SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Barry Bonds is still uncertain whether he will play this season following three operations on his right knee.

The San Francisco slugger, upbeat and showing few signs that he’s favoring the tender leg, played a long session of catch Monday while his teammates took batting practice before playing the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But Bonds still hasn’t resumed baseball activity and he’s not swinging in the cage yet.

“I don’t want to predict anything too soon,” he said after about 30 minutes of throwing on the field. “It’s tough. I feel like all I do is work out and work out and work out. Normally, you work out and play.”

Bonds played light catch with team employee Greg Oliver, then gradually moved back and threw long toss. He also fielded slow groundballs and did several minutes of throwing as hard as he could.

The seven-time NL MVP hasn’t been cleared to run or do anything that would put significant pressure on his knee. The swelling has decreased and he is close to reaching full range of motion in the leg.

“That’s the first time I’ve seen him in a week and he definitely looks better,” trainer Stan Conte said. “He’s progressing in his rehab the way we had hoped. I’m pleased with what I’ve seen.”

Bonds said he’s not worried about regaining his stroke at the plate once he does return. He is third on the career home run list with 703, 11 behind Babe Ruth and 52 from tying Hank Aaron’s record. Bonds batted .362 last season with 45 homers and 101 RBIs and walked a major league-record 232 times on the way to his record seventh MVP award.

“I’ve never worried about my hitting too much,” he said.

Bonds, who turns 41 on July 24, said in spring training he could miss half the season or even the entire year, but has seemed more optimistic recently about a return.

Because Bonds has dealt with setbacks after each surgery – the latest was May 2 to drain fluid and examine an infection – Conte is being extra careful about when to let Bonds start baseball work.

And he’s still not ready to predict when Bonds will play.

Bonds could be ready to travel with the team for next week’s road trip to Arizona and San Diego – “I’m going by what they say,” he said. Bonds has said one of the things he misses the most being injured is the interaction with his teammates.

He has been joining in more clubhouse games of cards and chess.

“I’m having fun,” he said in the middle of a chess match.

Manager Felipe Alou is optimistic his superstar left fielder will play before season’s end.

“I believe that, I do,” Alou said. “I feel Barry is going to play this year. How much he’s going to play, that I can’t tell you.”

AP-ES-06-20-05 2154EDT

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