SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Barry Bonds doesn’t expect to play this season because of his injured right knee, putting the San Francisco slugger’s quest for the career home run record on hold until at least 2006.

“I don’t think you’re going to see me out there this year,” Bonds told on Monday. “That’s the reality of the situation. I’m improving. I’m happy with the progress. I’m working out hard on the exercise bike and the elliptical machine, but I’m just not there yet. The last thing I want is to get back on the field and be out again a week later.”

Bonds said a recent MRI showed some fluid building up in the knee that has been operated on three times since Jan. 31. He said his doctors advised him to wait until next year to return to the Giants.

“He has not informed the Giants of that decision,” assistant general manager Ned Colletti told The Associated Press.

Phone messages left for Bonds’ publicist, Rachael Vizcarra, and Giants general manager Brian Sabean weren’t immediately returned Monday night.

Bonds has 703 home runs, third on the career list behind Babe Ruth (714) and Hank Aaron (755).

Just last month, Bonds was more optimistic when he joined the team for a road trip in Los Angeles, where he has been rehabbing the knee. On his personal Web site two weeks ago, Bonds wrote that he was hopeful he could return in September.

But Bonds told on Monday that an MRI performed last week by Dr. Arthur Ting showed more swelling in the knee.

The 41-year-old Bonds now hopes to be ready for opening day in 2006, the final season of his contract with the Giants.

“That’s what my goal is right now and I expect to be ready,” he said. “But the doctors are telling me playing this year might put that in jeopardy, that I could undo any gains I’ve already made. No matter how much I want to play, I’m not going to let that happen.”

The Giants (45-59) have struggled mightily without Bonds, but are still only 51/2 games behind Arizona and San Diego in the weak NL West. The Giants hoped their star slugger could return in time to help them make a playoff push.

“I know I could help if I was out there,” he said. “This is my life. This is my career – on the baseball field. But right now, I can’t help and it’s killing me.”

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.

AP-ES-08-01-05 2117EDT

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