Bonds hits his first homer of 2006

Bonds hits first homer of '06

DENVER -- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle figured it was only a matter of time before Giants slugger Barry Bonds put his first homer of the season up on the board.

If it was going to be against Colorado, Hurdle said, it was going to have to come in the early innings of Saturday night's 6-4 Giants victory.

"We've got different plans for Bonds," said Hurdle, who went right after him with two outs in the opening inning and nobody on, Omar Vizquel already having led off with a home run. "We're only going to pitch to him in innings that end in vowels."

On Aaron Cook's second offering just a little wide of the plate, the lefty-swinging Bonds made the most of that concession, taking the pitch deep into the tunnel between the foul pole and the left-field bleachers at Coors Field some 384 feet away.

The 709th homer of his career was a long time coming and pulled him to within five of Babe Ruth's 714 and 46 of Hank Aaron's all-time leading 755.

Asked if he felt relieved after finally hitting a homer in his 14th game of the still young season, the longest personal season-opening drought of his now 21-year career, Bonds said: "No, it just felt good not to be behind Omar."

Vizquel, in a rare leadoff role with Randy Winn getting a start off, has 70 career homers. It also was his first of the season.

Giants manager Felipe Alou left no doubt that Bonds will not start on Sunday, meaning the dogged pursuit of the Bambino may have to resume on Monday night in San Francisco's AT&T Park when the 10-7 Giants open a three-game series against the Mets in a probable battle of division leaders.

It was Bonds' 25th homer at Coors Field, his second most among visiting ballparks still in operation behind the 27 he's hit at Dodger Stadium. It was also his first off Cook, making the right-hander the 417th pitcher Bonds, 41, has gone deep against.

"I didn't have a chance to go back and look at [the replay of] it," Cook said. "The pitch definitely was up. With him, a fly ball goes out of here, and he hit it well enough to get it."

It was only Bonds' second RBI of the year, coming in his 31st at-bat and his 52nd plate appearance. Bonds' longest homer drought by at-bats was 58 in 1998, when he went deep in the 13th game for him and the team. But that was long before walking Bonds became a staple of opposing strategy. Bonds walked only 130 times in 156 games that season as compared to 261 times in 175 games since the start of the 2004 season.

On Friday night, the Rockies walked Bonds three times, two of them intentional. They added another one on Saturday night, giving him 20 in all (nine intentional). Though he's batting just .206 (7-for-34), his on-base percentage is a mammoth .518, well above his career mark of .442.

to the babe and beyond

Bonds holds the all-time record for walks (2,331) and intentional walks (616). The Giants score about 30 percent of the time after Bonds is walked, making the strategy, at best, questionable.

"Maybe the more the other teams see that stat, they'll decide to pitch to me," Bonds said.

Bonds' previous regular-season homer came Sept. 27 at PETCO Park against then Padres right-hander Adam Eaton. Bonds hasn't hit a homer in San Francisco since Sept. 18 against the Dodgers.

Bonds, playing on a gimpy right knee and with bone chips floating around in his left elbow, said the first-inning homer may have to be his modus operandi as the pursuit continues. His thrice surgically repaired knee, in particular, becomes more painful as the game goes on, he said.

"I was talking about it in my mind today," said Bonds, who hit a ball to the warning track in center field, ending the first inning on Friday night. "I've never been a first at-bat type person. I've been a late-inning at-bat type person. I have to start thinking a little bit differently. I have to attack the ball a little bit more in the first at-bat. It worked today. It may not work out when I get home, but I'm going to try."

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