Bonds Only Concerned With Aaron's Record

Wednesday, February 21st 2007, 5:59 am
By: News On 6

The only obstacle Barry Bonds cares to see right now is the number 755.

The San Francisco slugger arrived at spring training Tuesday, ready to resume his pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record this season. As for the federal grand jury that could still indict him on perjury charges?

``Let them investigate. Let them, they've been doing it this long,'' Bonds said Tuesday after his first workout with the Giants. ``It doesn't weigh on me at all _ at all. It's just you guys talking. It's just media conversation.''

The seven-time MVP arrived at the Giants' training site in Scottsdale, Ariz., in better shape than in recent years following a productive winter of conditioning.

Noticeably absent were his two personal trainers, Greg Oliver and Harvey Shields, who no longer can be with Bonds at the ballpark. Bonds, who spent the weekend in Las Vegas for the NBA All-Star game, was flanked by his two publicists and a Major League Baseball security guard assigned to him.

Bonds joked with new teammate Barry Zito in their corner space of the clubhouse, then the 42-year-old outfielder made his way through the room and greeted outfielder Jason Ellison, infielder Rich Aurilia and pitcher Matt Morris.

Bonds still could be indicted if a federal grand jury determines that he perjured himself when testifying in 2003 in the BALCO steroid distribution case that he hadn't knowingly taken performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds, who has long denied ever using steroids, said his level of concern about the investigation is ``none.''

Last month, the New York Daily News reported that Bonds failed a test for amphetamines last season and then attributed it to a substance he took from teammate Mark Sweeney's locker. Bonds publicly apologized to Sweeney at the time, then stretched alongside him and Ray Durham on the first day of workouts.

``I did not blame Mark Sweeney,'' Bonds said Tuesday, noting he apologized only ``because you guys just started talking about it and I just thought it was unfair for him to be accused of something that wasn't true.''

Asked if he had failed an amphetamines test, Bonds declined to comment. He also denied reports that he wasn't always available to pinch-hit last season.

``That's not true at all,'' said Bonds, who has language about behavior in his new contract. ``I'm always available. I'm in uniform, so I'm always available.''

At Yankees camp in Tampa, Fla., Bernie Williams rejected New York's offer of a minor league contract and will wait to see if a guaranteed job opens up for him on the team.

Yankees manager Joe Torre spoke with Williams last week and tried to reach him, without success, on Sunday.

``Bernie told me he had talked with Joe. Other than the invite, there wasn't any information that led him to believe he would be a member of the team,'' Williams' agent, Scott Boras, said Tuesday. ``He's continuing to work out, will wait to see if their position changes.''

Williams signed with the Yankees in 1985 and came up to the major league team in 1991. Torre had hoped the outfielder would be on the field as position players started workouts Tuesday and that Williams would compete for a spot on the roster.

``Evidently, what I've said to him hasn't been enough for him,'' Torre said. ``I know he was down when I talked to him.''

Williams helped the Yankees win four World Series from 1996-2000 and is hurt the team hasn't offered him a guaranteed job. Now 38, he lost his starting center field spot to Johnny Damon last year but hit .281 with 12 homers and 61 RBIs in 420 at-bats as a backup, seeing significant time after Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield got hurt.

``He certainly feels he can be a helpful contributor in '07,'' Boras said. ``He wants to remain loyal to the Yankees and doesn't feel it's appropriate for him to play for another club.''

In Mesa, Ariz., Carlos Zambrano and the Chicago Cubs agreed to a $12.4 million, one-year contract Tuesday, avoiding salary arbitration by striking the deal just before the scheduled hearing.

Zambrano earned $6.5 million last season while going 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA and 210 strikeouts. He asked for $15.5 million in arbitration, while the Cubs countered at $11,025,000 _ more than any player has been awarded.

``I feel good, ready to go,'' Zambrano said. ``I'm ready to lead this team to the championship, to win in this city.''

In Peoria, Ariz., Ichiro Suzuki discussed the possibility that he might become a free agent for the first time. Seattle's six-time All-Star and perennial Gold Glove outfielder said ``It is possible I will go to free agency'' after the 2007 season.

Suzuki's $44 million, four-year deal ends this fall. This is the first time in his 15 years of professional baseball with Seattle and with Orix in Japan that he's playing the final season of a contract.

``I have never had the choice to choose for myself which road I want to take,'' Suzuki said through interpreter Ken Barron. ``So if you ask me is it possible that I will go to free agency, yes, it is possible.

``But if you ask me what are my feelings toward it, at this point I cannot express it. I am not even sure myself. But what I can say is my mind is full of having the best season possible.''

In other news from the Seattle camp, reliever Mark Lowe will have another MRI next week to determine when he can start throwing following elbow surgery in October, and former San Diego third baseman Sean Burroughs' comeback attempt as a non-roster invitee has been delayed because of a fishing accident.

In Dunedin, Fla., Frank Thomas arrived in the Toronto Blue Jays' camp and announced he wants to compete for a title before he retires.

The 38-year-old Thomas signed a two-year, $18.12-million contract in November after playing one season with Oakland. In 2006 with the A's he hit .270 with 39 homers and 114 RBI.

``It's a very strong ballclub,'' said Thomas, ``And getting close to the end of my career I wanted to go some place where I could compete for a title. That's what's more important than anything to me at this point.''

In Kissimmee, Fla., Andruw Jones showed up to Braves camp about 10 pounds lighter and made it clear he'll be looking to get paid ``market value'' in his new deal.

Jones, entering the final year of his contract, put up 92 homers and 257 RBIs over the past two seasons while extending his Gold Glove streak to nine. But he might be too expensive for the Braves to keep. The team is going through an ownership change and has reduced payroll in recent years.

``I'm under contract to the Braves right now,'' Jones said. ``Hopefully, by the end of the season, we'll be able to accomplish something so I can stay here. I want to be a Brave for life.''

While there was a perception that Jones gave the Braves a hometown discount in his last contract, bringing in his father to help with the negotiations instead of agent Scott Boras, it looks as though the center fielder will be looking to get full value this time.