My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- After 13 long seasons in the minors, right-hander Dustin Molleken (Regina, Sask.) was called up by the Detroit Tigers on Monday. Unfortunately, he did not pitch in a game before the Tigers shipped him back to triple-A Toledo two days later. A 15th round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2003, the 6-foot-4 right-hander was poised to become the fourth Canadian from his draft class to play in the big leagues. He would’ve joined Jamie Romak (London, Ont., 4th round, Atlanta Braves), Ryan Braun (Kitchener, Ont., 6th round, Kansas City Royals) and Jim Henderson (Calgary, Alta., 26th round, Montreal Expos). The Tigers are Molleken’s fifth major league organization. He had previous tenures in the Pirates, Rockies, Brewers and Indians systems. He also pitched parts of two seasons for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan and has suited up for the Canadian national team on several occasions, including on the gold medal-winning, 2011 Pan Am Games squad.
- Speaking of “Dustins,” another “Dustin” has quietly revived his big league career this season. Former Toronto Blue Jay Dustin McGowan has been an effective middle reliever for the Miami Marlins, posting a 2.96 ERA, while permitting just 15 hits in 27-1/3 innings so far in 2016.
- Fun Canadian Baseball Fact: Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins tossed 267 complete games during his Hall of Fame, 19-year major league career. In comparison, the entire Toronto Blue Jays pitching staffs have combined to throw 269 complete games since 1990 – a span of 26-plus seasons.
- I know these are old-school stats, but with his recent hot stretch, Blue Jays designated hitter/first baseman Edwin Encarnacion is on pace for 41 home runs and 141 RBI this season.
- Fun Canadian Baseball Fact II: On June 20, 1978, the Blue Jays were defeated for the third straight game by a Canadian pitcher. The Blue Jays lost 4-3 to the Tigers in 13 innings, with Toronto, Ont., native John Hiller recording the win in relief. This defeat followed back-to-back losses to the Texas Rangers in which the winning pitchers were Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) and Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current, Sask.). Hiller, Jenkins and Cleveland have all since been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
- On June 17, Victoria, B.C., native Michael Saunders became the first Canadian to belt three home runs in a game for the Blue Jays. Saunders also became the fourth Canadian to sock three homers in a major league game. Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.), Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) and Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) had previously accomplished this feat. Saunders has donated his batting gloves from his three-home run performance to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont.
- On Wednesday, the Blue Jays shipped veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc to the Seattle Mariners for cash considerations or a player to be named later. The 31-year-old southpaw had posted a 7-2 record and an International League-leading 1.71 ERA in 14 starts for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons. LeBlanc started for the Mariners on Friday and tossed six shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, but he did not record a decision in the M’s 4-3 win.
- Happy 64th Birthday to original Toronto Blue Jay Steve Bowling. A college football star, Bowling batted sixth and played right-field in the club’s snowy home opener at Exhibition Stadium on April 7, 1977. You could call him the first of the Blue Jays’ rifle-armed right fielders. He registered 14 outfield assists (second in the American League) in just 89 games in 1977, his only season with the Blue Jays. Following his baseball career, Bowling returned to his hometown of Tulsa, Okla., and worked in various sales roles before landing with Hilti – a worldwide company that provides leading edge technology to the construction industry. He has now been working there as a product support specialist for over 20 years.
- On this day 39 years ago, Pete Vuckovich tossed the first shutout in Blue Jays history when he defeated the Baltimore Orioles 2-0. The 6-foot-4 right-hander, who had pitched out of the bullpen for most of the season to that point, struck out 12 Orioles and out-dueled Hall of Famer Jim Palmer to record the win.
- In 1987, a reporter asked Los Angeles Dodgers utility infielder Dave Anderson, who hadn’t appeared in a game for a long stretch, when he thought he would play next. Anderson told the reporter that he was unsure and that he and his family were well aware that he hadn’t played in a while. “Today I told my little girl I’m going to the ballpark and she asked, ‘What for?’” Anderson said.
- As noted earlier, on June 17, Michael Saunders became the first Canadian to hit three home runs in a game for the Blue Jays. Two other Canadians have belted two home runs in a game for the Blue Jays. Can you name them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a signed Ron Taylor photo.