Alou thinking of putting Bonds second

Alou thinking of putting Bonds in No. 2 spot

SAN FRANCISCO -- Baseball tradition holds that a lineup's fourth batter is the slugger, the big bopper, the man who puts fans in the seats and can launch balls into the ionosphere ... well, maybe the second deck.

Giants manager Felipe Alou, though, is tempting fate and catcalls by toying with the idea of batting basher Barry Bonds in the No. 2 spot this coming season. It's not a "Say Hey" moment, more like a "Say what?" one, yet the skipper insists he'll give it a whirl.

There's a hitch. Bonds hasn't been asked yet.

"I'll see how he feels, but that would get him off to a quick start," said Alou on Friday, as he and a contingent of Giants met with the media on the eve of the annual KNBR/Giants FanFest at Pier 48, just a few dog-paddles away from SBC Park.

"I started talking about it a few days back. This is something that's not in cement, but I'd like to do it -- of course I'll have to run it by Barry," said Alou. "I got a Christmas card from him, and I understand he's in the Dominican Republic. It's going to be Spring Training when I see him, and then we're going to discuss that."

There was a short time in Cactus League action two years ago when Bonds was put into the No. 3 slot, but after a week, the outfielder was back in his familiar cleanup role after telling the field boss he preferred it. Alou added that same year that he considered moving Bonds to the No. 2 slot to get the then-sluggish offense cranking, but it perked up on its own.

"Barry was ready to go and bat second," said Alou. "We were hoping they'd pitch more to him."

The reasoning now is that Bonds will likely be taken out of games in the late innings -- to rest his legs and help keep him healthy -- and Alou would prefer inserting a good hitter, the caliber of Steve Finley, as a replacement rather than an on-the-bench leftover.

"He always tries to do what's best for the team," said Alou. "No question about that. I hate to take him out of the game and have one of the kids bat fourth in a late-inning situation. You don't want a young kid to come up three times in extra innings."

Don't forget, Alou added, Bonds will be 42 next season, and it may take ongoing discussions among the medical staff, Bonds and the manager to determine how long the player will stay in a game. The Giants hope that Bonds will play in about 120 contests despite his arthritic knees.

Bonds played only 14 games last season after recovering from three knee surgeries and a bacterial infection, yet he still hit five homers to move within six clouts of Babe Ruth's career mark of 714.

So who would bat No. 4?

That would be Moises Alou on many occasions and perhaps Finley, with "Mo" also batting fifth.

"Finley will give me the opportunity to rest Barry and Mo at will," said the skipper. "I'm going to play [Steve] a lot and keep the other guys healthy."

The crucial leadoff spot is up for grabs. Veteran Ray Durham sparkled in that role in 2003 and 2004, but last season the second baseman transitioned to a lower spot in the order easily, batting .290 with 12 homers and 62 RBIs overall. He had a spectacular second half, hitting .300 with 16 doubles, seven homers and 37 RBIs.

That helped balance the order, especially with Randy Winn starting 48 games in leadoff over the second half, right behind rookie Jason Ellison's 49 starts. Omar Vizquel led off 22 times.

"No question, Ray was a leadoff guy until last year, because of circumstances -- injuries to Barry and Mo," said Alou. "I would like him to be the leadoff guy, but Winn is a pretty good one, too, and Omar is, too, but I think Vizquel would prefer batting second."

The skipper expects a big year from Durham, who is in the final season of his contract.

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