Bonds Slugs First Home Run Of Season

Barry Bonds found his elusive power stroke in Denver's thin air.

Bonds homered for the first time this season Saturday night at Coors Field, sending a belt-high fastball from right-hander Aaron Cook 384 feet to left for his 709th career home run.

After circling the bases, Bonds knocked fists with teammates Moises Alou and Pedro Feliz and manager Felipe Alou as he descended into the third-base dugout to jeers and a scattering of applause.

Bonds moved within five home runs of Babe Ruth for the most by a left-handed hitter with 714. It came in his 31st at-bat and 14th game.

For San Francisco's surly slugger, it was one of the longest homerless streaks to start the season. In 1998, he didn't homer until his 13th game and 55th at-bat, the longest season-opening drought of his career when healthy.

Hounded by steroid suspicions, a federal probe into his testimony in the BALCO steroid case and baseball's investigation of performance-enhancing drugs, Bonds got off to a slow start this season despite a stellar spring.

Plagued also by sore knees, a swollen left elbow and few pitchers willing to challenge him, he walked 19 times before hitting his first home run, Bonds brought a .200 batting average and just one RBI into Saturday night's game.

On Friday night, Bonds, who has never been a fan of Denver despite his 25 home runs at Coors Field, the most by an opposing player, got the usual treatment as fans shouted "Juice!" every time he came up or made a play. One fan behind the Giants dugout wore a tall hat shaped like a syringe.

But the crowd had barely settled in Saturday night when Bonds walked up to the plate, took a high fastball and then unleashed his first homer of 2006, trotting around the bases for a change and not just to first.

Less that two weeks ago, Bonds hinted that his injuries could end his career sooner than expected. Bonds said he has bone chips in his swollen left elbow. He said he plans to continue playing with the problem until it forces him out.

Bonds said the bone chips were discovered in spring training, causing him to miss a week. He told that he would continue playing until his arm "blows up."

Asked what he meant, Bonds said, "It means I quit. Gone."

The Giants left fielder said he has "10 to 12 bone chips floating" in his elbow, which he said was swollen to "almost twice the size" of his right elbow. Bonds indicated that he wants to keep playing, as ballplayers with bone chips often do. But he won't undergo surgery to fix the problem.

"I'm going to keep playing until it blows up," said Bonds. "If I have to have a procedure, then I'm done. Finished. That would be it."