Geoff Geary and Josh Hancock roomed together during spring training at Clearwater in 2004. They hung out with righthander Ryan Madson. Which was interesting, since they appeared to be competing for the same spot on the roster.

Despite that, a friendship developed. So the shock that ran through the Phillies' clubhouse after the news spread that the Cardinals' Hancock, 29, had been killed in an automobile accident outside St. Louis early yesterday morning was personal.

"We were battling for the same job, but you kind of develop a bond," Geary said yesterday. "We were competing against each other, but ultimately it wasn't up to us. So we tried to learn from each other.

"I didn't believe it when I first heard. I had to go on the Internet to see it for myself. And it still hasn't set in. It still doesn't make sense."

Said Madson: "He was a lot of fun. I'll miss him for sure."

The Phillies held a moment of silence before yesterday's game at Citizens Bank Park against the Marlins for the righthander who pitched briefly for them in 2003 and 2004.

The Cardinals canceled their scheduled game against the Cubs last night at Busch Stadium.

"All of baseball today mourns the tragic and untimely death of St. Louis pitcher Josh Hancock," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "He was a fine young pitcher who played an important role on last year's World Series championship team."

Hancock, in fact, seemed to have found himself with the Cardinals after bouncing from the Red Sox to the Phillies to the Reds, who released him last spring after he reported to camp overweight.

He pitched in 62 games for the Cards last season, going 3-3 with a 4.09 ERA. He was off to a strong start this year (0-1, 3.55), and pitched three innings in Saturday's loss to the Cubs.

According to the police report, Hancock was killed around 12:35 a.m. yesterday when the 2007 Ford Explorer he was driving slammed into a parked tow truck that was assisting at the scene of another accident. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

His Phillies career was more notable for what the Phillies gave up to get him (Jeremy Giambi to the Red Sox on Dec. 15, 2002) and what they got when he was traded (Todd Jones from the Reds on July 30, 2004) than what he did in between (six big-league appearances, two starts). His most notable Phillies moment probably was when he pitched two shutout innings in the Vet's final game on Sept. 28, 2003.

Chase Utley played with him both at Triple A Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre and in the big leagues.

"He was a good guy and a good teammate," the second baseman said. "I feel terrible for his family. Any time you lose someone in baseball you feel bad, but that fact that he had been here makes it even more difficult."

Brett Myers knew Hancock from his time with the Phillies. "He was a good guy. It stinks," he said.

Geary remembered Hancock as a prankster who once tried to put baby powder in the air conditioning vents of his rental car. "When I got in I knew right away what he had done, because there was baby powder all over the console," he said.

They had dinner together when the Phillies were in St. Louis last year.

Four days ago Hancock overslept, which wouldn't be a big deal except that it scared some of his teammates when he didn't arrive in the clubhouse on time. They found it eerily reminiscent of the day Darryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room in 2002.

The relief that they felt when he arrived turned out to be tragically temporary. *