My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• And then there was one. On May 1, the Toronto Blue Jays had five Canadians on their active roster. But after Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) was designated for assignment on Monday, Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) is the only Canuck remaining. Michael Saunders (Victoria, B.C.) is sidelined with a knee injury until July, while Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) and Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) are toiling with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons.
• Speaking of triple-A teams with multiple Canadians, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired right-hander Chris Leroux (Montreal, Que.) from the Milwaukee Brewers for cash considerations on Tuesday and assigned him to the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs. The 6-foot-6 right-hander, who has pitched parts of six big league seasons with the Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees, posted a 8.15 ERA with the Brewers’ triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs this season. The 31-year-old Leroux joins fellow Canadian hurlers Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) and Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.) on the Phils’ triple-A club.
• For those of us who can recall Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.) breaking in with the Blue Jays in 1987, it’s hard to believe that he turns 50 today. The left-handed hitting outfielder played parts of 13 big league seasons and he’s one of only four Canadians to have suited up for both the Blue Jays and Montreal Expos (The others are Denis Boucher, Matt Stairs and Shawn Hill). Since hanging up his playing spikes in 2001, Ducey has embarked on a successful coaching career. He’s currently the hitting coach for the Phillies’ class-A Clearwater Threshers.
• After the Cleveland Indians designated him for assignment on May 16, former Montreal Expos pitcher Bruce Chen retired two days later. The crafty left-hander, whose 17-season major league career included a 15-game stint with the Expos in 2002, finishes with 82 wins and a 4.62 ERA in 400 games. Chen’s retirement leaves New York Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon as the only former Expo currently playing at the big league level. This should change, however, when Blue Jays infielder Maicer Izturis is reinstated from the disabled list sometime in the next couple of weeks.
• The most dominant pitcher in the Blue Jays’ organization this season has been left-hander Matt Boyd. In nine starts for the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the 6-foot-3 southpaw owns a 4-1 record and a 1.05 ERA. The 24-year-old, who was a sixth-round pick in the 2013 draft, has struck out 56 batters and walked just 13 in 51-1/3 innings.
• Fifteen years ago today, the Blue Jays were defeated 6-3 by the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park when Brian Daubach clubbed a walk-off, three-run home run off John Frascatore in the bottom of the 11th inning. What was notable about that game was that two Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers combined to throw five shutout innings. Right-hander Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) hurled a scoreless eighth and ninth for the Blue Jays, while Rheal Cormier (Cap-Pele, N.B.) tossed three shutout innings for the Bosox and earned the victory.
• Outside of perhaps Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays best reliever in 2015 has been Bo Schultz, who is pitching for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons. After allowing one hit and no runs in eight innings in six appearances with the big league Blue Jays during spring training, he was sent to the minors on March 26. The 29-year-old right-hander has continued his dominance in triple-A. In 15 appearances, he has a 1.77 ERA and seven saves. Yes, the Blue Jays would have to open up a roster spot for Schultz, but on a team with so few reliable relievers, the Jays should find a way to do this. Schultz is a pitcher who could not only help the bullpen, but he should be a candidate to become the club’s closer.
• This week’s trivia question: With this year’s Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies less than three weeks away (June 13), can you name four of the eight Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers who are also in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first to provide the correct answer will win a 1986 Donruss Joe Carter card and a 1990 Bowman Larry Walker rookie card.