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Bonds a hot topic as Giants report to spring training

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Bonds was the hot topic of
conversation Wednesday when pitchers and catchers reported to the
San Francisco Giants' camp for the start of spring training even
though he was nowhere to be found.

It's unknown when Bonds will report to spring training as he
tries to bounce back from his injury-shortened 2005 when he played
just 14 games after undergoing three operations on his knee. The
Giants' position players report next Monday, but Bonds could choose
to come earlier because of the injury.

Manager Felipe Alou is excited said he was anxious to have Bonds
in camp and immediately was asked if he still is entertaining
thoughts of having the seven-time MVP bat second in spite of the
superstar's preference to remain in the heart of the order.

"I said I was going to talk with Barry, and we're going to
talk," was all Alou said on the subject, emphasizing that he's
more concerned about Bonds' physical condition than where he bats
in the order.

"As a manager, I'd like to see how he is. One time last spring,
he was catching fly balls with the outfielders, and after that it
was all downhill. He's got to get in shape, but he's a smart man
and a smart player. The earlier he gets started the better."

General manager Brian Sabean seemed unconcerned about where
Bonds will bat, adding: "I just hope he's in the lineup to bat
somewhere."

Bonds, 41, hit five home runs in his brief time on the active
roster last season, entering 2006 with 708 career homers, six
behind Babe Ruth and 47 shy of Hank Aaron on the career list.

With Bonds in the final year of his contract, Sabean was asked
if discussions had begun on an extension for 2007, when Bonds
likely would be close to overtaking Aaron's 755 if he remains
healthy this year.

"It has not been brought up by their side, or our side,"
Sabean said. "From what I understand, his offseason conditioning
has gone well. But until he gets here and into a regimen, we have
to be open-minded.

"It's a day-to-day proposition, starting with the day he shows
up."

Sabean seemed relieved that Bonds was not participating in the
World Baseball Classic, even though as a designated hitter there
would have been less of an injury risk. The general manager has
concerns about outfielder Moises Alou, 39, playing for the
Dominican Republic.

"I'm not worried about pitchers, but I have some concerns about
Mo," Sabean said. "Guys will be running 90 feet, throwing long,
going all out. Yes, you have some anxieties."

Closer Armando Benitez took no chances. After missing four
months last season following hamstring surgery, he declined an
invitation to pitch for the Dominican Republic to concentrate on
being ready for the Giants.

"It was important for me to be here," said Benitez, who threw
off the mound and said he was ready to improve upon a maiden season
with the Giants that produced 19 saves, including 15 after he
returned to action, Aug. 15.

Felipe Alou's future for next season is also in question. When
asked if he plans on managing beyond 2006, Alou said a contract
extension was "not important to me."

"It's a very important year for the team. We haven't been in
the playoffs a couple of years," he said. "I don't know how long
I'm going to manage. I signed a three-year contract and I'm in my
fourth year. Last year left a bad taste. I'm looking forward to
having a successful season. I felt the same last (spring), and then
we had all the injuries."