I've had
three surgeries on my knee."
The Giants are expecting a lot of last-minute media requests for
credentials for Monday's game.
Other players are interested in how Bonds performs, too.
"This is his job," Cubs pitcher Mark Prior said. "I respect the fact he wants to come back for the last two or three weeks of the season. He's worked hard to come back. Anything is possible. If he comes to the plate three or four times a game, he's going to have an impact on the game."