O's ready for Bonds' best shot

As the rain puddled on the infield tarp today at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Barry Bonds remembered his days playing with an outfielder named Lee Mazzilli during his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The San Francisco Giants slugger recalled a road trip in 1986, when Mazzilli sent Bonds to the airport's baggage claim to pick up his suitcase. Unaware that the players' bags were sent straight to the hotel, Bonds waited in the terminal for a few hours before catching on to the prank.

"He played some nasty tricks on me," Bonds said of the Orioles' rookie manager.

18 years and 674 home runs later, Bonds gets his chance for payback tonight as the Giants and Orioles play the first of a three-game interleague series. Bonds hasn't played in Baltimore since the 1993 All-Star game.

While Bonds may have been an unknown rookie when he first crossed paths with Mazzilli, the Orioles manager now must contend with one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Bonds is hitting.369 this season, with 16 home runs in 122 at-bats.

"The game will dictate what [we're] going to do," Mazzilli said of pitching to the future Hall-of-Famer. "When there's a battle out there, you go after it."

The best battle of the weekend could take place Sunday, when Orioles ace Sidney Ponson takes against his former teammate. Bonds and Ponson played together for the last three months of the 2003 season, leading the Giants to the NL West title and a berth in the Divisional Series.

Ponson and Bonds saw each other tonight in the gym before batting practice, and the burly right-hander let the reigning Most Valuable Player know that he won't be scared to face him.

"I'm looking forward to it," Ponson said. "My mental preparation is to pitch to him unless the manager says to walk him. I'm not going to walk him just to walk him. Other people have hit home runs off me, so if he hits me, I'm one in his book."

Mazzilli, however, is taking a more grounded approach.

"You could sit here for a week thinking how you want to pitch to him," he said. ""It hasn't worked for [674] home runs."

Should all else fail, the manager may have some new tricks up his sleeve.

"If you flip it to him underhand, maybe you've got more of a chance," he joked. "I've thought of that too."