Notes: Sutton discusses homer chase

Notes: Sutton discusses homer chase

WASHINGTON -- On April 8, 1974, Dodgers left-hander Al Downing became part of history when he gave up Hank Aaron's record-setting 715th home run at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

One person who wasn't there for the historic event was Downing's teammate, right-hander Don Sutton, who now is an announcer for the Nationals television network. He was in Los Angeles attending a funeral service for the wife of Ken McMullen, the Dodgers' backup infielder. In fact, the Dodgers paid respects to McMullen's wife by wearing black arm bands that same night.

Sutton returned to Atlanta the next day and marveled at what Aaron accomplished.

"When I went out to the park the next day, I still had goose bumps because it was a history-making event," said Sutton, who surrendered three home runs to Aaron during his career.

Aaron would go on to hit 40 more home runs before retiring after the 1976 season. Thirty-one years later, Giants left fielder Barry Bonds is close to breaking Aaron's career home run mark, and there's a part of Sutton who doesn't want to see Bonds make history.

Sutton said he respects Bonds and mentioned that the Giants slugger treated him and his daughter, Jackie, with respect. But there are allegations of steroid use which hang over Bonds' head. There hasn't been any proof to back up those allegations.

"Being a traditionalist, I guess there is a part of me that does not want it to happen because of all of the questions surrounding Barry," Sutton said not too long ago. "On a personal relationship, it has been good with Barry. As far as the innuendos and the insinuations, rumors and things, I wished all of those had never happened and I might feel differently.

"But Hank Aaron is my generation. He is a guy I grew up wanting to face when I was a kid and then regretting it after I faced him. The traditionalist in me likes to see records like that stay put and continue to belong to the man who earns them."

Sutton, who is a Baseball Hall of Famer, said Aaron should be remembered for more than just hitting home runs. Sutton called Aaron a complete player.

"We get caught up in the 755 home runs that we forget what a terrific athlete he was," said Sutton. "He was a good outfielder, great baserunner. He is a guy who handled himself in world class fashion, where there were a lot of things that were making it hard to do that. I consider him a classy standard bearer for all power hitters."

On the shelf: The Nationals placed right-hander Jason Simontacchi on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Monday, with right elbow tendinitis. On Saturday, the club is expected to recall right-hander Chris Booker from Triple-A Columbus.

Simontacchi was scheduled to pitch on Friday against the Rockies, but Billy Traber received the nod instead.

This is the second time Simontacchi has had an ailment this season. In late June, Simontacchi had to get extra rest because his right shoulder was fatigued. With this latest ailment, Simontacchi is expected to miss one turn.

Simontacchi said he started feeling pain in his elbow against the Brewers on July 7 and felt it again last Sunday against the Marlins.

Booker, 30, is currently 1-4 with 24 saves and a 3.83 ERA in 42 games out of the bullpen for Columbus. Booker ranks second in the International League in saves.

Injury report: Don't look for the Ryan Langerhans and Nook Logan platoon in center field to end anytime soon. Alex Escobar left Columbus and returned to Viera, Fla. to rehab his right shoulder and ankle.

Escobar was having a tough time hitting the baseball for Columbus, going 4-for-27 (.148) with nine strikeouts.

"His shoulder and ankle are not ready yet. We don't want to waste the last five days on rehab, so we are sending him to Florida and we'll keep rehabilitating the shoulder and the ankle," general manager Jim Bowden said.

Right-hander Shawn Hill (right elbow and left shoulder) had another bullpen session on Friday and it was successful. He threw 40 pitches without feeling any pain. Hill will now pitch batting practice on Monday in Potomac, Md.

First baseman Dmitri Young was a late scratch on Friday against the Rockies because of a left heel bruise he suffered against the Astros earlier in the week. However, Young was available to pinch-hit.

Micah Bowie (hip injury) is expected to have a bullpen session on Sunday.

Stat of the day: The Nationals are 4-11 when they play baseball on Saturdays this season.

Did you know: Outfielder Austin Kearns to is the only member of the Nationals to hit an inside-the-park home run this season. He hit it on May 12 against Marlins pitcher Matt Lindstrom.

Coming up: The Nationals play the third game of a four-game series against the Rockies on Saturday afternoon at 3:55 p.m. ET at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Left-hander Mike Bacsik will face Colorado right-hander Rodrigo Lopez.

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