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Down The Line

July 22, 2007|Bill Shaikin

Hey, Barry: How 'bout the Clemens Plan?

For Barry Bonds, 756 is not the only magic number.

Once he sets the all-time record for home runs, he'll set his sights on another milestone. He's 95 hits from 3,000. He plans to play next season. But he turns 43 Tuesday, dragging his sore legs with him. The Giants try to keep him out of day games after night games, and he missed three consecutive starts last week.

The aches and pains figure to worsen next season. His job market could worsen this winter, particularly if the Giants thank him for setting the record in their uniform and bid him farewell so they can rebuild.

Bonds won't need a whole season to hit 3,000, probably, and he might not last a whole season anyway. He ought to consider the Clemens Plan: Rest and work out in April and May, assess the contenders and sign with one in June.

His agent, Jeff Borris, said Bonds has "never discussed" that option with him. But, even on the verge of 43, Bonds leads the majors in on-base percentage and ranks among the leaders in home runs. It could make more sense for a needy American League club to sign Bonds as a June free agent and designated hitter rather than trade a prospect for a veteran bat.

"I don't see Barry doing that," Borris said. "He loves playing baseball. He likes being out at the ballpark every day."

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Titans to Padres, by way of Philly?

Aaron Rowand attracted national attention this month for who he was not. He was not Albert Pujols, who was left on the bench as Rowand made the final out of the All-Star game.

But Rowand is a fine player in his own right, batting .329 with 13 home runs and a .401 on-base percentage for the Phillies. He's playing in San Diego this weekend, and he'd fit nicely there next season, suited for Petco Park and its spacious outfield as a gap hitter and an outstanding defensive center fielder.

Rowand, 29, said he has given little thought to what team he might like to sign with, but he played at Cal State Fullerton and lives in Las Vegas. The Padres' current center fielder, Mike Cameron, could join Rowand in a second tier of free-agent center fielders beyond Andruw Jones and Torii Hunter.

Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki recently signed an extension for $18 million per year, but Rowand laughed off the notion that the deal could have a trickle-down effect on the market for center fielders, at least in his case.

"I don't think that's going to have any bearing on me," Rowand said. "I don't have 270 hits in a season."

Ichiro set the major league record with 262 hits, in 2004. He has led the majors in singles in every year of his career.

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For the Dodgers, depth or trade bait?

The Dodgers could start Tony Abreu at second base, Chin-lung Hu at shortstop and Andy LaRoche at third base next season, all for a little more than $1 million.

But they have guaranteed $13 million next season to shortstop Rafael Furcal and $8.5 million to third baseman Nomar Garciaparra, with $9 million more guaranteed to second baseman Jeff Kent if he gets 550 at-bats this season.

Kent, 39, is on pace for 536 at-bats. He's batting .284, with a team-high 13 home runs.

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That sickly swing: It's contagious!

Since Vladimir Guerrero won the All-Star game home run derby, he has not homered. Neither have the Angels. But the derby need not ruin your swing: Ryan Howard, last year's winner, homered in the first game after the All-Star break. And in the next game too. ... New Dodgers reliever Roberto Hernandez, recently released from the Indians: "Detroit probably has the best lineup I've seen since the '95 Tribe. ... That ballpark is pretty big, and they make it look small. They make Comerica Park small." The 1995 Indians featured Albert Belle, in his season of 50 homers and 50 doubles, along with Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Carlos Baerga, Eddie Murray and Kenny Lofton.

-- Bill Shaikin

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