My weekly look at some Canadian baseball stories:
– After a rough start to the season, Port Dover, Ont., native John Axford has temporarily lost his job as the Cleveland Indians’ closer. Indians manager Terry Francona informed Axford of the move prior to Saturday’s game. The Tribe skipper says the Canadian right-hander, who has posted a 4.91 ERA and has walked 13 batters in 14- 2/3 innings, will be used in low pressure situations until he can regain his form.
– Scarborough, Ont., native George Kottaras is likely the first big leaguer to register two homers and a walk in four plate appearances in his first big league game in a season and then be designated for assignment less than 48 hours later. The Canadian catcher was called up by the Tribe on May 4 to replace Yan Gomes, who was on a brief paternity leave, and promptly belted home runs in his first two at bats.
– When the Toronto Blue Jays consummated their blockbuster deal with the Miami Marlins on November 19, 2012 to acquire Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio, baseball pundits lamented the fact that the Jays surrendered prospects Adeiny Hechavarria, Justin Nicolino and Jake Marisnick, more so than right-hander Henderson Alvarez. Alvarez was fresh off a season in which he posted a 4.74 ERA, allowed 216 hits in 187-1/3 innings and struck out just 79 batters. Well, don’t look now, but it appears that Alvarez, still just 24, is putting it all together. Counting the no-hitter he threw in his final 2013 start, the hard-throwing right-hander has now tossed three complete-game shutouts in his last eight starts.
– Hal Smith, a two-time all-star with the St. Louis Cardinals, passed away in Fort Smith, Ark., on April 14 at the age of 82. Prior to playing parts of seven seasons in the big leagues between 1956 and 1965, the strong-armed catcher toiled for the class-D Hamilton Cardinals of the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League in 1950. Following his playing career, he served as a coach and scout in the Cardinals organization. He is survived by his wife and three children.
– Recently, I stumbled across the 2014 roster for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League. On that roster, I noticed the names of two ex-Blue Jays – reliever Chad Beck and outfielder Fred Lewis – who will try to revive their careers with the independent club.
– At 34 years old, right-hander Bobby Korecky is the farthest thing from a big league prospect, but with 23 scoreless innings with the Blue Jays’ Triple-A Buffalo Bisons under his belt this season, he has to be raising some eyebrows. Of course, the big obstacle to promoting him would be clearing a spot on the 40-man roster.
– Melissa Couto’s weekly ThrowinSmoke column on the Canadian Baseball Network has become a must-read for me. If you’re looking for news and notes on Canadian players and the inside scoop on the Jays, you should check it out. Here’s her most recent column.
– If you’re a Blue Jays fan, yesterday (May 11) was a sad anniversary for two reasons: longtime coach Mel Queen died on that date in 2011 and Frank Wills, who pitched for the Jays for parts of four seasons from 1988 to 1991, passed away in 2012.
– 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.