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Bonds ready to chase 714 and beyond in Oakland

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds might end up tying the Babe in
the Bay Area after all -- only it could come across the water in the
unfriendly confines of Oakland.

Bonds should be well rested as he resumes his pursuit of Babe
Ruth in a weekend interleague series against the Athletics in which
he will play designated hitter, perhaps a preview of the slugger's
future beyond 2006.

Bonds' home run drought has reached eight games since he hit No.
713 on May 7 at Philadelphia to move within one of tying Ruth for
second place on the career list.

The next three games could serve as an audition of sorts. With
Bonds' contract up at the end of the season, he hasn't ruled out a
switch to the American League for 2007 to be a DH and reduce the
wear and tear on his surgically repaired right knee.

He would like nothing more to get this over with, and preferably
in San Francisco's own stadium. And that is still a realistic
possibility considering the Giants return home Monday for six games
against St. Louis and Colorado.

"That was the most important thing for me," Bonds said. "San
Francisco is my biggest supporting cast. I've been able to do it
for them for ever since I've been here. There's nothing more
gratifying than, you know, having them able to catch a ball, on
your turf. The way I'm swinging, it looks like I can wait."

Bonds and the Giants return to Northern California with some
long-awaited momentum following a three-game sweep of the Houston
Astros. San Francisco outscored the defending National League
champions 34-5 in three games at hitter friendly Minute Maid Park.

"Everybody in the Bay Area should be excited," Oakland manager
Ken Macha said. "It's history in the making."

The 41-year-old Bonds didn't play in the series finale in
Houston on Wednesday night -- the Giants' second 10-1 win in three
games -- to give him plenty of time to rest his aching body.

"The amino acids in my head are going to explode if I talk to
you," Bonds joked in the dugout Tuesday. "I've got to conserve my
energy."

Bonds had started eight straight days, his longest such stretch
since starting 10 consecutive days from June 18-27, 2004. While he
was available to pinch hit, San Francisco again jumped to a big
lead early and playing Bonds never became necessary.

Bonds is 0-for-4 with a walk in his career against Oakland's starter on Friday, Dan Haren, and Bonds has never faced Brad Halsey or Joe Blanton, who go Saturday and Sunday.

"For him, it's a milestone. For me, it's another game," Haren
said. "If I give up 714, 715, 716 and we win 7-3, I'll be happy
going home. If there's nobody on, I'm obviously going to challenge
him. If there are people on base, I'm not going to let him beat
me."

The Astros made sure Bonds didn't make history on this trip to
Texas.

He got plunked in the right shoulder by Russ Springer in a wild,
five-pitch at-bat Tuesday that was still the talk of both
clubhouses a day later.

The Giants are convinced the pitcher did it on purpose, but
Springer was out of state in Louisiana to be with his wife as she
had surgery.

"One of these days there will be a time we're going to have to
go on the field," manager Felipe Alou said.

It was recently that Bonds, an eight-time Gold Glover in left
field, acknowledged his future could be in the American League no
longer playing defense once his five-year, $90 million contract
with the Giants is up after this season.

He has always said retiring with the Giants would be his top
wish, though he knows there are no guarantees the Giants will make
it happen -- even if owner Peter Magowan has said it would be
strange to see Bonds break Hank Aaron's career home run record of
755 in another team's uniform.

"That would be up to them, not me," Bonds has said of coming
back.

He's pretty sure he could play about 155 games if he didn't have
to stand in left field for nine innings. Bonds has hit eight of his
home runs as a designated hitter, batting .247 with 43 walks in 81
at-bats.

"Whew, just a DH? What? I could do that," he said. "Oh,
yes."

And Alou has said Bonds could probably total 800 homers if he
didn't have to play the outfield.

For now, the Giants hope they can build off their three wins in
Houston -- where Bonds did plenty even without hitting the ball over
the fence.

Bonds is 4-for-26 (.154) with nine walks and two RBIs since 713.

"He's going to get back to being a good hitter," Alou said.
"And then the long ball will take care of itself."