Bonds reports to Spring Training
All-Star meets Zito, ready to start chase of Aaron's record
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Bonds arrived without fanfare in the Giants' clubhouse at 8:30 a.m. MT on Tuesday morning. He hugged Barry Zito, his new lockermate, and then went about the business of preparing himself for this season's chase of Hank Aaron and the all-time home run record."We're in the same casa," Bonds said to Zito, the Giants' new $126-million pitcher, grabbing him playfully around the neck. A few hours later, Bonds stood in the batting cage on the main field of Scottsdale Stadium and faced Zito, swinging at one pitch, which he popped out lazily to center. Against Matt Cain, Bonds launched one of his trademark drives into the grassy knoll beyond the right-center-field fence. "I'm ready," Bonds proclaimed, tossing his hands up in the air as a media throng and a small gathering of fans looked on. "Now I need only 21 [to pass Aaron]," said Bonds, who goes into the season with 734 homers -- Aaron finished with 755. "That one counts." He and Zito, having retired to the clubhouse, then reemerged. "You have to see this," Bonds said. Both were wearing T-shirts that read on the back: "DON'T ASK ME...ASK BARRY!" An arrow below pointed at Bonds on the right side and Zito on the left. Bonds took ownership of the concept. So much for the day's frivolities. Later, still, Bonds, while seated on the bench of the Giants dugout, faced a media cross examination that included questions about his reported positive amphetamines test last season and teammate Mark Sweeney's involvement in the incident; his reported refusal to make himself available for some games in 2006, and the ongoing federal investigation into whether he committed perjury nearly four years ago in grand-jury testimony about his steroid use. Asked about the federal investigation, Bonds said: "It doesn't bother me at all. It's you guys [the media] talking." When told that it was the government, not the media, investigating him, Bonds added: "That's all right. Let them investigate. Let 'em. They've been doing it this long." Asked if he was anxious because the investigation has taken so much time, Bonds said: "I'm not concerned about it. I leave it up to you guys to make those assessments."
Asked about an offseason story in which anonymous clubhouse sources said that Bonds was unwilling to make himself available as a pinch-hitter on occasion last season, Bonds said:"That's not true. I'm in uniform, so I'm always available." Regarding the report that he had tested positive for amphetamines and had blamed it on taking a substance from Sweeney's locker, Bonds said: "I did not blame Mark Sweeney, and I have no comments on it at all." Asked why he made a public apology to Sweeney, Bonds added: "Because you guys [the media] just started talking about it, and I thought it was unfair for him to be accused of something that wasn't true. That's why." Bonds also said he had no plans to address the team about the issue. "No, I don't have to say anything to anybody," he said. Bonds declined to comment directly about the amphetamines report and the fact that Greg Anderson, his former personal trainer, remains in prison for refusing to testify in front of the grand jury investigating the left-fielder's steroid use. Regarding the record pursuit, Bonds said it won't be an impediment to the Giants' attempt at making the playoffs this season for the first time since 2003, unless of course it is. "Whatever happens is going to happen," Bonds said. "I'm going to go out there and play baseball like I always have. Hopefully, everything works out for us and we win a championship. And if the record gets in the way, it gets in the way." It is an uncommon period of recent health for Bonds, beginning his 22nd Spring Training and 15th with the Giants. Two years ago, Bonds had undergone knee surgery only two weeks before the start of camp. He obviously did too much too soon and by mid-March had to have his knee scoped again. Bonds missed all of that training camp, had further surgery during the season and didn't play until September, missing all except 14 games. Last year, he was put on a strict training schedule and appeared to be progressing nicely when he felt a pop in his left elbow a week prior to the start of the regular season. Still, in '06, he played in 130 games, tied for the club lead with 26 homers, led the National League with 115 walks and the Major Leagues with a .454 on-base percentage. A day after the season ended, he had bone chips and a spur removed from the elbow. Absent from the scene on Tuesday was much of his familiar entourage, which once included his personal trainers, publicists, business manager and video cameraman. By terms of his new one-year, $15.8 million contract, trainers Greg Oliver and Harvey Shields are no longer employees of the club. Both will continue to work with Bonds away from the ballpark. "My trainers are here," said Bonds, meaning the Scottsdale area. "They're just not right here [meaning the ballpark]. They're here. They're with me. They'll be with me all year." Bonds even had to share the empty locker separating Bonds and Zito with the pitcher. Upon his arrival, Zito already had his street clothes hanging from a hook. It's all part of the new world order. "I have about 80 things to do today," Bonds said. "But that's the way the first day always is, getting organized."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.