SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Almost everyone has been affected by cancer, and outfielder Brandon Barnes is no different.
Barnes' younger stepbrother, Thomas French, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at 11 months old, and at 13 months old, he underwent a major operation to remove a tumor about the size of a grown man's fist.
Today, French is a healthy 20-year-old, but his early fight greatly affected Barnes.
"Just going through it, watching him grow up and battle through it and finally become cancer-free was awesome," Barnes said earlier this spring. "I try to support that as much as possible and help out."
Barnes has done that on his own, last season collaborating with Athletes Brand to design a T-shirt with a pair of praying hands wearing batting gloves with the hashtag #belief.
Now Barnes has joined players throughout the Majors in supporting a T-shirt initiative benefiting cancer research that has gone league-wide.
The website 108stitches.com went live on March 17, with 108 Stitches showcasing the "Strike Out Cancer" tees in each team's colors. Each is promoted by a different player who agreed to join Cardinals reliever Jason Motte in a partnership that will benefit multiple charities. Each participating player has chosen a charity that will benefit from the T-shirts sales, and for each shirt sold, $5 will go to the Jason Motte Foundation and $5 to a charity of that player's choice. A full list of recipient charities will be listed on the 108 Stitches website soon, along with a photo of each player rep in his team-colored shirt.
"At the end of the day, it's about reaching people," Motte said. "Baseball is great and everything, but there are other really important things going on out there that affect a lot of people. Wearing these T-shirts shows people that they're not alone. They're not sitting there doing chemo by themselves where no one cares. People do care, whether it's friends, family or baseball players. There are people who this has touched and this has affected. This is something we're trying to do to get the word out there and try to raise money to help."
When Barnes received a call from Motte this offseason, he was eager to join.
"I'm always ready to help and be a part of something for a cause," Barnes said. "It was a great idea, and for every team in Major League Baseball to be a part of it is pretty cool."
Tulo's first spring hits are big ones
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Troy Tulowitzki's first hit of the spring went a long way.
The second went even farther.
Tulowitzki recorded his first two Cactus League hits in style, launching a solo home run in the first inning and adding a two-run shot in the third in a 7-2 win over the Angels on Friday at Salt River Fields.
Although Tulowitzki said that, like many players, he doesn't put stock in spring numbers, he admitted that his first knock caused a small sigh of relief.
"Maybe just better timing," Tulowitzki said of finally getting a hit. "That's just the way this game is. Some of my best Spring Trainings I've had have been some of my worst seasons. Some of the worst, [good seasons]. You don't look into Spring Training at all for guys that have been around."
Both home runs came off Angels right-hander Joe Blanton, and both were pulled down the left-field line. The first landed midway up the outfield's grass hill, and the second landed near the top of the hill and hopped on the concourse.
"He's one of the best in the game," manager Walt Weiss said. "You saw the game today. Just one of the best there is."
Tulowitzki also looked good in the field. He made five plays and looked smooth on each. Overall, he admitted that this spring is a welcome change from last, when he was slowly working his way back from groin surgery.
"There's no hesitations, there's no thoughts," he said of the difference. "I'm back to myself, and that feels good. That's what I'm most excited about. Even today I was, defensively, myself again, and it's nice."
De La Rosa's second outing much better than the first
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The final inning was a struggle, but Jorge De La Rosa's second Cactus League outing was an improvement over his first.
The left-hander allowed a leadoff single and retired the next six batters before giving up one run on two hits and walking one in his third and final inning in Friday's 7-2 victory over the Angels at Salt River Fields.
"I think I was overthrowing in the last inning and I got a little tired, but that's why -- I threw too many pitches," De La Rosa said.
But he got out of it, which is vintage De La Rosa, manager Walt Weiss said.
"He did what he does so well -- he minimized the inning [and] gets out of it with very little damage," Weiss said. "He was real good at that last year, just pitching his way out of things. A lot of that has to do with his changeup and his ability to keep the ball off the barrel, and that's what he did today."
Despite the long third inning, De La Rosa's overall performance was much better than it was on Sunday, when he surrendered four runs on four hits (one home run) and two walks.
"There's definitely improvement," De La Rosa said. "Especially my fastball command was a little better this time. I have to keep working on my breaking ball, throwing it for a strike."
MLBPA's Clark visits Rockies camp
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, was at Salt River Fields on Friday for the MLBPA's annual meeting with Rockies players and coaches.
Clark, who took over for the late Michael Weiner in December, described the session as a "state of the union," during which players could ask questions about any issues.
There are plenty of topics to discuss following an offseason that Clark called the busiest he remembers in a non-bargaining year. Among the biggest were expanded instant replay, new experimental home-plate collision rules and the possibility of stiffer penalties for violators of the joint drug agreement.
Clark said that the response on instant replay has been "cautious optimism" and that he expects everybody to be on the same page by Opening Day.
"What you've seen in Spring Training is a snapshot in protocol, not necessarily the process," said Clark, mentioning the difference in the number of cameras, communication tools and technology. "Guys are getting more and more comfortable with it, and the expectation is, going forward, some of those early kinks may be worked out and we'll find ourselves at a place where it's working even more effectively."
When it comes to the collision rules, Clark is in favor of making players safer but is open to reviewing the rules, if needed, depending on what happens.
As for stiffer penalties, Clark said that the MLBPA is mainly focused on the program as a whole, not just discipline. But that doesn't mean harsher penalties for users of performance-enhancing drugs haven't been discussed.
"We have and continue to have those conversations to see if we can put something together that makes a whole lot of sense going forward with respect to the program and how it functions," he said.
• First baseman Michael Cuddyer did not play on Friday after originally being in the posted lineup but said he was only a little sore two days after being hit in the left shoulder by Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. Cuddyer had a lace-like imprint on his shoulder from the ball but expects to play on Saturday.
• Infielder Josh Rutledge returned to the lineup on Friday after missing time with a sprained left ankle. He went 1-for-2 with a two-run homer and played five innings at second.
• Weiss said that first baseman Justin Morneau (neck) hit on the field on Friday and is "getting pretty close" to game action.
• The Rockies' four home runs on Friday equaled their total through their first eight Cactus League games.