Bonds: 'I stink right now'

Bonds: 'I stink right now'

SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds tied up his first week of the 2006 season in a neat four-word bow.

"I stink right now," he told before the crush of reporters descended upon him in the clubhouse Sunday, the Giants' come-from-behind, 6-5 victory over the Atlanta Braves at AT&T Park just completed.

Then he got that unmistakable gleam in his eye.

"But at least we're winning," he added.

The Giants have won four of their first six games and continue this seven-game homestand when the defending National League champion Houston Astros come in Tuesday night. And like waiting for Godot, the baseball world is waiting for Bonds to resume his great chase at the all-time home run record. Thus far, Bonds is 2-for-12 with seven walks, no homers and no runs batted in.

"I'm surprised," said Braves manager Bobby Cox when asked about Bonds going a week without hitting career homer No. 709. "But he'll start hitting home runs. I see no difference in him. He's right on it."

Since Sept. 27, Bonds has been stuck on 708, six behind Babe Ruth's 714 and 47 shy of Hank Aaron's all-time record 755.

The long-ball drought to open the season is Bonds' worst since 1998, when he didn't homer until the team's 13th game, at home April 13 against St. Louis.

This time, he hasn't even come close. And even he says he feels the shadow of the Great Bambino hovering.

"I'm just trying to get away from it," Bonds said as he continued the one-on-one portion of the interview. "You know what the situation is. You know everybody else is locked into it. My mind has to get away from it all and start focusing in on baseball. It's all around me all day, man. Our guys win the game and I don't do nothing and you have how many guys [in the media] around here [near his locker]? It's hard. When somebody else eventually comes up and challenges this thing, I feel for them, because it's real hard. It's hard to just get into your own game routine."

It's doubly hard for Bonds because he's 41 years old and coming off a nearly inactive season due to a trio of surgeries to repair torn meniscus and eradicate a serious bacterial infection from his right knee.

Bonds said he "tweaked" that knee during a second-inning plate appearance, which ended with Braves right-hander John Smoltz walking him, Bonds' first of two walks against Atlanta pitching in the game. Bonds said it sent shivers up his body and after he slowly went to first, he rubbed his lower leg.

to the babe and beyond

Bonds told reporters that he "tweaked" his knee digging in on a pitch against Smoltz.

"He threw the ball in the dirt and I popped my knee," Bonds said. "[The pain] just shot right through my whole body. I jammed my leg down on the pitch. It calmed down, I think. It wasn't too bad because I stayed in the game."

On the same sequence, Bonds ran as hard as he has all week, scoring standing up from second on Lance Niekro's single. Defensively in the seventh inning, he had a long run to the left-field line chasing down Chipper Jones' pop fly. After making the catch, Bonds looked a little gimpy walking back to his position.

The knee didn't appear to be swollen as Bonds sat in front of his locker wearing workout shorts, and he said he didn't expect to come to the ballpark for any therapy during Monday's off-day.

Smoltz, who struck out Bonds looking with a borderline sixth-inning pitch, said the lefty-swinger was still a dominant factor.

"He certainly has a presence, and I'm used to it," said the 38-year-old Smoltz, who has faced Bonds steadily since he came up with the Braves in 1988. "We're all in awe of what he does, but you can't show it on the mound. You've got to go after him and ultimately create no traffic [on base] before him."

Bonds has become accustomed to seeing very few pitches to hit each game. Since the start of the 2004 season, he's walked 248 times, 125 of them intentionally. When he's on his game, though, he usually still hits.

This past year, he returned from the knee surgeries to hit five homers, all in his first 36 at-bats. Two years ago, he entered the season needing only three home runs to pass his godfather, Willie Mays, at 661 to move into third on the all-time list. He did that during the season's first week and had 10 in all by April 29. But he didn't hit No. 11 until May 25.

So these droughts have happened before.

"It's the same thing -- he's not getting any pitches to hit," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "He's not sharp. It's tough when you're not sharp to be right on it when you get so few pitches to hit."

Bonds said he's been seeing precious few fastballs. Pitchers have been moving breaking pitches in and out of the strike zone.

"Everything's around," Bonds said. But that's not so unusual, he added.

"I've been there before," Bonds said. "We've got a winning record, so it's not a big deal. As long as we keep winning, it doesn't matter. If guys around you keep swinging the bats good, it will come to you eventually. You guys just have to be patient. I'll take a two-for-the-rest-of-the-season as long as we win the World Series."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.