Bonds: Go Ahead, Investigate Me
Tuesday, February 20th 2007, 6:07 pm
News On 6
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Barry Bonds had a pointed message for the grand jury: Go ahead, investigate me.
After arriving at spring training Tuesday, more fit than in recent years following a productive winter of conditioning, the slugger insisted he's unfazed by all his off-the-field issues and is ready to resume his pursuit of the home run record.
"Let them investigate. Let them, they've been doing it this long," Bonds said Tuesday after his first workout this year with the San Francisco Giants. "It doesn't weigh on me at all -- at all. It's just you guys talking. It's just media conversation."
When Bonds showed up, he waved twice to the swarm of people waiting to see him make his entrance, then quickly headed into Scottsdale Stadium to get to work.
Noticeably absent were his two personal trainers, Greg Oliver and Harvey Shields, who no longer can be with the slugger 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.
He joked with new teammate Barry Zito in their corner space of the clubhouse, then the 42-year-old Bonds made his way through the room and greeted outfielder Jason Ellison, infielder Rich Aurilia and pitcher Matt Morris. Clubhouse staff soon came his way with new undershorts and hats.
Bonds took part in a team meeting before walking to the field for the Giants' first full-squad workout -- and he took a big bow for the horde of cameras. He re-emerged later in the morning to start his routine and waved his batting helmet to fans in the bleachers, carrying two bats in his right hand.
He shagged fly balls and hit five home runs in batting practice, including a shot to the berm in right-center on a fastball from No. 2 starter Matt Cain. That was enough to impress new skipper Bruce Bochy, who saw Bonds do his share of damage against his old team, the Padres. Bonds has hit more homers against San Diego than any other team.
"He's an incredible talent," Bochy said. "He showed it today on the first day."
Bonds was mostly business -- with a little fun mixed in -- once he got on the field.
He 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 an amphetamines test 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. Also, he 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."
As far as Bonds is concerned, all that is over with.
"I don't need to say anything to anybody," he said.
Bonds quickly ended his 12-minute interview in the dugout when the questions turned from baseball to his problems away from the field.
He begins his 22nd major league season, and 15th with San Francisco, needing only 22 home runs to break Hank Aaron's career record of 755. Bonds isn't about to make predictions, but said he won't stop once he catches Hammerin' Hank.
"I said I'm playing till I'm 100 -- you guys get used to me," Bonds said.
Bonds and Zito had a little fun, coming out of the clubhouse at one point in matching black T-shirts with this orange writing on the back: "DON'T ASK ME ... ASK BARRY," each with an arrow that pointed at the other Barry. Zito, who threw to Bonds this winter at UCLA, stood on the left with his arrow aimed at Bonds.
"Hey, ya'll don't want to miss this," Bonds said to get everyone's attention.
New center fielder and leadoff man Dave Roberts knelt next to Bonds' folding chair to chat with the resting slugger between rounds of BP.
"It's going to be interesting to see how this shakes out," Roberts said about the hype. "We'd be naive not to think he's going to be a big part of this team. He wants to win as much as anybody."
Bonds, the seven-time NL MVP who's still facing constant questions about whether his home run pursuit was fueled by steroids, finally signed his $15.8 million, one-year deal last week after he and the Giants squabbled over contract language. The original deal was agreed to Dec. 7, the final day of baseball's winter meetings.
"My contract wasn't a problem. I'm here," Bonds said. "It was never a problem. There are guys who still aren't signed. I'm here. I don't have any problems."
Bonds worked out earlier in the day offsite with Oliver and Shields, who are no longer employed by the Giants or allowed in restricted areas of the ballpark. They used to have their own lockers near Bonds.