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Bonds' homer highlights health

Homer highlights health

PHOENIX -- In case anyone was wondering, Giants slugger Barry Bonds is now wearing what he called a girdle to contain his sore left side, but he's no longer wearing a brace on his surgically repaired right knee, which he said on Wednesday night before hitting the 717th homer of his career is vastly improved over earlier in the season.

"It still gets sore. It still swells up, but it recovers a lot faster," Bonds told about a half-dozen writers who gathered by his locker before batting practice. "[The injuries] come with age and time and wear and tear. People say you should wait until you're 100 percent, but I don't think any baseball player has played after the first day of Spring Training at 100 percent."

As if to prove the point, Bonds had his best offensive night of the season in the Giants' 11-4 victory over the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. He went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks (one intentional) and a season-high four runs batted in, giving him 28 for 2006. His fifth-inning single high above the 420-mark in center would've been a home run at AT&T Park and was the third ball hit by Bonds gobbled up by that high fence in center this season.

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"I've been playing pepper with that wall all year," Bonds said afterward.

But he saved the best for last on a night when his teammate, Steve Finley, opened the game with his 300th career homer to join Bonds and his late father Bobby as only the sixth player in Major League Baseball history to make the 300-homer, 300-steal club.

In a classic seven-pitch at-bat in the ninth inning against Diamondbacks reliever Jose Valverde with runners on first and second, Bonds crushed a full-count pitch on a line just above the 10-foot fence in right field. It was his first three-run shot and ninth homer of the season and pulled him within 38 of Hank Aaron's all-time leading 755.

"It was a fastball," Bonds said of the pitch thrown by Valverde, the 423rd pitcher to allow at least one homer to the lefty-swinger in his 21-year career. "It was a record day. It was awesome."

Bonds, back in the lineup against the Diamondbacks for the second straight evening, has said that his continued good health would be the determining factor regarding whether he comes back next season. And the health of his knee, which has been repaired four times since 1999 (including three last season) is of paramount concern.

Because of the sore side, Bonds sat five games in a row through Sunday after playing in 48 of the team's first 58 games.

In pursuit of second place on the all-time home run list, Bonds has played through pain in his knee, bone chips in his left elbow, a bad back and the sore side. He missed all except 14 games last season after the trio of knee surgeries. Of the four in his career, the first three were to remove or repair meniscus and the final one was to flush out a potentially lethal bacterial infection.

Nearing his 42nd birthday on July 24, Bonds is coping with a bone-on-bone arthritic condition in a knee that is bereft of cartilage and meniscus. Earlier in the season as he played every day, Bonds was caught in a cycle of swelling that never seemed to end. Yet, he didn't want to sit until he passed Babe Ruth with his 715th homer, which he finally did on May 28 in the team's 50th game. Bonds has nine homers on the season, four in his last 99 plate appearances through Wednesday night's game.

Bonds has started seven of the 15 game since then and was told by manager Felipe Alou he would sit on Thursday for the series finale here so he can play all three games of an Interleague series against the Mariners in Seattle beginning on Friday night. That's probably one of the main reasons why his knee has begun to settle down.

to the babe and beyond

"Truthfully, I think my knee has finally rolled into recovery from the surgery," Bonds said. "I put a lot of pressure on it right away to come back. I've never really allowed it to calm down. Over time it's kind of healing itself. My body is just getting used to it. Because I came back [last] September it wasn't really healing. The first month of season it was more painful than I thought it was going to be."

Still, Bonds said that it wasn't the wrong approach to come back last season, even though he waffled about it all summer. When he finally returned on Sept. 12 after missing the season's first 142 games and taking two weeks of batting practice, Bonds hit five homers in his first 36 at-bats. But by the end, when he missed the season's final four games, Bonds could barely walk.

Thus, he had to return to rehab where he spent the next month just trying to regain strength in the knee and when this season began he tried to wear a soft brace to protect it.

"No, it was good," Bonds said about his brief return last season. "It was good for me and the team. It didn't set make back this season. I've been here since Opening Day. I've played. I have no complaints. I didn't know what it would be like in an every day situation. When you do something like that it's going to take its toll. I'm enjoying myself right now.

"I may not be the ballplayer I once was, but I'm a happier person. I'm a lot happier."

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.

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