Close, but still stuck at 708

Bonds close in try for 709

PHOENIX -- For just a moment suspended in time on Tuesday night, a ball Barry Bonds hit looked like it just might get out of Chase Field. It rose and sliced towards the wall high atop the playing surface just to the left of center field some 413 feet away.

The yellow stripe demarcating a home run is 25 feet high at that point. It hit just a few feet below that mark. About five feet was the difference between career homer No. 709 and career double No. 567.

Still, Bonds had a hint of a smile on his face after the Giants lost, 7-4, to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"It felt a lot better," he told MLB.com before striding away into the night. "It's starting to get there."

Modest as it is, Bonds was 1-for-2 with two walks on the night as his average crept up to .214. He's 6-for-28 with 15 walks (six intentional), three doubles, five runs scored and a RBI. Adding the two times he was hit by pitches and his on-base percentage rose to a somewhat gaudy .511. He's been on base at least once in each of the 11 games he has played.

Not bad for a guy who hasn't hit a homer, is gimping around on a swollen right knee and has a left elbow the size of a small cantaloupe. And by the way, he turns 42 on July 24.

"He looks tired," Giants manager Felipe Alou said, uttering the understatement of the week.

The manager added that he intends to give Bonds one of the next two games off -- either Wednesday or Thursday night here. Then in all probability, Bonds will rest for Sunday's day game after a Saturday night game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

Still, Alou said he is watching Bonds' swing beginning to pick up some authority and he's reluctant to pull him out. Of the Giants' first 13 games, Bonds was pulled from the lineup on April 7 when a storm deemed it unwise to let him roam the soggy pastures of AT&T Park's left field in a rain-delayed game against the Atlanta Braves.

Last Thursday, he sat out the second game of a day-night doubleheader against the Houston Astros. But don't think Alou didn't ask him if he wanted to play.

"When you think about it, I wasn't supposed to play this many games," Bonds said before taking the field on Tuesday night.

Told that the manager intended to give him a breather this week, Bonds wearily laughed.

"I might take off the next two games," he said.

Every day there seems to be another little Bonds story. On Sunday he was hit by a pitch, possibly in retaliation for the beaning of Jeff Kent, his former Giants teammate who now plays for the Dodgers. On Monday, a fan was arrested for throwing a tube of sports gel on the turf behind him at Chase Field.

to the babe and beyond

In Tuesday's editions, the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that Giants head trainer Stan Conte has been subpoenaed to testify on April 27 before a grand jury, which is being asked to determine whether Bonds committed perjury in his 2003 testimony regarding his alleged use of steroids. The Chronicle, citing unnamed sources, said the grand jury also wants all Giants medical records pertaining to Bonds. These closed hearings are an offshoot of the federal investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO).

The left-handed-swinging slugger has remained mum on all of it, saying again on Tuesday that he would continue to answer baseball-related questions only. The Giants and Conte also had no comment. For the third consecutive day, Bonds declined after the game to speak to the media at large. About anything.

Before the game, Bonds said he's trying to focus on getting his game back together. He is well aware that he established a new personal season-opening drought by not hitting a homer in the club's first 13 games.

Bonds homered in the 13th game of the 1998 season.

He's currently stuck at 708 career homers, six behind Babe Ruth's 714 and 47 short of Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755. Bonds hasn't hit a homer since this past Sept. 27.

But for a moment there against Arizona right-hander Juan Cruz during the sixth inning, it looked like the drought might be over.

"It was almost a one-handed swing," Alou said. "Call it one-and-a-half hands. Still, he hit that ball a long way. He was a tired man tonight. He's been playing a lot. Let's see what happens tomorrow."

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.