WASHINGTON — The Giants are invoking the mercy rule on Ray Durham's season.

Manager Bruce Bochy called Durham into his office after Sunday's loss and told the struggling second baseman that his playing time would be greatly curtailed down the stretch, opening a window for Kevin Frandsen.

Durham not only understood the move but also endorsed it.

"Let the kid play," said Durham, a bit of emotion in his voice. "See what he can do the last month. See if he can handle the load. Show them he can play, he can be productive."

Durham couldn't argue with the move. Not when he is hitting .156 with a woeful .241 slugging percentage since the All-Star break.

"I can't change it now," said Durham, who is under contract to make $7 million in 2008. "It's just one of those years. I never got any momentum going."

Durham's dropoff has been stunning after he set career highs with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs last year. Among the most astonishing statistics: He is 0-for-36 when hitting with an 0-2 count.

Durham said Bochy didn't tell him how many days a week he can expect to play but told him to stay ready.

"That's never been a problem with me," Durham said.

Frandsen could take his job next season with a solid month, but Durham always has been gracious to the 25-year-old and said he would continue cheering for him.

"He'll be in this league a long time because he works hard, he has a passion for the game, and he has a great head on his shoulders," Durham said. "He just has to go out and react to what he sees. Sometimes he gets to where he's afraid to make a mistake.

"I tell him this: 'If you're going to make a mistake, make it an aggressive one.' Once he does that, he'll be fine."

BONDS' SCHEDULE: Bochy said Barry Bonds' playing time also will tail off this month, but he is expected to play his usual load against contending teams.

Bochy said Bonds hasn't requested more time off, though the 43-year-old slugger has said he plans to rest more after hitting a $1 million incentive at 450 plate appearances.

He could cash out today at Coors Field. He is at 445 plate appearances after grounding out as a pinch hitter Sunday. Bonds can earn a final $700,000 incentive at 525 plate appearances but has said he doesn't plan to push himself that far.

LOWRY WONDERING: Left-hander Noah Lowry remained in limbo because of a fatigued arm. Lowry said he is pain-free but Bochy acknowledged, "he's got a little soreness at this stage, and it's not worth the risk."

Bochy wouldn't rule out shutting down Lowry for the remainder of the season.

"He's done a great job this year," Bochy said. "He was really on target to put up 17 or 18 wins, which would be pretty incredible considering where we're at."

Lowry is 14-8 with a 3.92 ERA. No other Giants pitcher has reached double figures in victories.

NO ROOM: The Giants weren't able to use the DC United dressing room at RFK Stadium after all. The soccer team had a workout Friday, so the Giants had to cram into the junior varsity-sized visiting clubhouse.

At least they won't have to see that space again. The Nationals move into a new, $660 million ballpark next season.

PITCHING MATCHUPS: Starters for the Rockies series: Today, 12:05 p.m., RH Matt Cain (5-13, 3.78 ERA) vs. LH Jeff Francis (14-6, 4.10); Tuesday, 5:35 p.m., RH Tim Lincecum (7-3, 3.95) vs. LH Franklin Morales (0-2, 4.40); Wednesday, 5:35 p.m., RH Kevin Correia (3-6, 3.77) vs. RH Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2, 4.03), 5:35 p.m.