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Bonds expected to start Thursday

Bonds expected to start Thursday

CHICAGO -- Barry Bonds sat out his third consecutive start Wednesday at Wrigley Field, but manager Bruce Bochy promised that the Giants slugger would be back in the lineup to continue his pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record for Thursday afternoon's game here against the Cubs.

"He's set to go [Thursday]," Bochy said before the game, "barring any setbacks."

It was the first time Bonds missed three straight starts since sitting out five games in a row last season. Last year, it was for a sore side muscle. This time Bonds had sore and swollen lower legs, the residue of starting 75 of the club's first 89 games -- 69 of them in left field.

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Bochy reiterated what he said Tuesday night after his team prevailed, 4-2, winning for the first time since the All-Star break to snap a five-game losing streak: Bonds would be available again to pinch-hit, which he did during the eighth inning of Tuesday night's game. Bonds lined out to left.

"He'll be available off the bench," Bochy said. "We're giving him another day. The plan is to have him back out there [Thursday]."

Bonds said after Tuesday night's game that he would probably start Thursday afternoon's finale of the four-game series.

"Yeah, I feel like Thursday would be the right time," Bonds said. "[Wednesday] I'm going to take batting practice, move around, get on the field and run a little bit. See how my legs feel."

Before Wednesday's game, Bonds did indeed spend 10 minutes jogging in the outfield and later hit in the batting cage against batting-practice pitcher John Yandle. He had missed BP sessions the previous two days to relax and ice his legs.

The lefty-swinging Bonds is mired in an 0-for-21 slump, his last hit coming July 5 in Cincinnati and his last homer, No. 751, coming in Great American Ball Park two days earlier.

He remains four homers away from tying Aaron's Major League Baseball career-best 755 and five away from passing Aaron into first place on the all-time list.

The three days of rest, of course, has slowed the chase just a bit.

"The chase might last awhile longer, but we need to get going here," Bochy said. "It'll be great when he breaks the record, but it would be better if we were on a roll at the time and winning some ballgames."

The pinch-hit appearance Tuesday was one of the highlights of the evening, coming in the eighth inning with runners on first and second, one out and the score tied at 2. The crowd of 41,102 began to stir as soon as Bonds popped out of the dugout and strode to the on-deck circle.

Everywhere the Giants go, it's the same. The crowd jeers as he steps to the plate, but with each pitch, a litany of camera flashes light up the stands in the hope of recording history.

"The people got their money's worth [Tuesday] night with one at-bat," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said before Wednesday's game. "He's exciting. He's like the action hero and the villain at the same time. That's what people come to the ballpark to see. They want to see Barry swing the bat, and he did and hit a ball hard to left field right to [Alfonso] Soriano."

The confusion over Bonds' schedule seems to now have some clarity at last.

Bochy said Tuesday that he didn't envision Bonds starting many more day games after night games for the remainder of the season. That means Bonds could miss at least a third of the next 17 games, a schedule that includes a game on Friday night in Milwaukee, followed by day games there on Saturday and Sunday.

"Going the way we are, we've probably pushed him a little too much at times as we're trying to fight our way back in it," Bochy said. "It's so important to keep him fresh for this second half. I won't say he won't play a day game after a night game, but it's doubtful that he will."

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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