Bochy: Bonds possibly greatest hitter

Bochy: Bonds possibly game's greatest hitter

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With all due respect to Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds is the best player Bruce Bochy has ever seen, the first-year Giants manager said on Saturday.

Perhaps it was just the afterglow of Bochy watching from the dugout as Bonds parked his second spring homer in as many games, well over the picnic pavilion in right field at Scottsdale Stadium. Perhaps it's just being privy to watching a healthy Bonds operate for the first time since his knees deteriorated late during the 2004 season.

Bochy played with and managed the Hall of Fame-bound Gwynn in San Diego over the course of nearly 20 years. It took him less than a month watching Bonds up close and personal to make that decision.

"With all due respect to Tony Gwynn and what a great hitter he was, to do what Barry does and have over 700 home runs, not to mention that he hits for average and that on-base [percentage], he's going to go down as one of, if not the greatest, hitter of all time," Bochy said after the Giants beat the Rangers, 13-9. "That's the kind of numbers he has. He can do some things that Tony Gwynn did. He can wear out that five-six hole [between short and third]. He has unbelievable bat control for a power hitter."

Gwynn finished with 3,141 hits, 18th on the all-time list. But he had seven fewer National League MVPs than Bonds and hit only 135 home runs.

Bonds went 1-for-2 on the day with the two-run homer, a sacrifice fly to deep center that also almost went out, and three RBIs, doubling his spring output in the latter category. So far, he's batting .455 (5-for-11) with two homers, two doubles and six RBIs. And he's slated to be back out there as the designated hitter against the Mariners here on Sunday.

For his part, Bonds said it's too early to project how he will do this season, his 22nd and 15th with the Giants. He goes into it with 734 homers, 21 behind Hank Aaron's all-time Major League record 755. He's also 159 hits short of 3,000 and 70 RBIs shy of 2,000.

"I don't want to hit any more [homers], right now," Bonds said. "I don't need to do that. Just get base hits. Hit some line drives."

On the fourth-inning home run, Bonds actually thought he had popped the ball up, tossing away his bat with a tad of frustration. Of course this is a guy who once hit a homer when he broke his bat.

"I thought I hit it straight up in the air, honestly," Bonds said.

Bonds said he just jogged toward first and never saw the ball land. When told that it had soared well beyond the pavilion, he said: "That's far."

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Bochy was still in awe, sitting in the dugout afterward.

"Can you believe Barry? That was something," he said.

Forgive him for acting with the pleasure of being on Bonds' side for a change. Bonds has hit 85 of his 734 homers against the Padres, far and away his most against any team.

The other Barry: Lost in all the tumult over another Bonds show was Barry Zito's four-inning, 79-pitch outing, the longest of any Giants starter yet this spring. Zito, who signed a seven-year contract worth $126 million, is well aware that no matter what he does, he's still the second Barry on the team.

"It's cool," said Zito, who allowed four runs on five hits, including a Victor Diaz homer, while walking two and whiffing three. "[Bonds is] starting to feel it now. It's getting exciting to watch him every day. Every at-bat is a potential homer."

Even Zito, who played with Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada in Oakland, said that he's never regularly been around a player with the prowess of Bonds.

"I never have," he said. "I don't think anyone has."

And now he feels that the weight of his own contract gives him added responsibilities to the team.

"I just have to be on top of my game every time I go out there," Zito said. "I can't put too much pressure on myself to do that, but that's definitely the desired result. I need to find the fine line of having that strong intention to do that and not going overboard feeling that you have to do that. If I put too much pressure on myself than I'll fail."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.