Reminding us that “covering him can be a demeaning process”, the New York Times’ Murray Chass observed Barry Bonds’ spring training debut yesterday and hung around for the post-game interrogation.

This was a potentially perilous day because of the coverage of the new book, “Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, Balco and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports,” in which the authors, two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, detail what they say was Bonds’s use of performance-enhancing substances. Bonds made it clear that the book and the allegations were off-limits.

Five times during the interview, Bonds stated his position. Asked, for example, about Commissioner Bud Selig’s reaction to the book, he said, “Do you want to talk baseball, or do you not want to talk at all?”

Another time, he was asked if not talking about the book was his decision or his lawyer’s. “Is that a baseball question? That’s not a baseball question the last time I checked. You want to talk baseball?”

And yet another time he said, “Baseball or nothing.”

Bonds sits in a corner of the clubhouse in his black reclining lounge chair, and aides stand as bodyguards, preventing anyone ” make that read reporters ” from coming too close. The scene is not duplicated in any other clubhouse in baseball.

Rather than address his spring debut in Tempe after he left the game, he returned to Scottsdale and sat in his chair, quickly eating a sandwich.

“I thought I was going to die out there,” he said. “I was so hungry.”

I’ve seen Barry’s two at bats from yesterday, so I’ll put this as charitably as possible. I don’t think mobility is going to be the Sultan’s strong suit this season.