Roberts Hopes to Take Pressure Off Bonds

Monday, February 26th 2007, 6:53 am
By: News On 6

The way Dave Roberts sees it, the San Francisco Giants have to do more than just watch Barry Bonds.

``I think this team has obviously always been centered around Barry and waiting for him to do something really special, but I think guys up and down the lineup still need to do their jobs,'' Roberts said. ``For me, it's needing to get on base and provide energy and stealing bases. That's my job, my role this year and I'm excited about my role.''

For the first time in years, the Giants have a prototypical leadoff man in Roberts. He is energetic, gets on base and regularly steals bags. He's also a welcoming, friendly face to his teammates in the clubhouse who has been a fan favorite at every stop.

Roberts will bat in front of Omar Vizquel, giving San Francisco two base-stealing threats at the top of the lineup the Giants hope will be key in making the club a contender again. He also will start in center field, with Randy Winn moving to right and Bonds playing left.

``With Dave Roberts out there getting on base, he's going to create a lot of problems out there,'' Bonds said in Scottsdale, Ariz. ``I've had the opportunity to play against him for so many years and he's done it. This time it's having him on our side. We had a good talk earlier. I told him, 'Don't change your game _ run. The more runs you score, the more runs we have.' I just hope he runs and doesn't do anything different than he's done in the past.''

The White Sox are counting on a big year from slugger Jim Thome, who was limited by back, hamstring and wrist problems during the second half of last season but still finished with 42 homers and 109 RBIs in his first year with Chicago.

He could reach 500 career homers this year but he's focused on winning the World Series in his 17th season in the big leagues.

``I certainly feel very, very strongly about winning,'' he said in Tucson, Ariz. ``Winning a championship should be in everybody's plan. I certainly would like to accomplish that.''

Thome's productive season with the White Sox came after he was limited to 59 games in the previous year with Philadelphia because of injuries. His one concern heading into last season was whether he would hold up physically.

``After you have surgery, you don't know,'' said Thome, who has 472 homers.

The New York Yankees are counting on Carl Pavano to start for them this season, but the right-hander had an MRI exam and X-rays taken Sunday on his injured left foot.

The team didn't immediately release the results, but Pavano said afterward that he wasn't concerned.

``Just for precaution,'' Pavano said in Tampa, Fla. ``It's feeling better than it did. I'm not really too alarmed. There's no bruising or anything. It's just stiff.''

Pavano was hit on the instep in batting practice Saturday by infielder Alberto Gonzalez's line drive. He made one warm-up toss after being struck and then threw 27 more pitches to complete his workout. The right-hander may not pitch in Tuesday's intrasquad game.

``That will be up in the air for sure,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ``Hopefully he doesn't fall behind significantly. It's not going to matter if he misses a day or so. I'm sure it's sore. We'll have to wait and see.''

Pavano, starting the third season of a $39.95 million, four-year contract, hasn't pitched in the major leagues since June 27, 2005, due to various injuries.

``He had a shoe on, all that stuff is a good sign,'' Torre said.

At Tucson, Ariz., Steve Finley reported to spring training after signing a minor league contract with the Rockies on Saturday. The 41-year-old said he was waiting for the perfect deal after the Giants declined to exercise their option on him in November.

The Rockies proved to be the best-case scenario.

``We talked to the Rockies early in the offseason. There was interest. I was looking to try to get out of the situation I was traded into with the Giants and nothing was really materializing. I was content to be patient,'' Finley said. ``I came down to the end wanting to be in camp. I didn't want to sit there. People need to see what I can do.''

Finley, who batted .246 with six homers for the Giants last year, hit in the cages on his first day in camp and appeared in good enough shape to chase down even the deepest fly balls in Coors Field this season, if he makes the final squad.

``I'm excited about him being here,'' Colorado pitcher Jeff Francis said. ``On a team with a core of guys that are really young, for a guy like that to come in here, he's a good guy to have around. He knows what to do.''

The Dodgers are excited to have right-hander Jason Schmidt in their camp in Vero Beach, Fla. Schmidt passed up opportunities in the offseason for a longer, more lucrative deal and instead signed a $47 million, three-year deal with Los Angeles.

``My kids are my interest. I've got two and one on the way,'' Schmidt said. ``There were five-year deals to be had. I can see why guys want to stretch out the contract. It was a family thing.

The 34-year-old right-hander spent the past 5 1/2 seasons in San Francisco _ the Dodgers' biggest rival. He went 78-37 with the Giants and helped them reach the 2002 World Series. But they've fallen off in recent years.

Schmidt said he enjoyed playing with the Giants, and had an excellent relationship with Bonds. But it was time to move on.

``I want that ring. You don't have that, you haven't accomplished your main goal,'' he said.