Bonds targets Friday for spring debut

Bonds targets Friday for spring debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants open the Cactus League schedule Thursday against the Brewers in Maryvale, but don't expect Barry Bonds to be in the lineup that afternoon.

"I'm not making that trip," he said Sunday after practice at Scottsdale Stadium. "The farthest I'm traveling this spring is right out there to home plate."

More than likely, Bonds will make his first appearance here on Friday against the Brewers, playing at least an inning or two in left field and taking at least one at-bat.

"I can play the outfield," said Bonds, who missed the entire 2005 spring schedule after having meniscus surgery on his right knee in January and again in mid-March. "I have no problem with that."

After the Giants open in Maryvale, they play four consecutive home games, including a Sunday tilt against Team USA during which both squads can utilize the designated hitter, a mainstay of the 39-game World Baseball Classic that begins in Japan this coming Friday.

The Giants can petition the opposing teams to use the DH in National League ballparks during Spring Training, but haven't done so, manager Felipe Alou said, adding that it probably won't be necessary.

"Barry played in the outfield during practice today and looked pretty good," Alou said. "Barry is having fun again. He didn't have any fun last year because he was hurt."

Alou also said that it was unlikely Bonds would travel with the team on Thursday and that Friday could be his spring debut.

"We'll have to see," Alou said. "I'll check with him to see how he feels the day before the game."

As for any offseason conjecture about where Bonds will hit in the lineup, Alou said he has had no discussion about the matter with the seven-time NL Most Valuable Player.

"Right now I'm penciling him for cleanup," Alou said. "And that's before we've even played a game."

Bonds said he has no interest in hitting farther up in the order.

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"I've got to get in from the outfield (after the top of the first inning) and I'm going to need my rest," said the 41-year-old Bonds with a laugh.

Bonds has spent his first five days in camp experimenting with a new knee brace that is meant to keep the arthritic joint from grinding "bone on bone" while he is running. The brace, called the Bellacure, is a light synthetic sleeve that fits across the knee and slips on easily at the foot. Bonds has been experimenting with different sizes and said he is becoming comfortable wearing it on the field.

"This is something new they didn't have last year," said Bonds, who has been moving well in workouts and is exhibiting no swelling in the knee. "But it feels great. If things continue to go well, I plan to wear it all season."

Bonds missed Spring Training and the first five months of the 2005 season. He ultimately had a third surgery this past May to clean out a nasty bacterial infection that had been plaguing the knee, but had not been diagnosed, for weeks.

Eventually, he returned in September to play in 14 games. He batted .286, hit five homers, all in his first 36 at-bats, and goes into the season with 708 career homers, six shy of Babe Ruth's 714 and 47 in arrears of Hank Aaron's all-time leading 755.

Bonds also needs only 248 hits to reach the 3,000 plateau.

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.