Hitter's initial at-bats are so-so



Fans' reaction of the slugger's appearance was mixed.
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- If the latest round of steroids accusations is bothering Barry Bonds, he's not letting on to it.
Boos coming his way from all directions, Bonds slowly stepped into the batter's box for his first spring training appearance in two years and struck out swinging on six pitches.
No home run form yet for the San Francisco star -- though he did single sharply to right in his third-inning at-bat. After that, he called it a day, leaving the ballpark in the top of the fourth inning.
Bonds, playing in an exhibition game against the AL West-winning Los Angeles Angels, drew some cheers Thursday during the Giants' 6-5 loss, two days after the release of excerpts from an upcoming book detailing his alleged longtime steroids regimen.
The ground rules
When asked afterward about the book, Bonds said, "Baseball or nothing."
"I don't worry about that stuff," he said during a 20-minute interview session at his locker back at Scottsdale Stadium. "We can react about baseball questions or we don't have a conversation. That's my reaction."
He noted his frame of mind is still strong -- Bonds has become used to blocking out all sorts of distractions in recent years.
"I haven't shot anybody yet," a smiling Bonds said of his mind-set. "I haven't killed anyone or anything, gone psycho."
It helps that many fans still adore him.
"We love you, Barry!" one man screamed during Bonds' first at-bat against Angels right-hander Hector Carrasco, the slugger's first trip to the plate in an Arizona exhibition game since 2004. His single came off Carrasco.
After missing the entire spring schedule and most of the regular season last year while recovering from knee surgery, Bonds decided to play Thursday. He rejoined the Giants in the morning after spending Wednesday at home in California for a child custody hearing.
Next appearance
He plans to play again Saturday as designated hitter in a game against Oakland in Phoenix and hopes to appear in the field Sunday at home against San Diego. Bonds feels "way better" than he did at this time last year and planned a rigorous workout for Friday.
"If opening day was tomorrow and I had to go out there, I'd go out there. It's what I get paid to do," said Bonds, upbeat as he munched on a sandwich.
The seven-time NL MVP originally said this spring he wouldn't play in any road games, but the quick trip to Tempe is one of the shortest on San Francisco's schedule -- and he had the chance to play DH. Bonds, still overweight and pushing 250 pounds, often has complained of how tired his legs become standing in left field for an entire game while also spending significant time on the bases after being walked.
Bonds waved to the clapping fans when he entered the Angels' stadium for the first time, accompanied by teenage son Nikolai. He also greeted autograph seekers as he made his way into Scottsdale Stadium for warm-up drills and batting practice.
He did a couple of twists to stretch by his locker and said little as he walked out of the clubhouse.
"I gotta go," he said. "I gotta keep on schedule."
Manager Felipe Alou had hoped Bonds would play Thursday but didn't list him on the original lineup. Alou quickly wrote a new one upon talking to his star cleanup hitter, who replaced Eliezer Alfonzo as DH.
Number negotiable
Alou has said he would like the 41-year-old slugger to play 120 games this season, though Bonds isn't willing to commit to that yet. He has no target number.
"Why would I have that? I've never had a realistic game number ever in my career," Bonds said. "If you're in the lineup, you play. If you're not, you don't."
Bonds, who is third with 708 homers and only 48 shy of breaking Hank Aaron's career mark, had been out of the exhibition lineup after playing only 14 games last season following three operations on his right knee.
He says his health and finally winning a World Series ring are his priorities now -- not passing Babe Ruth and Aaron.
"I ain't playing for a record. I'm not out there to play for a record," he said. "You go out there thinking about that stuff, you're going to have a bad year. I'm going out there to try to win a World Series and play my [rear end] off and let everything else take care of itself. If I'm playing up to my ability, it doesn't matter. Whatever's going to fall is going to fall."
SI excerpts
On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated released excerpts from "Game of Shadows," written by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters.
Bonds, who testified before a California federal grand jury investigating steroid use by top athletes, has always denied using performance-enhancing drugs and said his accomplishments are purely a result of hard work and talent.
In their book, authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams describe how Bonds started using steroids because he was jealous of the attention paid to Mark McGwire's home run race with Sammy Sosa in 1998.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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