Notes: Players thrilled to meet Brock

Notes: Players thrilled to meet Brock

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Lou Brock stood on McKechnie Field on Tuesday morning, looking very much like he could still swipe 100 bases and hit at least .290.

Even at age 67.

But the Hall of Famer came to Bradenton as the co-author of a soon-to-be-released book, "The Pitch," which chronicles the lasting impact of Johnny Sain's first pitch to Jackie Robinson on April 15, 1947, the day Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier.

"Jackie went on the field in the top of the first inning [as a member of home team], but he wasn't validated as a big leaguer until that pitch came," Brock said.

Brock stressed Sain's importance to the moment by the sheer fact that he pitched to his new contemporary -- eventually striking him out in that at-bat -- instead of send a message at Robinson's head that some might have wanted at the time.

"He could have released a missile, but he released a baseball," Brock said. "The question was why? Johnny always said it was because '[he] was a big-league pitcher.'"

Sixty years later, the moment still resonates with Brock, whose goal on Tuesday was to interview Ryan Howard for the book. The former Cardinals star sees the National League's reigning Most Valuable Player as the latest great African-American slugger whose life has changed because of "The Pitch."

"[Robinson] meant everything," Howard said. "If the Dodgers organization hadn't taken that chance, I wouldn't be here right now. I owe everything to the guys who came before me."

Sain started that day instead of lefty Warren Spahn -- who was still feeling his way at the Major League level, because the Dodgers were loaded with righty hitters. Brock visited Sain in a Chicago nursing home in June, five months before the former pitcher passed away.

Though unable to speak, Sain gripped a baseball and showed Brock the grip he used for the pitch, a curveball, and smiled.

"The whole world is watching this moment in time, and everyone wanted to know what the outcome of the pitch would be," Brock said. "Ryan Howard is the [next player] who is going to have a great career based on the significance of that pitch. That pitch opened doors, opportunities, destiny."

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Just a thrill: From 39-year-old closer Tom Gordon to 24-year-old speedster Michael Bourn, meeting Brock was a big moment.

"That was great," said Gordon. "I really admired him as a player."

Brock retired in 1979 after a stellar 21-year-career, with 938 stolen bases. Bourn, who was born three years later, is viewed as a "Lou Brock type" player as far as his stolen-base potential is concerned.

"When people teach me about stealing techniques, and what to do, he's always the example," Bourn said. "It's a pleasure to meet somebody like that. It's something I'll always remember."

Barajas mixes it up: Rod Barajas' slide into second base during Tuesday's game against the Pirates knocked the defending National League batting champion out of the game.

On an inning-ending double play grounder by Dusty Wathan, Barajas slid into second base and into the Bucs' Freddy Sanchez, who couldn't get out of the way.

"I'm taught to go hard into second base and break up two, and that's what I did," Barajas said. "I didn't come up high, and my spikes weren't up. I slid the way I've always been taught. Unfortunately, he didn't get out of the way. I can't go into a slide thinking I'm going to take it easy, because I'm putting myself at risk."

Barajas was relieved to hear Sanchez suffered only a mild sprain of the right knee and is listed as day-to-day.

Game stuff: Jamie Moyer went three scoreless innings, allowing one hit. He walked the bases loaded in the third, but escaped. "I made some poor pitches [in the third]. I felt like I lost my release point." ... Jayson Werth stroked two singles on Tuesday, accounting for an RBI. After starting the spring 0-for-8, Werth has three hits in his past four at-bats. ... Outfielder Ron Calloway had two hits, a double and a triple. ... Four Phillies combined to commit five errors: Bourn, Randall Simon, Danny Sandoval (two) and Andrew Beattie. ... Reliever Matt Smith had a rough outing, allowing three hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning, though he wasn't helped by a pair of ninth-inning errors.

Quotable: "That was Major League Baseball at its finest." --Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, on the wild five-error performance by his club in their 11-10 win over the Pirates

Philling in: Righty Adam Eaton won't travel to Winter Haven on Thursday; instead, he will pitch the "B" game against the Blue Jays at Knology Park. He'll be opposed by A.J. Burnett. ... Howard has hit at least one hit in all four of his Grapefruit League games.

Coming up: Brett Myers makes his second Grapefruit League start on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET against Toronto's Gustavo Chacin at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, Fla. J.A. Happ, Brian Sanches and Clay Condrey are also scheduled to pitch for Philadelphia.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.