My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton allowed just one earned run in 5 2/3 innings in his debut with the New York Yankees against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday. Paxton’s start represented the first time in nearly 43 years that a Canadian pitcher has started for the Bronx Bombers. The last Canadian hurler to start a game for the Yankees was Nipawin, Sask., native Dave Pagan on June 12, 1976. The last Canuck lefty to throw a pitch for the Yankees was North Delta, B.C., native Jeff Francis in a relief appearance on July 26, 2014.
· Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed in an article on Monday that Langley, B.C. native Brett Lawrie’s minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers includes an option for 2020. The Brewers see Lawrie, who hasn’t played a major league game since July 21, 2016, as a long-term project. Brewers general manager David Stearns told Haudricourt that Lawrie has been “immersed in physical training for the entire spring” and it’s only when the fiery Canadian infielder, who has been hampered by various leg and hip injuries, is cleared physically that he will begin participating in extended spring training. Stearns added that Lawrie is “months away” from being assigned to an affiliate in the Brewers’ organization. When he signed a minor league deal with the Brewers in February, Lawrie returned to the organization that made him a first-round pick (16th overall) in the 2008 MLB draft. He played two seasons in the Brewers organization before he was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher Shaun Marcum on December 6, 2010. He suited up for parts of four seasons with the Blue Jays before he was dealt to the Oakland A’s prior to the 2015 campaign as part of the package for Josh Donaldson. In his sole season with the A’s, Lawrie belted a career-high 16 home runs before being traded to the Chicago White Sox in December 2015. With the Sox, Lawrie would bat .248 with 12 home runs in 94 games in 2016 prior to being sidelined by a leg injury. The White Sox released him the following spring. In all, in 588 major league games, he has batted .261 with 71 home runs.
· When Montreal native Russell Martin isn’t pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he will see his share of time behind the plate. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told MLB.com on Tuesday that Martin, who hurled a 1-2-3 ninth inning on Saturday in his club’s 18-5 win over the Diamondbacks, will split the first seven games of the season behind the plate with Austin Barnes. Barnes will play four of the games, while Martin will play three. After that, Roberts says Barnes will receive more playing time than Martin but this could change based on performance. The 36-year-old Martin was dealt to the Dodgers by the Blue Jays in January and is now in his 14th major league season. Martin, who will have $16.4 million of his $20-million, 2019 salary paid out by the Blue Jays, began his career with the Dodgers in 2006 and was a two-time All-Star in his five initial seasons with the club.
· Canadian Baseball Network writer Lucas Casaletto notes in his excellent piece published on Thursday that the $16.4 million the Blue Jays are paying Martin is part of the $48.5 million the club will fork out to players they have traded or are no longer on their roster this season. This includes the $19.4 million they’re paying Troy Tulowitzki, who’s starting at shortstop for the Yankees and the (at least) $10 million they’ll be doling out to DH Kendrys Morales, whom they dealt the Oakland A’s on Wednesday night. Casaletto notes that the $48.5 million the Blue Jays are paying out in retained salaries is the most by a major league team. The Dodgers are second at $39.5 million.
· Today, March 31st , was an active day in Montreal Expos history. Thirty-nine years ago today, the Expos traded Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Rusty Staub, then in the twilight of his career, to the Texas Rangers for infielders Chris Smith and LaRue Washington. On the same day two years later, the Expos swapped third baseman Larry Parrish and first base prospect Dave Hostetler to the Texas Rangers for first baseman Al Oliver.
· Speaking of the Expos, I’m hoping that the last active Expos player, Bartolo Colon, soon finds a big league team, but if you’re looking for some Expos content early in this new season, there are four current MLB managers – Terry Francona, Dave Martinez, Charlie Montoyo and Ned Yost – that once played for the Expos. Montoyo also played for the Expos triple-A Ottawa Lynx.
· And for the record, there are also four ex-Blue Jays players serving as major league managers: Kevin Cash (Tampa Bay Rays), Chris Woodward (Texas Rangers), Dave Martinez (Washington Nationals) and Bud Black (Colorado Rockies). There are also three big league bench bosses that once suited up for the triple-A Edmonton Trappers: Rich Renteria (Chicago White Sox), AJ Hinch (Houston Astros) and Torey Lovullo (Arizona Diamondbacks).
· And just because I was curious . . . Troy Tulowitzki batted ninth for the Yankees on Opening Day. That got me wondering if this was this the first time the slugging shortstop has batted ninth in his MLB career? The answer is no. He batted ninth five previous times, all between 2006 and 2008 with the Colorado Rockies. The last time Tulowitzki had batted ninth prior to Thursday was with the Rockies on June 29, 2008 (nearly 11 years ago).
· This week’s trivia question: Just two Canadian right-handed pitchers have appeared in relief for the New York Yankees since 2000. Can you name one of them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Robin Yount card, a 1983 Topps Goose Gossage card, a 1984 O-Pee-Chee Mike Schmidt card and a 1984 O-Pee-Chee Dave Winfield card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who holds the record for most stolen bases in a major league season by a Canadian?) was Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) who had 33 stolen for the Rockies in 1997.