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  Tue, June 15, 2004


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Blue Jays in deep trouble?
Pitchers might challenge Bonds
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds smiles during a break in the action against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, June 13, 2004. (AP/Nick Wass)

We fast forward to the visiting clubhouse tonight at Pac Bell Park.

Blue Jays advance scout Sal Butera has assembled his scouting report and pitching coach Gil Patterson has examined the material.

Now Patterson is about to talk to his pitching staff about facing the San Francisco Giants and a slugger named Barry Bonds during a three-game series which opens tonight.

Here is what some members of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks -- who face the Giants 19 times a season -- would say if they were standing in Patterson's shoes:

Dodgers closer Eric Gagne: "I'd tell them not to throw to him with the game on the line ... not ever."

Bonds is a career .250 hitter (4-for-16) with a solo homer and four walks against Gagne.

Dodgers hitting coach Tim Wallach: "I'd tell them to be very careful, no wait a second, I'd add about six 'verys' in front of that ... they should be very, very, very, very, very, very careful."

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly: "We tell our guys if he has a chance to tie or win the game with a home run, we walk him. It's fruitless to try to pitch around him because he won't swing at pitches out of the strike zone, he's so disciplined."

Dodgers right-hander Jose Lima: "He's the only guy in the lineup who can hurt you. If you challenge him, he will hurt you bad.

"They should be told that they shouldn't try to be a hero."

Tina Turner sang We Don't Need Another Hero in the Mad Max movie Beyond Thunderdome. When Bonds swings there is thunder, there is lightning and, occasionally, there is a splashdown into McCovey Cove beyond the right-field fence.

Jays pitcher will try to keep Bonds in the park and out of the Cove, away from the kayaks, sailboats, canoes, rowboats, rubber rafts, surfboards and inner tubes.

Of the 13 pitchers on the Jays staff only three have faced Bonds five times or more and six haven't faced him at all.

"The thing Bonds will do," said Lima, the voice of experience, "is that he will look bad on a pitch on purpose. He has done it to me three times."

The first was in 1997 when Lima was with the Houston Astros.

"I fooled him on a changeup," Lima said. "Next one I threw, he hooked it around the foul pole. No it wasn't a hanger, I got the ball down ... he went and got it off his shoe-tops.

"In 1999, at the Astrodome, I had him 3-0 and blew a fastball by him. Next pitch he nearly hit out of the Astrodome. The third time was last season during interleague when I was with the Royals. He hit a ball in K.C. that nearly landed in the waterfalls in centre ."

Bonds is 9-for-19 (.474) against Lima in his career, with four homers, seven RBIs, eight walks and a 1.211 slugging percentage.

Among Jays pitchers, right-hander Miguel Batista, a former National Leaguer, has faced Bonds the most, the slugger going 7-for-23 (.304), with four homers and seven RBIs.

Bonds is hitting .313 (5-for-16) against reliever Terry Adams with two home runs, and .500 (4-for-8) against lefty Ted Lilly, with two homers.

Three others have had success against Bonds, although it has been over a short time frame: Reliever Justin Speier has held Bonds hitless in four at-bats, as has Pat Hentgen in three at-bats. Bonds has one hit in two at-bats against Roy Halladay.

To the rest of the pitchers, Bonds is someone they've seen only on highlight shows.

Bonds has changed the game. Intentional walks abound when it's his turn at the plate, it doesn't matter the situation.

In 1999, Buck Showalter, then the Diamondbacks manager, ordered Bonds walked with two outs in the top of the ninth. The bases were loaded. Arizona had an 8-6 lead.

Reliever Gregg Olson threw four wild ones to force in a run and bring up Brent Mayne, who lined to right to end the game.

"We nearly did it last time we played them," Brenly said. "We had a two-run lead, the bases were loaded, with one out and he was on deck. If we popped the hitter up we would have done it, but we got a double-play ball and that was the end of it."

Facing Bonds is a lose-lose situation.

"You're damned if you do and damned if you don't," Florida Marlins manager Jack McKeon said after ordering four intentional walks of Bonds on May 1. "Barry is the only player in baseball who has that respect. Most of the time, Mark McGwire didn't have it. Neither does Sammy Sosa."

Walking Bonds consistently at Enron Field eventually helped lead to the firing of Houston Astros manager Larry Dierker in 2001. Bonds set a major-league record of 73 homers that season and fans in Houston wanted to see him hit one out or at least be challenged. They didn't pay to see Dierker hold up four fingers, indicating an intentional walk.

This season, Bonds has drawn 88 walks in 48 games, 47 of them intentional. On most scorecards a "BB" indicates a walk. To BB or not to BB the man known as BB, that is the question managers face. Bonds holds the major-league record for intentional walks with 68 in 2002.

"If you pitch to him, you had better pitch carefully," said Minnesota Twins reliever Terry Mulholland, who has allowed eight career homers to Bonds. "If you're young, haven't faced him a lot and have a lot of confidence in your fastball, you're in trouble if you let your ego get in the way of your game plan."

Former Jays outfielder Jose Cruz, who was a Bonds teammate with the Giants in 2003, made a point of watching the slugger take batting practice a week ago.

"He's the only guy who you think will hit a home run every time up," said Cruz, now with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. "Not once do you think he'll hit a single.

"Everyone should watch him take BP. It's impressive. I've never seen anything like it."

Patterson might be wise to keep his pitchers in the clubhouse.