My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- Seven years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays dealt Scott Rolen to the Cincinnati Reds for pitching prospects Zach Stewart, Josh Roenicke and a struggling 26-year-old third baseman named Edwin Encarnacion. It was Stewart the Blue Jays coveted the most, but the Reds would only agree to the transaction if Encarnacion, and the remainder of his $2.425-million salary, was included. As luck would have it for the Blue Jays, Encarnacion has developed into one of baseball’s best sluggers and that trade turned out to be one of the best in franchise history. The Blue Jays hope for similar good fortune as they attempt to add a starting pitcher before tomorrow’s 4 p.m. ET trade deadline. Three starters the Blue Jays are rumored to have interest in are Rich Hill, Jeremy Hellickson and Jorge De La Rosa.
- I applaud the Blue Jays front office for being able to trade Drew Storen for 39-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit. Yes, Benoit had not pitched well for the Mariners this season (5.18 ERA in 26 appearances), but this is the same right-hander who permitted just 36 hits in 65-1/3 innings and posted a 0.903 WHIP in 67 games in 2015. And he was even better in 2014, allowing only 28 hits in 54-1/3 innings while registering a 0.773 WHIP. So the Blue Jays didn’t just land any reliever for Storen; Benoit was one of the top five middle relievers in the big leagues in 2014 and 2015.
- The Arizona Diamondbacks called up Surrey, B.C., native Adam Loewen on Saturday. The 6-foot-6 lefty had posted a 3.52 ERA and fanned 41 batters in 38-1/3 innings with the triple-A Reno Aces this season. Loewen joins his fourth big league club. The 2002 first-rounder had previous pitching stints with the Orioles (2006 to 2008) and Phillies (2015) and played for the Blue Jays as an outfielder in 2011.
- After a slow start to the season, Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto has now reached base in 111 of his last 222 plate appearances (A hat tip to Ryan Spaeder, @theaceofspaeder on Twitter for his helpful tweets). That’s a 500 on-base percentage during that span. Votto’s batting average has also climbed from .213 on May 31 to .284 heading into today’s game.
- Think it’s easy being a backup catcher in the big leagues? You should talk to Erik Kratz. The journeyman backstop was signed to a minor league deal by the Blue Jays on Thursday, exactly two years after he was dealt by the club with Liam Hendriks to the Kansas City Royals for Danny Valencia. So what has happened to Kratz in the 24 months since his first tenure with the Blue Jays? Well, he has played in no less than eight different big league organizations, in the following order: Royals, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates. In the past two years, he has been released four times, traded once and sold to another organization. Kratz, who hit .198 with three home runs in 34 games for the Blue Jays in 2014, has been assigned to the triple-A Buffalo Bisons where he will provide the Blue Jays with much-needed catching depth.
- Victoria, B.C., native Michael Saunders has blossomed into a star for the Blue Jays this season and his autograph has become highly sought-after. On Thursday, Vaughn, Ont.-based autograph company A.J. Sportsworld organized a public autograph event in which fans shelled out $50 each for Saunders’ autograph.
- It was 23 years ago today that the Montreal Expos retired Gary Carter’s No. 8 at Olympic Stadium prior to a game against the Florida Marlins. Carter’s speech and ensuing walk around the field to acknowledge the fans inspired one of the longest ovations in the franchise’s history. You can watch part of the ceremony here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqkeL7M3rYA
- Happy 60th Birthday to New Westminster, B.C., native Gordie Pladson who pitched parts of four major league seasons with the Houston Astros from 1979 to 1982. Following his playing career, the 6-foot-4 right-hander returned to his home province to coach baseball and he now serves as a property negotiator for the Real Estate Institute of British Columbia.
- This week’s trivia question: Gordie Pladson was the first player born in New Westminster, B.C. to make the major leagues. Can you name the two other players from New Westminster, B.C. to play in the big leagues? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1978 Topps Jim Clancy rookie card, a 1981 Donruss Danny Ainge rookie card and a 1997 Bowman Jose Cruz Jr. rookie card.