My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- Another tough break for Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.). Batting leadoff for a split-squad Toronto Blue Jays team against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, he fouled a ball off his knee in his first at bat. After eventually striking out, he was removed from the game and the injury will be monitored. Heading into action on Friday, the speedy outfielder was 6-for-19 (.316 batting average) with four runs, a home run and a stolen base in seven spring training contests. Pompey, who has had brief major league stints with the Blue Jays in four previous seasons, is out of minor league options. This means he’ll have to make the Blue Jays Opening Day roster or he’ll be forced to clear waivers before being reassigned to the minors. The foul ball off the knee on Friday is the latest setback for the 25-year-old Canuck, who has been sidelined by various injuries in recent years. Pompey faces stiff competition from fellow young outfielders/outfield prospects Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk, Billy McKinney, Jonathan Davis and Anthony Alford for a big league roster spot.
- Former Toronto Blue Jays draft pick and Markham, Ont., native Jordan Romano opened the spring with three scoreless relief appearances for the Texas Rangers before he was roughed up for four runs in 1 1/3 innings by the San Diego Padres on Thursday. Selected by the Chicago White Sox from the Blue Jays in the Rule 5 draft in December and then flipped to the Rangers for cash, Romano is attempting to secure a spot in the Rangers’ bullpen this spring. The 25-year-old Canuck, who posted a combined 12-8 record and a 4.11 ERA in 26 starts between double-A and triple-A in 2018, must crack the Rangers’ 25-man roster and be active for at least 90 days of the regular season. If Romano doesn’t make the Rangers’ roster out of the spring, he’ll have to clear waivers or be sent back to the Blue Jays for half of the $100,000 Rule 5 draft price.
- Congratulations to North Delta, B.C., native Jeff Francis whose No. 16 will be retired by his alma mater, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds today. Prior to be selected ninth overall in the 2002 MLB draft by the Colorado Rockies, Francis honed his skills with the Thunderbirds for three seasons, starting in 1999-2000. During that span, Francis set 11 team pitching records and was twice named an NAIA first team All-American. After he was drafted by the Rockies, the 6-foot-5 lefty proceeded to register 72 wins in his 11-year big league career. He won at least 13 games in three consecutive seasons for the Rockies from 2005 to 2007 and he became the second Canadian pitcher to start a World Series game when he got the nod for the Rockies in Game 1 of the 2007 World Series. He also toed the rubber for the Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays during his big league career and was a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning Pan Am Games team in 2015. For his efforts, he became the eighth member of Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2016.
- Happy 53rd Birthday to former Toronto Blue Jays reliever Mike Timlin! After being selected by the Blue Jays in the fifth round of the 1987 MLB draft, the Texan right-hander would spend his first seven major league seasons with the Blue Jays. His first season with the Blue Jays was his finest. In 108 1/3 innings across 63 appearances that campaign, he went 11-6 and posted a 3.17 ERA. He returned to the Blue Jays’ bullpen the following season and it was Timlin who fielded Atlanta Braves outfielder Otis Nixon’s bunt and threw the ball to Joe Carter at first base for the final out of the 1992 World Series. He was also an important reliever on the World Series-winning team the following year. In all, the durable reliever pitched in 18 big league seasons and also enjoyed tenures with the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox. He collected two more World Series rings working out of the Red Sox bullpen in 2004 and 2007.
- Our amazing Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) fact of the week, courtesy of Kyle Glaser of Baseball America on Twitter on Wednesday. “How ridiculous is Joey Votto at getting on base? He could fail to reach base in his next 500 plate appearances, and still be tied for second-highest OBP among active players.”
- Thirty-six years ago today, longtime Dodgers manager Walter Alston was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee. Before guiding the big league Dodgers to four World Series titles and seven National League pennants, Alston honed his managerial skills with the International League’s triple-A Montreal Royals. After four seasons as a player/manager in the Dodgers chain, Alston became manager of the St. Paul Saints, the Dodgers’ triple-A, American Association affiliate in 1948. Following another season in St. Paul, Alston and Montreal Royals dugout boss Clay Hopper switched managerial posts in the Dodgers system. In contrast to Hopper’s outspoken and animated style, Alston was calm and professional. But what he lacked in charisma, he made up for with wins. In his four seasons with the Royals from 1950 to 1953, Alston’s teams won two pennants, two Governor’s Cups, one Junior World Series and would never finish a season worse than 19 games over .500. In 1953, Alston’s final season with the Royals before being promoted to the Dodgers, he managed a team that consisted of future big league managers – Tommy Lasorda, Dick Williams and Roy Hartsfield – to a Junior World Series title. Sadly Alston didn’t have much time to enjoy his Hall of Fame induction. He passed away the year after his election, on October 1, 1984 at the age of 72.
- Please take a moment to remember former Montreal Expos pitcher Wayne Twitchell who would’ve turned 71 today. The 6-foot-6 right-hander had a combined 10-17 record and a 4.73 ERA in 55 appearances for the Expos during the 1977 and 1978 seasons. His tenure with the Expos came in the twilight of his 10-year big league career. He made his big league debut with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970, before spending parts of seven seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1971 to 1977. He split his final big league campaign between the New York Mets and Seattle Mariners in 1979. In all, in 282 major league appearances, he posted a 48-65 record and a 3.93 ERA. He passed away from cancer in 2010 when he was just 62.
- Thank you for your support. Trivia will return in two weeks (March 24). There will be no “But What Do I Know?” column next Sunday (March 17)
- The answer to last week’s trivia question (Jacob Robson may one day join them, but right now there are seven individual Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees that were born in London, Ont. Can you name three of them? ) was any three of George Gibson, Paul Quantrill, Oscar Judd, Tom Burgess, Frank Colman, Peter Hardy or Ron Stead.