My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• In case you missed it, Scarborough, Ont., native George Kottaras signed a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays last Thursday. The Canadian catcher was released by the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29 after the club signed veteran backstop A.J. Pierzynski. Kottaras, who has played in parts of seven big league campaigns, has hit .269 with three homers in 33 combined plate appearances between the Cardinals and Cleveland Indians this season. He has reported to the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, where he’s sharing the catching duties with fellow Canadian Mike Nickeas (Vancouver, B.C.).
• Derek Jeter moved into sixth place on Major League Baseball’s all-time hits list on Saturday after he recorded an infield single in the sixth inning in the New York Yankees’ 3-0 loss to the Indians. It was Jeter’s 3,431st career hit, which moved him past Honus Wagner. I thought it would be interesting to see how Jeter has fared against Canadian pitchers during his 20-year career. The future Hall of Famer hit Jason Dickson (Chatham, N.B.) the hardest. In 14 at bats against Dickson, Jeter notched eight hits – including two homers, one double and one triple – for a .571 batting average. Jeter has also registered nine hits in 21 at bats (.429 batting average) off of right-hander Rich Harden (Victoria, B.C.). The two Canadians who had the most success against Jeter were relievers from Kelowna, B.C. Jeter was 0-for-8 against right-hander Jeff Zimmerman and 1-for-10 versus left-hander Paul Spoljaric.
• Alexis Brudnicki of the Canadian Baseball Network reports that Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) has returned to his London, Ont., home and will sit out the remainder of the 2014 season. The Canadian southpaw, who’s pondering his playing future, was released by the New York Yankees on August 5 after making two appearances out of their bullpen. The 33-year-old Francis, who has 71 wins in parts of 10 major league seasons, has also pitched for the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland A’s this season, but he has spent the bulk of his career with the Colorado Rockies.
• Canadian catcher Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) is quietly enjoying one of his best big league seasons. Though he missed four weeks with a left hamstring strain, Martin owns a .411 on-base percentage in 75 games. The Pittsburgh Pirates receiver has also provided stellar defence behind the plate, and with Cardinals star catcher Yadier Molina out for an extended period with a torn thumb ligament, Martin could be in line for his second Gold Glove Award.
• Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos must prefer outfielders with the birth sign Leo. Anthony Gose celebrated his 24th birthday on Sunday, while Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera celebrated their 28th and 30th birthdays respectively on Monday.
• Belated condolences go out to the family of ex-Winnipeg Goldeye Dave Bakenhaster, who passed away from cancer in Galena, Ohio at the age of 69 on July 30. Signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1963, Bakenhaster pitched nine games and posted a 5.36 ERA with the Goldeyes, then a Cards’ Class-A affiliate, in 1964. The 5-foot-10 right-hander, also competed in two big league games for the Cardinals that same season and in parts of seven minor league campaigns in total. After retiring as a player, he returned to his home state of Ohio, where he worked for Excel Logistics for 35 years. He leaves behind his wife, Kay Harr Bakenhaster, his son/nephew Dennis, and two brothers and sisters.
• To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s first professional home run, which he hit at Hanlan’s Point Stadium on Toronto Island on September 5, 1914, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is selling limited edition prints (numbered to 714) that have been signed by the artist. The Hall of Fame is the only place that’s selling these and this is an important fundraiser for the new museum. To purchase one, call the Hall of Fame at 519-284-1838 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The print can be viewed here.