My weekly observations about stories around the baseball world from a Canadian perspective:
– Baseball lifer Vern Benson passed away on Monday at the age of 89. The North Carolina native’s 15-year playing career included stops with the Triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs in 1946 and the Class-C Winnipeg Goldeyes in 1956 and 1957. He also suited up for parts of five big league seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics (1943, 1946) and St. Louis Cardinals (1951 to 1953). Following his playing career, he coached for close to five decades, including a managerial stint with the Toronto Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate Syracuse Chiefs in 1978 and 1979. Our condolences to his family.
– North Battleford, Sask., native Andrew Albers has agreed to pitch for the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization this season. MLB Trade Rumors reports that the deal will pay the Canadian southpaw in the “high six figures.” The 28-year-old Albers made his big league debut with the Minnesota Twins last season and posted a 4.05 ERA in 10 starts. He was the first Saskatchewan native to play in the big leagues since Terry Puhl in 1991.
– But fear not Saskatchewan, Dustin Molleken, another moundsman from your province, might pitch in the big leagues this year. On Wednesday, the 29-year-old right-hander, who hails from Regina, was invited to the Milwaukee Brewers’ big league camp. Molleken recorded a 3.14 ERA in 10 games with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate in Nashville last season.
– Three more former Montreal Expos were signed to minor league deals (with an invitation to big league spring training) this week: right-handed relievers Jon Rauch and Guillermo Mota signed with the Kansas City Royals, while outfielder Endy Chavez re-upped with the Seattle Mariners. Grady Sizemore, whom the Expos selected in the third round of the 2000 draft, also inked a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.
– Several former Blue Jays also signed minor league deals with new teams in the past 10 days: Lyle Overbay (Brewers), John McDonald (Angels), Aaron Laffey (Orioles) and 2004 first-round pick Zach Jackson (Nationals). Reports also indicate that Vernon Wells, who was released by the Yankees on January 16, is drawing interest from the Marlins and Phillies.
– On Friday, the Cleveland Indians announced that they have signed Hull, Que., native Luke Carlin to a minor league deal and have invited him to spring training. The 33-year-old catcher had played in the Indians organization for parts of three seasons from 2010 to 2012 before suiting up for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City last season. Entering his 13th season, Carlin has enjoyed major league stints with the Padres, Diamondbacks and Indians.
– You can count free agent infielder Pete Orr as one of Bobby Cox’s greatest admirers. The Richmond, Hill, Ont., native played three seasons for the soon-to-be Hall of Fame skipper. “He was such a professional. He’s such a great man. I was so fortunate to play for him for three years and he was just first-class,” Orr told me at the Baseball Canada National Teams Awards Banquet on January 11. “People ask me, ‘What were his rules?’ And I say, ‘You have to wear slacks on the road and that’s it.’ There are no other rules. But nobody does anything wrong because everybody respects him so much. They go about their business, and if they’re not doing it for themselves or their teammates, they’re doing it for Bobby. It was a great honour to have played for him and I think it’s great that he’s going into the Hall of Fame.”
– I’ll end with a question trivia inspired by a thread on the Baseball Fever forum: Since 1900, there have only been 12 players to have seasons in which they had at least a .320 batting average, stole 20 bases, scored 120 runs and registered 120 RBIs. Two of these players have been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Can you name them? Post your answer in the comments section below and I’ll let you know if you’re right.
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