Bonds will start season batting third

Bonds will start season batting third

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After nearly 20 days of experimentation with Barry Bonds batting third in the Giants lineup, manager Bruce Bochy told MLB.com on Saturday that the left-handed slugger will open the season in that slot on April 3 at San Francisco against the Padres.

"Our plans are to hit him third right now," Bochy said after the Cubs nipped the Giants, 3-2, at Scottsdale Stadium. "Whether that changes at some point during the season, I can't answer that. We'll see how we click offensively."

Bonds said he had no problem with the move when Bochy made it in a Cactus League game March 6, and he reiterated that point Saturday after going hitless in three plate appearances, including a pair of called third strikes.

"Whatever, dog, I'm cool with it," Bonds said. "I have no problem with anything [Bochy] does. I've [hit third] before."

Bonds had hit fourth almost exclusively since midway through the 2002 National League pennant-winning season when then-manager Dusty Baker flip-flopped him with Jeff Kent. Prior to that, he was the team's No. 3 hitter for the better part of the previous seven seasons, including 2001 when he set the single-season record of 73 homers. Bonds came up as a leadoff hitter with the Pirates, but during the heyday of his Pittsburgh tenure hit fifth behind Andy Van Slyke and Bobby Bonilla.

Bonds goes into the season 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 shy of 2,000 runs batted in.

Moving Bonds up a slot may give the Giants more run-producing plate appearances while lessening the impact of opposing teams adding to his record 645 intentional walks, Bochy said.

Bochy added that he's liked everything about the move in the 12 games that Bonds has been in the lineup since then.

"He just gets up in the first inning," Bochy said. "You get one more at-bat out of him. At least with this club, it's a good fit right now. Like I said, we'll see how this goes. If I have to change it, I'll change it. He seems comfortable with it."

Bonds is batting .312 with two doubles, five homers and 10 RBIs this spring, one in which he has been free of pain for the first time since a trio of surgeries on his right knee restricted him to 14 games near the end of the 2005 season.

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.