"Without Barry in the lineup, I still believe we have enough to win," said reliever Rich Rodriguez.
Said second baseman Jeff Kent, "Our makeup is different, but we're still a threat."
Maybe. The Giants, 13-7 through Sunday, think they're playoff bound with yooouuuur starting leftfielder, Stan Javier! There may be no Yankees or Indians set for a runaway in the National League West, but three teams in the division (the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers and the Rockies) boast deeper staffs than San Francisco's and payrolls at least $10 million higher than Giants' $44.9 million. Beating all three without Bonds would be quite a feat.
San Francisco manager Dusty Baker has openly fretted about making up for Bonds's all-but-certain .300-35-100 line, calling the situation "the largest challenge I've faced." Jerk or not, Bonds has value that goes beyond the three-run dinger and his stellar defensive play. Batting in the number 3 spot, he guaranteed mat shortstop Rich Aurilia, the regular second hitter, saw good pitches. Through week's end, Aurilia, who batted .408 before Bonds's injury, was just 4 for 26. "Bonds is a presence," says Jerry Spradlin, a newly acquired righthanded reliever. "There are guys in every lineup you never want to see. He's one."
Baker doesn't expect Javier and rookie outfielder Armando Rios to make up for Bonds's absence. He knows the Giants will have to find new ways to score. "We'll mix and match, play with lineups, experiment," he says. What he's hoping is that some of his starting pitchers regain their form of recent seasons and others mature quickly. San Francisco hasn't had a bona fide No. 1 starter since righthander John Burkett in 1993. Then, on a balanced club with 103 wins, it didn't matter so much. Now, without Bonds, it does.
Through Sunday the Giants' ERA of 5.36 was 15th in the league, nearly 1.2 runs higher than last year's 4.18. Mark Gardner, the lone veteran starter and a 13-game winner last season, is on the DL with an inflamed shoulder. Last year 28-year-old lefthander Kirk Rueter led San Francisco with 16 wins; this season through Sunday he was 1-1 with a 13.50 ERA. Lefthander Shawn Estes, 26, won 19 games two seasons ago, battled a strained shoulder in '98 and has struggled in '99, going 2-1 but with a 5.40 ERA. Against Colorado last Saturday he won despite allowing four runs and five walks in seven innings. Second-year starter Russ Ortiz (2-2, 2.89) and rookie Joe Nathan (1-0, 0.00), both righthanders, have been impressive, but, says catcher Scott Servais, "with young kids, you never know until they're tested. We'll find out how good we can be when we see if these guys maintain it over a long stretch."
Clubhouse indifference notwithstanding, that long stretch has begun.
Comiskey Cell Block
The White Sox' Big Hang-up
At the behest of outfielder Darrin Jackson and pitcher James Baldwin, the White Sox have banned cell phones from their clubhouse before and after games. "Using one is disrespectful to other players," says Baldwin. "Any time you get a chance to talk, you should be talking to other players about baseball."
Infielder Greg Norton, for one, approves of the rule. "I leave my phone in my truck," he says. "You can't get good reception in here anyway."