My weekly observations about stories around the baseball world from a Canadian perspective:
– Navan, Ont., native Erik Bedard was the winning pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday in their 6-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in Port Charlotte, Fla. The Canadian left-hander, who was signed to a minor league deal on February 17, is vying for the Rays’ fifth starter’s job. His win against the Jays was his second of the spring, but he’ll need to string together a few more solid outings to make the big league club. He has allowed nine runs in 11-1/3 innings this spring.
– He doesn’t get the hype that Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman do, but hard-throwing reliever John Stilson might be the first of this trio of Blue Jays prospects to pitch in the big leagues. After posting a 2.09 ERA and striking out 47 batters in 47-1/3 innings in Triple-A Buffalo last season, the 23-year-old right-hander has followed it up with an excellent spring. In five relief apperances, he has picked up two wins and has yielded just two hits in 6-1/3 scoreless innings.
– The best thing about having Kevin Seitzer as a batting coach: His career on-base percentage was .375. The Blue Jays’ on-base percentage last season was an abysmal .318. Yes, the Blue Jays need their starting pitching to step up, but they also need more runners on base in front of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind.
– Former Montreal Expo Livan Hernandez, who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2012, officially filed his retirement papers on Thursday. The Cuban right-hander, who enjoyed two excellent seasons with the Expos in 2003 and 2004, retires with 178 wins in 17 big league seasons. In 35 starts with the Expos in 2004, Hernandez posted a 3.60 ERA and led the National League in complete games (9) and innings pitched (255-1/3). He also hit .247 and had 20 hits for the Expos that season.
– I recently discovered this comprehensive list of International League no-hitters. Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Oscar Judd is among those to have tossed a no-no in the International League. On June 14, 1948, the Rebecca, Ont., native threw a no-hitter for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their 8-0 victory over the Syracuse Chiefs. This list also includes several no-hittters authored by pitchers for the Maple Leafs, Montreal Royals and Ottawa Lynx.
– On this day in 2006, the Blue Jays signed Roy Halladay to a three-year, $40-million contract extension. The ace right-hander proceeded to enjoy one of the most successful stretches of his career from 2006 through 2009, winning at least 16 games in each of those seasons – including his second 20-win campaign in 2008. “Doc” also topped the American League in complete games in each season from 2007 to 2009, before being dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies on December 16, 2009 for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor.
– If you have a few moments, I’d suggest visiting the new Facebook page called “Blue Jays – On This Day.” If you go there today, you’ll find out that the Blue Jays swung their first, three-way trade in franchise history on this date in 2000.
– @baseballretirements has advised me that former Montreal Expos farmhand Greg VanGaver passed away on January 13 at the age of 61. The Seattle-born right-hander posted a 5-0 record and a 4.38 ERA in 16 games with the Gulf Coast League Expos in 1974. You can read his obituary here.
– If you haven’t already done so, please “LIKE” the Cooperstowners in Canada Facebook page. I update this page regularly with links to Canadian baseball stories. Thanks again for your support.