For the 13th consecutive year, manager Bruce Bochy will be in the dugout when the San Diego Padres open their season. This time, though, he will be in the opposing dugout along with Barry Bonds, who tormented him over the previous 12 years.
Bochy makes his managerial debut with the San Francisco Giants and Bonds on Tuesday, when they begin a three-game home series with the NL West rival Padres.
In his 12 seasons leading the Padres, Bochy easily became the most successful manager in franchise history. He won 951 games in San Diego, nearly tripling the victory total of second-place Dick Williams (337). The skipper won the 1996 NL manager of the year award, and took the team to four of the five postseason appearances in its history - including winning the past two NL West titles.
Bochy accomplished all of that while managing in a division against the controversial 42-year-old slugger Bonds. Despite persistent allegations of performance-enhancing drug use, Bonds begins the season with 734 career home runs and needs just 22 to break Hank Aaron’s major league record.
He has hit 85 homers in his career versus the Padres—22 more than against any other opponent.
Various injuries hampered Bonds last season, when he managed 26 homers in 130 games. He appears fully healthy for 2007, though, and hit seven home runs in 18 spring training games. In Sunday’s preseason finale against Oakland, the seven-time NL MVP homered in both of his at-bats.
“He seems locked in and confident,” Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. “That’s usually a dangerous combo. I think he really feels good about his physical shape and how far he’s come from last year.”
Bonds is one of nine players who are at least 34 years old on the team that Bochy chose to inherit.
With just one year remaining on his San Diego contract, the Padres allowed Bochy to explore other options last fall. The manager said he wasn’t eager to leave, but San Francisco lured him to replace Felipe Alou with a three-year contract worth roughly $6 million and announced his hiring Oct 27.
“We won 88 games - or they won 88 games, as I should say now,” Bochy said. “I wasn’t planning on listening until the San Francisco Giants called.”
Bonds, however, won’t be the only Barry attracting lots of attention for the Giants. San Francisco sends offseason acquisition Barry Zito to the mound to start the opener.
The 28-year-old left-hander, who went 102-63 with a 3.55 ERA in seven seasons with Oakland and won the 2002 AL Cy Young award, moved across the bay in January after signing a $126 million, seven-year contract with the Giants.
“It’s a good blend of familiar and also change,” Zito said. “My heart and soul is here in the bay. It’s the only way I’ve known major league baseball.”
Zito, who added 10 pounds of muscle to his legs and core in the offseason in an effort to add more power to his pitches, will try to revitalize a Giants club which finished 76-85 last season - its second consecutive sub-.500 record after a run of eight straight winning seasons.
The Padres, who replaced Bochy with former Angels pitching coach Bud Black, enter the season with one of the NL’s most impressive pitching staffs. Twenty-five-year-old right-hander Jake Peavy fronts a rotation that includes Chris Young (11-5, 3.46 in 2006), future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux and 21-year veteran left-hander David Wells.
Peavy led the major leagues with a 2.27 ERA in 2004, and had an NL-high 216 strikeouts in 2005, but stumbled to an 11-14 record and 4.09 ERA last season as he struggled with shoulder tendinitis.
However, Black showed confidence in his young staff leader by giving him his second consecutive opening day start.
“Jake’s been a big part of this organization since he was drafted,” Black said of Peavy, who is 8-6 with a 3.62 ERA in 18 career starts against the Giants. “He’s a guy who’s ready for this opportunity and challenge.”
Peavy defeated the Giants on opening day last season, 6-1 at San Diego on April 3, 2006, when he pitched seven effective innings. Bonds went 1-for-4 with a double and scored the lone Giants’ run while Khalil Greene and Mike Piazza homered for the Padres.
As the Padres begin their quest for a third straight division title, they will need to do it without Piazza, who departed for Oakland via free agency. Former backup catcher Josh Bard, who batted .338 in 93 games with San Diego last season, assumes the starting duties.
Veteran outfielder Brian Giles returns to anchor the lineup in his fourth full season with the Padres. The 36-year-old Giles seeks to rebound from a 2006 season when he batted .263 with 14 homers - both career lows for a full season.
The Giants took 12 of 19 meetings in last season’s series between these clubs, including five of nine in San Francisco.