My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- For the time being Aaron Sanchez will be part of a six-man starting rotation for the Toronto Blue Jays to keep his innings count down and preserve his arm for the future. But just how much have times changed when it comes to safeguarding young arms? Well, after the Toronto Blue Jays selected Dave Stieb in the fifth round of the 1978 MLB amateur draft, Stieb reported to class-A Dunedin and played 27 games as an outfielder and pitched 26 innings. When Stieb was converted into a full-time starting pitcher the following year, between class-A, triple-A and the big leagues, he tossed 231-1/3 innings – or 205 more innings than his previous campaign. Stieb proceeded to throw at least 183 innings a season for the next 11 seasons.
- In case you haven’t heard, former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen is toeing the rubber for the Boston Red Sox triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket. He’s hoping to be promoted to the big league club for the stretch run. This article by WEEI’s Rob Bradford explains how after Janssen was released by the San Diego Padres at the end of spring training, the right-hander returned to his Southern California home and decided to work on increasing his velocity. Janssen enlisted in the Weighted Ball Program that has helped Blue Jays lefty Brett Cecil and ex-Jay Steve Delabar. The program seems to have helped; Janssen owns a 2.35 ERA in six triple-A appearances so far.
- Twenty-six years ago today, the Montreal Expos orchestrated one of their best trades when they dealt left-hander Zane Smith to the Pittsburgh Pirates for southpaw reliever Scott Ruskin, infielder Willie Greene and a player to be named later. The player to be named later turned out to be Moises Alou. The right-handed hitting outfielder, who’s the son of Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer, Felipe Alou, batted .292 and recorded 626 hits in 608 games with the Expos. His best year with the club came in the strike-shortened, 1994 season when he was batting .339 with 22 home runs before the season was cancelled.
- The Cincinnati Reds sent out a graphic on social media on Thursday that illustrated just how much better Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto has performed since the beginning of the season. The Reds’ post indicated that on June 1, Votto’s on-base percentage (OBP) was .330 (54th in the National League). By July 1, his OBP had improved to .378 (15th in the National League) and as of August 3rd his .425 OBP was the best in the National League. After his 1-for-4 performance yesterday, Votto’s OBP is .419, which is still the best in the National League.
- Lost in all of the excitement of the Blue Jays’ recent pitching acquisitions of Francisco Liriano, Scott Feldman and Joaquin Benoit and in the club’s back-to-back extra-inning contests on Sunday and Monday is the havoc this wreaked on their triple-A Buffalo Bisons’ roster. Bisons manager Gary Allenson must have a hard time keeping track of who is in his bullpen these days. In this past week, Allenson has lost relievers Danny Barnes (called up by the Blue Jays), Ben Rowen (claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers after being designated for assignment), Pat Venditte (traded to the Seattle Mariners) and Colt Hynes (released and signed by the Cleveland Indians). The Bisons skipper also welcomed right-hander Mike Bolsinger (acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Jesse Chavez trade), Bo Schultz (sent down by the Blue Jays) and Jason Berken (promoted from double-A New Hampshire) to his bullpen. The Bisons also placed veteran reliever Bobby Korecky on the seven-day disabled list.
- When Mike Piazza was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 24, he became the fourth player to be enshrined who predominantly wore No. 31 during their career. The other three are Canadian Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux and ex-Blue Jay Dave Winfield.
- Today would’ve been the 94th Birthday of Vancouver, B.C., native Bob Alexander. After 13 seasons in the minors, the 6-foot-2 right-hander made his major league debut with the Baltimore Orioles on April 11, 1955 at the age of 33. He’d pitch in three more games for the Orioles that season and in five contests with the Cleveland Indians in 1957. He retired following three more campaigns in the minors and settled in Oceanside, Calif., where he started a second career as a real estate agent. He passed away on August 7, 1993.
- This week’s trivia question: Bob Alexander was the first player born in Vancouver, B.C. to make the major leagues. Eleven others have since played in the major leagues. Can you name four other players from Vancouver, 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 2010 Bowman Chrome Josh Donaldson rookie card.