My weekly observations about stories around the baseball world from a Canadian perspective (Please follow me on Twitter @kevinglewsports):
– According to Sportsnet.ca, Montreal native Chris Leroux, who was Canada’s best starting pitcher in this year’s World Baseball Classic, has signed with Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Japan’s Central League. The 29-year-old right-hander had been designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12. The contract reportedly guarantees Leroux $500,000 for this season.
– It may be too early to worry, but Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera has just three extra-base hits since returning from his 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy last August. Yes, it’s true that Cabrera has never been a true power hitter, but he did record 67 and 46 extra base hits in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
– The Cincinnati Reds, on the other land, no longer have to worry about Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto’s power slump. After going 51 regular season games without a home run (dating back to June 24, 2012), Votto has hit three in his last 10 games.
– Condolences to the family of former Toronto Maple Leafs outfielder Jack Daniels. Nicknamed “Sour Mash Jack” by his teammates because he shared his name with the famous whiskey maker, Daniels suited up for 81 International League games with the Triple-A Leafs in 1957 and belted 10 homers. That season was one of the Chester, Penn., native’s 12 seasons in minor pro ball. His only season in the big leagues came with the Boston Braves in 1952 when he hit .187 in 106 games. He died in Shreveport, La., at the age of 85.
– While the Toronto Blue Jays starting pitching has struggled this season, ex-Jay Carlos Villanueva has quietly posted a 1.53 ERA and permitted just 16 hits in 29-1/3 innings in four starts for the Chicago Cubs.
– Ryan Dempster, the pride of Gibsons, B.C., has had some tough luck to begin his Boston Red Sox tenure. Despite striking out 33 batters in 24 innings and posting a tidy 3.38 ERA, he is 0-2 in four starts.
– If the Jays are looking for offence, why not give Jim Negrych a look at second base at the big league level? The 28-year-old infielder is hitting .500 and has scored 15 runs in 12 games with the the Jays’ Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.
– It appears that former Montreal Expo Claudio Vargas, who has posted a 1.59 ERA in three starts with the Triple-A Bisons, will be called up if R.A. Dickey is forced to miss a start or go on the disabled list for his neck/back issues. If the 34-year-old right-hander is called up by the Jays, he’ll become the 79th player and 24th pitcher to have suited up for both the Expos and the Blue Jays.
– Thanks to Marcel Hubert for pointing me towards this excellent Baseball America article on John Wright, the unheralded black pitcher who was assigned to the Montreal Royals at the same time as Jackie Robinson in 1946.
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