My weekly opinions, observations and rants about some Canadian baseball stories:
Ryan Dempster, the pride of Gibsons, B.C., has been named the Chicago Cubs Opening Day starter in 2011. This will be his third Opening Day assignment. He started two previous openers with the Florida Marlins in 2001 and 2002. With 102 career victories heading into 2011, Dempster is set to pass Swift Current, Sask., native Reggie Cleveland (105 wins) and Kapuskasing, Ont., native Kirk McCaskill (106 wins) to move into second place on the all-time wins list for Canadian pitchers.
Langley, B.C. native Brett Lawrie, whom the Jays acquired for Shaun Marcum this off-season, is ranked as the 40th best prospect on Baseball America’s 2011 Top 100 Prospects list that was unveiled earlier this week. The promising infielder was ranked 59th in 2010.
When I worked at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, one of the greatest conversation pieces in the museum was a Jose Canseco Montreal Expos jersey. Yes, Canseco did play for the Expos, just not in the regular season. He was signed by Montreal on February 21, 2002, but was released by the club on March 27, 2002.
Speaking of controversial outfielders that had short spring training stints with Canadian clubs, Cesar Cedeno, the longtime Astros outfielder who was charged with involuntary manslaughter in a case involving his girlfriend in December 1973, was invited to Toronto Blue Jays camp in 1986. He was signed by the Jays on March 14, 1986, but was released by the club on April 3, 1986.
It’s good to see New Westminster, B.C. native Justin Morneau back on the field with the Minnesota Twins. The 2006 American League MVP has been sidelined since July 7, 2010 when he was accidentally kneed in the head by Jays’ shortstop John McDonald as he was trying to break up a double play. Reports say that the Twins will hold Morneau out of the first week of spring training games, but the club is cautiously optimistic that their star first baseman will be ready for the season opener against the Jays in Toronto on April 1.
If you’re a Jays fan, you might not want to read this, but Baseball Prospectus has projected the club to finish last in the American League East with a 76-86 record.
I was perusing a list of the Jays’ Opening Day starters over the years. All the pitchers you would expect are on there: Roy Halladay, Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key, Jim Clancy, Pat Hentgen and Roger Clemens. But the one name that jumped out at me was Mark Bomback. I had forgotten Bomback had even pitched for the club. It was a start that Bomback would like to forget as well. He lasted just 1/3 of an inning and was shelled for six runs in a 15-4 loss to Milwaukee on April 9, 1982.