Barry Bonds was the center of attention in San Francisco during the offseason because of steroid allegations, an injured knee and retirement rumors.
Yet Bonds will be nothing more than a spectator when the Giants open the season against the hated Los Angeles Dodgers at Pac Bell Park.
The Giants placed Bonds on the 15-day disabled list Saturday as they finalized their roster for opening day, the third time the slugger has been on the DL in his career.
Bonds, who at some point is expected to begin his 20th major league season, is recovering from two operations on his troublesome right knee during a seven-week span, the latest on March 17.
Bonds has been rehabilitating his knee in San Francisco and isn’t sure when he’ll return to resume his quest for the career home run record. His 703 homers trail only Babe Ruth (714) and Hank Aaron (755).
Giants manager Felipe Alou plans to start talented utilityman Pedro Feliz in Bonds’ spot in left field for the time being. Feliz brings down the age of baseball’s oldest outfield, which regularly would feature 40-year-old Bonds, 37-year-old Marquis Grissom in center and 38-year-old Moises Alou in right.
Bonds, a seven-time NL MVP, has said he could miss half the season or even the whole year, but nobody seems to believe him.
“Barry Bonds in any one of the four years I’ve managed here obviously puts an interesting spin on any given offensive situation,” Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. “His presence in the lineup forces your hand to do some things that you otherwise ordinarily would not do. And that element is gone with him not in the lineup. But they’re still very dangerous.”
San Francisco has won 191 games in Felipe Alou’s first two seasons as manager, while Tracy is beginning his fifth campaign after leading the Dodgers to their first playoff appearance since 1996.
Los Angeles knocked San Francisco out of playoff contention on the final weekend last season at Dodger Stadium, only adding to the fuel of this already intense rivalry. The Giants are favored to win the division this year despite the expected prolonged absence of Bonds.
“I think it’s really interesting, especially from the standpoint of the way the season ended on Oct. 2 of last year, to start the 2005 season off against the same opponent, with the rivalry being what it is,” Tracy said. “It’s a very interesting matchup, obviously.”
“There’s definitely a sense of urgency to win it this year,” Schmidt said. “Careers are very short. Guys are here because they want to win now. The window is closing.”
Lowe, a 6-foot-6 right-hander, won 14 games for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox last season, and then won three huge games in the postseason.
The Dodgers look a lot different than the team that lost to St. Louis in the first round last fall.
The Giants made their share of changes, too. They added nine-time Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel, brought in closer Armando Benitez and signed catcher Mike Matheny, who won his third Gold Glove Award last season with St. Louis.
2004 STANDINGS: Dodgers - 1st place, NL West. Giants - 2nd place, 2 GB, NL West.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Lowe (14-12, 5.42 ERA). Lowe has made at least 32 starts and won at least 14 games in each of the last three seasons. The right hander went 3-1 last April to improve his career mark in the opening month to just 12-13 in 55 games, including 17 starts. Lowe is 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA in one career start against San Francisco.
GIANTS PROBABLE STARTER: Schmidt (18-7, 3.20 ERA). Schmidt is 55-21 since the Giants acquired him from Pittsburgh before the 2001 trade deadline. The hard-throwing righty set career highs with 225 innings and 251 strikeouts in 2004. He went 1-0 with 14 strikeouts and a 2.77 ERA in two starts against Los Angeles last season.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Dodgers - Drew, .305 avg. and 31 HRs (with Atlanta); Kent, 107 RBIs (with Houston); Cesar Izturis, 25 SBs. Giants - Bonds, .362 avg. and 45 HRs; Alou, 106 RBIs (with Chicago Cubs); Omar Vizquel, 19 SBs (with Cleveland).
2004 SEASON SERIES: Dodgers, 10-9.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Dodgers - SS Izturis had 193 hits and earned a Gold Glove as a rookie last year. … 2B Kent enters the season 90 hits shy of 2,000 for his career. … OF Drew set career highs in 2004 with 31 HRs and 93 RBIs. Giants - SS Vizquel is 4-for-20 lifetime against RHP Lowe. … Opponents hit just .152 against RHP Benitez in 2004. … The Giants blew 28 saves last year, including a three-run lead in the ninth inning on the second-to-last day of the season to give Los Angeles the NL West title.
2004 ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Dodgers - 44-37 on the road; Giants - 47-35 at home.
INJURIES: Dodgers - LHP Wilson Alvarez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Dreifort (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Eric Gagne (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Brad Penny (forearm), 15-day DL; OF Jason Werth (wrist), 15-day DL. Giants - OF Bonds (knee), 15-day DL.