-- The Defiant Barry of the spring and the Evasive Barry of the summer, two public sides of a man known to have many of them, gave way Wednesday afternoon, inside a locker room in the cramped visitors' clubhouse at Dodger Stadium, to the Expansive Barry. With his return to the field following an 11-month absence now within view, Barry Bonds opened his mouth, started talking and didn't stop. Who knows? Perhaps this was the elusive Real Barry.
"What I think about," said Bonds, 41, when asked whether he has envisioned his first game of 2005, "is having my name called, playing left field and seeing that little kid in the stands cheering. Those are the visions I see. I haven't gotten to the game part yet, you know what I mean? I haven't gotten to how my emotions are going to feel.
"But to see the fans of San Francisco is probably going to be the most gratifying thing for me. I love that ballpark. I was raised in that city. I love that city. That's all I think about now, is just going home. I just want to go home."
Bonds, who has not played since last Oct. 2 and has undergone three knee surgeries in that span, was to have accompanied the Giants home to San Francisco following their game Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is expected to play in a simulated game Thursday afternoon at San Francisco's SBC Park before the Giants' game against the Chicago Cubs, and he could be activated at some point thereafter, perhaps Friday.
At that point, he will resume his chase of baseball's all-time home run record and contribute his formidable bat to the Giants' chase of the National League West title. Bonds has 703 career homers, 11 behind Babe Ruth and 52 behind all-time leader Hank Aaron, while the Giants trail the San Diego Padres by six games in the division race with less than four weeks left in the season.
"I just want to get in the best shape I can, and be able to go out there and help this team win a division," Bonds said. "We've still got time and I think we've still got a chance, and I want to do it. I want to be a part of it. Even if it's a short amount of time, I want to be a part of it."
Bonds had spent most of the last few months in Los Angeles, close to his doctors and away from his teammates. But on Monday and Tuesday, with his rehab progressing quickly, he performed vigorous workouts on the Dodger Stadium field in front of team officials, and the Giants had planned to set up a simulated game -- with live pitching and full-speed defense and base running -- for him Wednesday afternoon.
However, the Giants were informed by Dodgers officials Tuesday night that such an exercise would be impossible because the Dodgers needed the field Wednesday afternoon to take their annual team photo. So, Bonds was limited to taking regular batting practice with his teammates early Wednesday evening, clearly steamed by the Dodgers' apparent snub -- which is merely the latest point of contention in one of baseball's most contentious rivalries.
"We thought we were going to do it today," Bonds grumbled Wednesday when asked about the simulated game, "and in the fifth inning [Tuesday night] we were told it was cancelled."
The Giants thus far have resisted the temptation to activate Bonds at less than full strength in hopes he could at least pinch-hit and hobble to first base if need be. On Wednesday, Bonds endorsed that cautious approach, saying he agreed with the team that he needed to see his knee responded to the rigors of a simulated game before taking the next, final step.
"The best thing is to keep myself in this uphill climb and not go downhill [in order to] be able to maintain that through next season as well," said Bonds, who is signed with the Giants through the 2006 season. "There's more baseball in me. I don't want to work so hard and then, bang, drop [so that now] I'm sitting in rehab all winter. . . . Don't do something dumb now and never be able to play again. I think it took a lot of the doctors' kicking my butt to get me to realize that."
And then, in a trademark Bondsian contradiction, he added: "I have to be a little cautious. But like I told my wife, there's only so many games left. Caution's out the window. I have to give everything I got."