"First time in three weeks my neck's felt OK," he said, crediting an injection that had calmed the soreness.
What's that? You want to know about the other Giants' slugger? Barry Bonds? He didn't have quite as good an afternoon.
Bonds went hitless against the A's and was walked just once Sunday. He wrapped up his three games in Oakland as a designated hitter with zero extra base hits, zero runs batted in, one run scored -- and three desultory singles that, placed end to end, might have reached from the Coliseum exit gate to the BART stop. And would have been barely noticed by the saxophone player busking for spare change along the way.
This continues a bumpy stretch for Bonds. He has not gone deep since May 8. His 10-game home run famine is his longest since last August. Over his past nine games, all away from AT&T Park, he has batted .185.
Bob Geren, the A's manager, nevertheless felt fortunate to escape Bonds' potential wrath.
"Coming into the series, we knew he was not red hot," Geren said. "He definitely hit some balls hard here, though. Looking at it, some of those balls that he hit, if he had hit them at the right angle, they would have been out. ... We'll just be happy we won two of three."
Oh, right. Wins and losses. I almost forgot. That can be easy to do.
The Giants' principle mission is to pursue a division championship, not provide backup support Bonds' pursuit. He isn't Gladys Knight and the Giants definitely aren't the Pips. Yet that's how the country sees things. Just look. Just listen.
The current talk-show hot button is not the state of the Giants' bullpen. It is the issue of whether Aaron or commissioner Bud Selig plan to show up for Bonds' record. Sunday climaxed a weekend that led off with a Sports Illustrated cover story entitled: "What San Franciscans Think Of Bonds."
The story, while entertaining, had a flawed premise from the start. In the wildly diverse Bay Area, only one of every eight people lives in San Francisco, while Giants fans live throughout Northern California. Yet author Chris Ballard still seemed fascinated to discover that not every person within 20 blocks of AT&T Park loves Bonds -- and that some Giants followers even cared more about rookie pitcher Tim Lincecum's chances of sticking with the big club to solidify the starting rotation.
Well, duh. Good for those fans.
If winning is the actual mission, it doesn't matter where Bud Selig is sitting when Bonds hits his 756th home run. It matters far more where the Giants are sitting that night. Will they be in first place? Third place? Or last place? That's what counts. Because here's something to ponder: If the Giants are in last place by mid-summer, going nowhere, it lends an entirely different spin to Bonds' record chase.
If I am an orange-meat Giants fan, someone who is thinking about the team's long-term future, know what I am doing? I am finding a different sort of reason to root hard for Bonds to snap out of his recent funk and hit 11 more home runs to pass Aaron before the July 31 trade deadline. Because if that happens, it gives the Giants ... um, some options.
For the sake of this discussion, forget the whole steroids issue and forget what might happen with the BALCO grand jury. That's a topic for another day. I am looking at Bonds strictly as a ballplayer and as a Giants asset. I am talking strictly business.
Bonds, as a veteran with trade approval rights, obviously has the right to reject any proposed deal. But let's say the Giants remain in fourth place and fall 12 or 13 games behind the first-place Dodgers. Let's say Bonds catches and passes Aaron, doing so in front of a cheering home crowd at the ballpark where he says he wants to set the record.
And let's say this all happens before July 31. Why wouldn't Bonds, realizing the Giants are going nowhere, at least consider approving a deal to a contender so that he can make one last stab at earning a World Series ring?
And why wouldn't the Giants, realizing they might receive some great prospects and/or top draft picks in return, make such a move?
And why wouldn't an American League team seeking to make a playoff push -- the Indians, maybe -- want to snatch up Bonds as a DH for the stretch run and the playoffs? I know, I know. This is getting way, way ahead of the curve. When Bonds picks up the pace, perhaps the Giants will, too. They might roll back into contention and it all becomes moot.
But what if he starts to bang out homers again while the team sinks slowly in the West? Shouldn't there be a Plan B, as in "Be happy in Cleveland, Barry?" That prospect should give even those Giants fans who dislike Bonds motivation to scream for him to hit more home runs. Fast.
Contact Mark Purdy at firstname.lastname@example.org.