My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· With a 7-17 record and three of their stars – Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and J.A. Happ – still on the disabled list, the Toronto Blue Jays have had a horrible start to their season. But it must sting a little bit more for Blue Jays fans when they review the leaderboards and see almost Blue Jay Ervin Santana topping the majors with a 0.77 ERA and ex-Jay Eric Thames tied for big league lead in home runs with 11.
· Speaking of should-be Blue Jays, Ladner, B.C. native James Paxton, who was originally selected 37th overall in the 2009 MLB amateur draft by Toronto but could not come to terms with the club and re-entered the draft the following year, has now shutout his opponents in four of his five starts this season for the Seattle Mariners. In each of those starts, the 6-foot-4 lefty has hurled at least six innings. He is now 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA and has registered 39 strikeouts in 32-1/3 innings this season.
· Victoria, B.C., native Nick Pivetta is set to make his first big league start this afternoon for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Prior to his big league call-up earlier this week, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander, who toed the rubber for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, had won all three of his starts with the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs this season. In those starts, he had posted a 0.95 ERA and struck out 24 batters in 19 innings. Chosen in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB amateur draft by the Washington Nationals, he was dealt to the Phillies for closer Jonathan Papelbon on July 28, 2015.
· It was 28 years ago today that the Blue Jays dealt outfielder Jesse Barfield to the New York Yankees for left-hander Al Leiter. Barfield proceeded to play parts of four seasons with the Yankees. His best campaign with the Bombers came in 1990, when he socked 25 home runs, had a .815 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) and led American League right fielders with 17 outfield assists. Leiter, meanwhile, was sidelined for the bulk of his first four seasons with the Blue Jays, before emerging as a valuable spot starter and middle reliever on the 1993 World Series-winning club. After winning 11 games and posting a 3.64 ERA in 28 starts for the Blue Jays in 1995, Leiter signed a three-year, $8.6-million contract with the Florida Marlins.
· Twenty-three years ago today, Blue Jays outfielder and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Carter belted a solo home run off of Minnesota Twins left-hander Jim Deshaies in the fourth inning in the Blue Jays’ 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome to record his 31st RBI in the month of April. This set a major league record for most RBI during the season’s first month. Carter’s record was broken three years later when Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez knocked in 34.
· Blue Jays fans can take some solace in the fact that if the club does decide to trade one of their superstars for prospects and start a rebuild that they have the right man in charge. After all, it was Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro, when he was the general manager of the Cleveland Indians, who convinced the Montreal Expos to part with prospects Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips in exchange for Bartolo Colon on June 28, 2002. Those three prospects would eventually be selected to a combined 10 all-star games, win six Gold Gloves, two Silver Slugger Awards and a Cy Young Award.
· Happy 69th Birthday to former Blue Jays reliever Mike Barlow! The 6-foot-6 right-hander posted a 4.11 ERA in 52 appearances for the Blue Jays in 1980 and 1981. Those were the final two seasons of his seven-year big league career in which he also enjoyed stops with the St. Louis Cardinals (1975), Houston Astros (1976) and California Angels (1977 to 1979). His son, Chris, was later selected by the Montreal Expos in the ninth round of the 2002 MLB amateur draft and he pitched in their organization from 2002 to 2004.
· This week’s trivia question: For Blue Jays fans clinging to hope for this season, the 1989 Blue Jays sunk to a 12-24 record on May 14th of that season before they fired manager Jimy Williams and replaced him with Cito Gaston, who led the club to a 77-49 record the rest of the way. The Blue Jays would clinch the American League East division title with their 89th win in the season’s second-last game against the Baltimore Orioles. What Blue Jays pitcher got the win in that division-clinching game? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1978 Topps Willie Stargell card and a 1982 Donruss Paul Molitor card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who holds the record for most strikeouts in a season by a Canadian left-hander?) was Navan, Ont., native Erik Bedard who registered 221 strikeouts for the Baltimore Orioles in 2007.