Morneau comes off bench to blast 1,500th career hit

Rockies slugger, 33, glad fan was willing to return milestone ball

Morneau comes off bench to blast 1,500th career hit

DENVER -- The more hits for Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau, the less they run together. He's cherishing milestones -- like his 1,500th hit, a sixth-inning leadoff homer during the Rockies' 5-1 home-opener victory over the Cubs on Friday afternoon.

"They managed to track it down, and we traded a bat and a ball for it," Morneau said. "I'm very grateful that someone would give that up. It would mean a lot more to me than anyone else.

"I've started to keep more of that stuff as I get older. You never know how much longer you're going to get to play. So that's kind of cool for the kids to hang on to or whatever you want to do with them."

At 33 and coming off winning last year's National League batting title, Morneau doesn't look anywhere near the end. He went 1-for-13 with a double in the Rockies' three-game, season-opening sweep at Milwaukee, but his approach was solid and his outs were increasingly hard.

"He lined out about four times in that series, and [on Friday] comes off the bench and hits the ball opposite field," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.

Wilin Rosario started at first base against Cubs lefty Travis Wood. Weiss went to Morneau against Friday callup Brian Schlitter -- against whom Morneau was 2-for-2 with a double. He added a homer to the left-field gap on an 0-1 fastball, which gave the Rockies a 4-1 lead.

"He's one of those guys I'd seen," Morneau said. "Sometimes when you pinch-hit or come in like that, late in the game, it's sometimes better. You go up there with a simple approach. You don't really have enough time for your mind to get in the way."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.