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SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds did something Wednesday night that you'll almost never see him do on a major league field -- and it wasn't hitting his 735th career home run.

He did that, all right, taking his first step of the season toward becoming baseball's all-time home run king when he flicked a pitch from Chris Young into the left field bleachers in the first inning of the Giants' 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.

But before the solo homer, Bonds did something else. He squatted and caught the ceremonial first pitch.

It's a task usually left to backup catchers and lowly rookies, but Bonds pulled the duty because the Giants gave the ceremonial pitch to Sue Burns, wife of late Giants senior general partner Harmon Burns.

Sue Burns inherited the largest stake in the team, believed to be about 40 percent, after her husband's death in November.

Amid a divided boardroom, she was the driving force in the club's decision to re-sign Bonds to a one-year contract this winter and expose the team to criticism from all sides.

The division among Giants ownership explains why Bonds isn't pictured on the club's media guide and has been downplayed in their marketing efforts even though he is positioned to break the most hallowed record in American sport.

There was only applause as Bonds rounded the bases; he received another ovation as he walked to left field to start the second inning.

Bonds remembered his best patron. He pointed to Sue Burns and his own family in the stands as he strode into the dugout.

"Harmon was more than a personal friend," Bonds said during a pregame ceremony.

The numbers changed on the home run counter in right field, which shows Bonds just 20 away from tying Hank Aaron.

"It's not a countdown yet," Bonds said. "It's not even close. Right now, we're just trying to get ourselves going. ... When it's 750, then we can count down. But not anytime soon, and better not hope its to the end of September."

No 42-year-old has ever hit 20 home runs, but Bonds hasn't been this fit since his last MVP season in 2004. He made an impressive running catch to end the third inning, though he grimaced a bit as he stopped sharply in foul territory.

Normally swift to exit after games, Bonds instead sat in the ice tub for a half-hour. He said his hamstring tightened up but it wasn't a concern.

"My legs are fine. My age is bothering me," Bonds said. "It's just a long run for somebody my age."

Anybody his age would envy Bonds' bat speed. He barely took a full swing at Young's 2-2 fastball but muscled it through the chilly air and it slipped into a rugby scrum in the first row.

It was his 86th home run against the Padres, the most he has against any opponent. Most of those came with manager Bruce Bochy in the San Diego dugout.

This time Bochy got to enjoy the ball's flight. But he didn't get to enjoy his first win as Giants manager.

Adrian Gonzalez hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer off Jack Taschner in the eighth inning and the Padres' three-headed hydra of Cla Meredith, Scott Linebrink and Trevor Hoffman kept the Giants scoreless.

Giants right-hander Matt Cain got hurt on just two pitches in the fifth -- a solo home run by Khalil Greene and a two-run shot by Marcus Giles. The Giants tied it on Pedro Feliz's two-out single in the sixth, and then it became a duel of bullpens.

As much as Bochy prefers Bonds on his side, he can't have his old San Diego bullpen back.

"We had the matchup we wanted (with Taschner)," Bochy said. "One ball got away from him."

Contact Andrew Baggarly at abaggarly@mercurynews.com.

PADRES 5, GIANTS 3

  • TODAY: Padres (Clay Hensley 11-12) at Giants (Matt Morris 10-15), 7:15 p.m. TV: Chs. 2, 31. Radio: 680-AM