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Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Updated: February 23, 2:09 PM ET
Slugger sidesteps questions, chastises media

Associated Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Bonds sidestepped a peppering of steroids questions in the very way teams avoid pitching to him -- and did it with the same prickly demeanor that has defined him for years.

Barry Bonds

Bonds angrily avoided inquiries about his role in baseball's steroid scandal upon his arrival at spring training Tuesday, pronouncing himself weary but ready to resume his pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record.

He called reporters liars, and pointed to problems in the world he considers much more important than steroids, such as alcoholism and drug abuse.

Bonds was entertaining as usual. Asked directly whether he'd ever used illegal substances, he said:

"I'm not a child. You repeat those things to children and then eventually they tell you. I don't."

In Bonds' first public comments since his grand jury testimony was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and reported in December, he had nothing to say about it, citing legal constrictions. But he had harsh words for the media and fans still consumed by the circumstances of his record-setting home run binge.

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"You guys are like re-running stories," Bonds said to more than 100 reporters in attendance. "This is old stuff. It's like watching 'Sanford and Son.' It's almost comical, basically. ... Are you guys jealous, upset, disappointed, what?"

The San Francisco Giants slugger has 703 homers, trailing only Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the career list.

Bonds, dressed casually in a black shirt and jeans, was asked whether he thinks using steroids is cheating.

"I don't know what cheating is," he said. "I don't believe steroids can help your eye-hand coordination, technically hit a baseball. I just don't believe it. That's my opinion."

Bonds said the key to his continued success and strength, even in the later years of his career, has been "hard work, that's about it."

According to the Chronicle, Bonds testified to the grand jury in December 2003 that he used a clear substance and a cream given to him by a trainer who was indicted in a steroid-distribution ring, but said he didn't know if they were steroids. Prosecutors believe the substances were two steroids at the center of the BALCO scandal.

He isn't convinced any of this will affect his legacy.

"All of you guys have lied," he said. "Should you have an asterisk behind your name? ... Yeah, I lied to my parents when I was growing up. Lied to my friends. Have I lied about baseball? Yeah, I told a couple of stories that I hit a couple of balls places that I really didn't."

He acknowledged that the controversy has been painful for his children and that he worries most about them.

"I'm an adult and I take responsibility for what I do, but I'm not going to allow you guys to ruin my joy," Bonds said.

He refused to speak directly about BALCO, but he castigated everyone from the media to Jose Canseco, whose recently released book described a rampant culture of steroid abuse in baseball. Canseco has said he used steroids with several teammates, including Mark McGwire. And Canseco said he suspects that Bonds has used banned substances.

"I don't know Canseco, besides hello and goodbye. I don't put any weight into what he says," Bonds said. "Mark McGwire was a big boy in college. To me, Canseco, you've got to come with a whole lot more. ... It's to make a buck, that's all it is.

"I don't know Jose. I was better than Jose then, and I've been better than him his whole career. If he wants to go make money, go ahead. ... For somebody who brags about what he did, I don't see any of your records."

Bonds rolled into the Giants' training complex on the day position players were due to report. After he hopped out of his SUV and made his way into the stadium, he waved twice at the 50 or so fans there to greet him. Later, on his way out, Bonds signed autographs for about 10 minutes. He has been appreciative of the fans' and their support this offseason.

Bonds believes he's being scrutinized more since he's closing in on Ruth.

"Because Babe Ruth is one of the greatest baseball players ever, and Babe Ruth ain't black, either," he said. "I'm black. Blacks, we go through a little more. ... I'm not a racist though, but I live in the real world. I'm fine with that."

There were seven satellite trucks and a dozen TV cameras there when Bonds came in.

"The sad part, I just want to go out there and play baseball," Bonds said. "I don't even care about the record part so much. The best is whatever you get out of yourself. That's all I'm trying to do."

The seven-time NL MVP is entering his 20th major league season. Bonds drew 232 walks last season, 34 more than the record he set in 2002 and more than 100 better than anyone in baseball. His 120 intentional walks shattered the mark of 68 that he set in 2002.

On the field, Bonds will be limited for a while.

He's had arthroscopic surgery on both knees since last season ended, including an operation on his right knee Feb. 1 that will keep him out of games until at least mid-March.

Bonds said he wasn't sure if he'd be ready for Opening Day.

Manager Felipe Alou isn't concerned about his superstar's focus.

"This team is prepared for anything, beginning with No. 25," Alou said, referring to Bonds.

Trainer Stan Conte evaluated Bonds and said "the knee didn't look that bad." Bonds will begin rehab Wednesday.

"There's a little bit of swelling, but not that much," Conte said. "It looks pretty good. There's a little bit of weakness in the leg."

Bonds hasn't worked out in a couple of weeks. They will start out with strengthening exercises to improve Bonds' range of motion.

"He will tell us," Conte said. "I know that to be true because that's what he's done the last 10 to 15 years. The key will be protecting him from himself and playing too much."