Giants press forward, sans Bonds

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – On the occasion of their first full-squad practice, the San Francisco Giants dressed together, stretched together, drilled together, took batting practice together and shagged fly balls together.

Weird.

Meantime, Barry Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, was on Interstate 4 on Tuesday, covering ground between Tampa and Orlando.

He answered his buzzing cell phone.

Where's Barry?

"Barry's home," he said, "working out."

Does he intend to play this season?

"Barry's not retiring."

Where could he play?

"I'm not prepared to discuss his options at this time."

Are you optimistic a job is out there?

"I don't want to characterize that one way or the other."

He's healthy?

"Barry is completely healthy."

Do you – or Barry – believe he is being blackballed by baseball?

"I will not answer that question at this time."

Borris said goodbye and sped toward Orlando.

Dave Roberts was standing in a locker room here. It is quite possible he'll be the Giants' new left fielder. He is, perhaps, the nicest man in baseball, having made a decent career out of foot speed, determination and endless spirit.

By early afternoon, he was in the batting cage, begging balls to leave the park.

Pop.

"Look out!" he'll yell.

Pebbles scatter on the warning track.

"Aw …"

Pop.

"Go ball!"

A thud on the right-field fence.

"It's early."

He hit two home runs last year, four in the last two years.

Bonds hit 586 of them in 15 years as a Giant.

"I think guys are excited to kind of come into their own," Roberts said. "Not that it's a good thing he's gone – because Barry was so good for the organization and the city and he was a great player – but guys feel like now's the time to take it upon themselves to be accountable. We can't count on No. 25 to carry the load."

This is not a great team Roberts is talking about. It wasn't great last season or the season before that, either, when Bonds was in the lineup more than three quarters of the time. These Giants almost certainly will finish last in the NL West again, because no two of them together are Bonds in the batter's box.

As it looks now, without a trade for a third baseman that could be coming, Bengie Molina or Aaron Rowand would bat cleanup. The lineup won't have a hitter who has driven in 100 runs, ever.

Asked where he might find some offense, manager Bruce Bochy said he was hoping to get reasonable production from every place in the order.

"Including the pitchers," he said. "They have to help."

Never a great sign.

And, yet, on the first uniformed day of the post-Barry era, the Giants were a long way from misery.

Asked point-blank if it weren't best Bonds had moved on, Roberts doubled back on his initial opinion.

"I think so," he said. "It's almost like it'd run its course. I think the relationship was a great one with Barry and the Giants. But, it was time to go in a different direction. Barry's better for it and the organization's better for it as well."

Bonds doesn't have a place to play. The organization is headed for its fourth consecutive losing season.

That doesn't sound like some wonderful symbiosis.

That sounds like the Giants were just tired of it. Hell, if it were just about the baseball, he'd still be here. Or, he'd have hooked on in Oakland or Texas or somewhere else as a DH.

Instead, on a sunny morning, the numerical roster skipped from pitcher Randy Messenger's 23 to coach Mark Gardner's 26. Barry Zito dressed out of the corner locker, the one reserved for clubhouse royalty. Reliever Steve Kline pestered every man on the roster for $100, all of it going toward a fund to take care of the clubbies during camp.

There was buoyancy where there was anxiety. Bonds' first day in camp might have brought three dozen or more reporters. His first day not in camp brought maybe 10.

It was about ball, which Bonds once made difficult and reporters made worse. It was about job competitions and season preparation, which Bonds once made incidental and reporters ignored.

Giants employees weren't going to be chatty about life post-Barry, but one did say, "Guys are comfortable in their skin again."

"We've known since September that Barry wasn't coming back," Bochy said. "Sure it's going to be different. When you have a core player who had a dominant personality, sure it's going to be different. But, I think we've moved on here. Our focus is forward. We're not even thinking about it."

Life changes. And there are still bills to be paid. The ballpark won't be full as often, the club won't be as relevant, and Bud Selig has questions for some inattentive Giants executives – notably GM Brian Sabean and owner Peter Magowan – during Bonds' stay.

But, if anyone missed Bonds, they didn't stand on a clubhouse table and shout it.

"First day, everybody's always happy," Kline said.

He did, however, point out the clubhouse was "looser, younger, more energetic."

And Bonds?

Roberts said he'd spoken to him recently on the phone.

"He's feeling good," Roberts said. "He's working out. I think it's nice for him to get out of the spotlight for a while."

Leaving the Giants alone in the spotlight.

Weird.