My weekly observations about stories around the baseball world from a Canadian perspective:
– If you haven’t read Hall of Fame columnist Bob Elliott’s article on former Toronto Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi, who passed away on Friday after a series of strokes earlier in the week, you should. “He [Fregosi] was 101 things – including a music lover, tax expert, raconteur and political junkie,” writes Elliott. “Worldly as he was, he knew everybody at the park but the fill-in usher.” To read the Elliott’s entire piece, click here.
– Canadian left-hander Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) has signed a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays and has reported to their big league camp. With Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson sidelined for the first six-to-eight weeks of the season after elbow surgery, Bedard, now entering his 11th big league season, has a good chance to crack the club’s starting rotation. The Rays represent the sixth big league organization the soon-to-be 35-year-old southpaw has suited up for. He has also pitched for the Orioles, Mariners, Red Sox, Pirates and Astros.
– Despite not having thrown a big league pitch since September 25, 2011, Rich Harden (Victoria, B.C.) is not ready to retire, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. The 32-year-old right-hander is reportedly throwing, but he wants to be further along in his throwing program before he begins auditioning for big league clubs. Harden missed the 2012 season due to a shoulder strain and was signed to a minor league deal by the Minnesota Twins in December 2012. Unfortunately, his rehab never progressed to the point to where could pitch for the Twins in 2013.
– Speaking of Canadian right-handers with injury woes, North Vancouver, B.C., native Blake Hawksworth, who hadn’t pitched since 2011 due to a shoulder injury, has retired and joined Scott Boras’s agency, reports Cotillo. Hawksworth pitched in parts of three big league seasons with the Cardinals and Dodgers and registered a 4.07 ERA in 124 games.
– Right-hander Luis Ayala, who toed the rubber for the Montreal Expos in 2003 and 2004, signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals on February 7. Since pitching for the Expos, the journeyman reliever has had big league stints with the Nationals, Mets, Twins, Marlins, Yankees, Orioles and Braves. The 36-year-old right-hander owns a 3.34 ERA in 534 big league contests.
– Three former Blue Jays also inked minor league contracts (with invitations to big league spring training) this week: Josh Roenicke (Nationals), Brandon Lyon (Angels) and Emilio Bonifacio (Cubs). Ex-Jay A.J. Burnett also landed a one-year, $16-million deal with the Phillies on Wednesday.
– I’m sad to report that former Montreal Expos prospect Terry Bettis has passed away at the age of 66. Bettis, a 6-foot-2 left-handed reliever, suited up for the Expos’ Class-A affiliate in West Palm Peach in 1970 and posted a 1.33 ERA in 30 games, but that turned out to be his sole professional season. After hanging up his spikes, he retired to Topeka, Kan., and started an asphalt business. He died of natural causes on Tuesday. He is survived by his wife, Karen, three children and five grandchildren.
– If you have any baseball equipment that you’re no longer using, Alexis Brudnicki, an excellent baseball writer and Canadian Baseball Network colleague of mine, would like to make sure it gets into the hands of less privileged organizations that can use it. For more information on how you can help, visit Alexis’s Turn Two Baseball Foundation website.
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