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Giants put on power display vs. Royals

Giants put on power display vs. Royals

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Crowd-pleasing, yes. Effective, maybe. Likely to be repeated often ... probably not.

All are safe assumptions regarding the Giants' outburst of power in Thursday's 7-6 split-squad exhibition loss to the Kansas City Royals. Home runs accounted for San Francisco's scoring as Ray Durham belted two and Barry Bonds, Rich Aurilia, Todd Linden and Lance Niekro added one apiece.

In the evening split-squad game against Seattle, Pedro Feliz continued the surge by delivering a two-run, first-inning homer off Jeff Weaver.

Giants purists who fall asleep humming "Bye Bye Baby" to themselves could revel in a hitting display that was as illusory as it was impressive. San Francisco ranked 11th in the National League with 163 home runs last season, a total that doesn't figure to increase much without the addition of an established power hitter.

By himself, Bonds makes any lineup a power-laden one. But he turns 43 on July 24 and will be sandwiched by hitters who probably will offer sporadic protection, at best. Durham, coming off a personal-best 26-homer season, is by his own admission a line-drive hitter whose best efforts occasionally fly out of the park.

Feliz has averaged 21 homers over the last three seasons. Aurilia hit 23 homers last season but averaged only 12 over the previous four. The season highs for right fielder Randy Winn and catcher Bengie Molina are 20 and 19, respectively. Ryan Klesko has power potential, but he's not assured of regular playing time. When Dave Roberts and Omar Vizquel hit homers, it's a happy accident.

So, can the Giants rely on the long ball?

"Yeah and no," Durham said. "Ultimately, we have to take what the pitcher gives us. I think we have the potential to do both -- bang with some teams, but ... play small ball, too. I think we have the lineup to do it."

Although Earl Weaver's Baltimore Orioles teams were a notable exception, few ballclubs can thrive on power alone. For example, last season's top home run hitting teams in each league, the Chicago White Sox (236) and Atlanta Braves (222), both missed the postseason.

As left-hander Barry Zito related, "With the A's all those years, we relied on the home run. It worked at times; it came back to bite us at times."

At least the Giants proved that they could capitalize on prime power-hitting conditions. Game-time temperature at Surprise Stadium was 86 degrees, although most of the Giants' homers would have cleared the barrier even in cooler temperatures.

Durham opened the second inning by lining his first homer barely over the left-field fence. His next drive carried farther, landing in the Royals' bullpen. Both came off left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, with the switch-hitting Durham batting right-handed -- his natural side.

Linden, another switch-hitter, batted left-handed in the fifth inning against David Riske and golfed his homer far over the right-field fence. Later, Aurilia in the sixth and Niekro in the eighth added high drives.

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Naturally, Bonds delivered the most stunning homer. With one out in the sixth, he clobbered Brandon Duckworth's first pitch on a McCoveyesque line into the right-field bullpen. Approximately one second passed from the time Bonds made contact until the ball crossed the fence.

Referring to his recent "vow" to hit line drives and not home runs, Bonds jokingly said, "I screwed up." Nothing has been screwy about his hitting, given his .333 Cactus League average and three homers in 21 at-bats.

Reminded that his homer wouldn't have cleared the 25-foot-high right-field wall at San Francisco's AT&T Park, Bonds insisted that he still would have managed a double had he hit that ball at home.

"I can move," he said.

Bonds handled the designated hitter's role for the Giants on Thursday -- probably for the last time this spring. Manager Bruce Bochy said that Bonds will return to his usual perch in left field Friday against Colorado and indicated that his megastar will stay there in future exhibition appearances. Bonds has played only 13 innings in left so far.

More importantly, Bonds seemed content with moving to the No. 3 spot in the batting order at Bochy's behest, although all the 22-year veteran would say on the matter was, "You've gotta talk to him." Bochy refrained from committing to keeping Bonds third, saying only, "I'm going to continue to look at it."

With Bonds in the third position, Durham probably will hit cleanup most often. Repeating his sentiment of not caring which spot he occupies, he said that he wouldn't let the No. 4 berth alter his plate approach, although batting cleanup has been known to make some hitters swing for long distance -- frequently with poor results.

"I'm not a home run hitter," Durham repeated. "I'm going to hit the ball in the gaps. That's me. ... Trying to get backspin on the ball and if it goes, it goes."

That's a philosophy most Giants certainly share.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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