My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) started for the San Diego Padres against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre yesterday and earned his first major league win in front of a large group of family and friends. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed three runs and struck out nine in six innings in the Padres’ 19-4 victory. It was the fourth start of Quantrill’s big league career and his record now sits at 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA in 21 innings. His father, Paul, who watched nervously from a box at the Rogers Centre on Saturday, was an all-star right-hander who enjoyed a 14-season big league career – including six campaigns with the Blue Jays – from 1992 to 2005 in which he pitched in a Canadian record 841 games.
· So how did the senior Quantrill fare in his first start in Toronto? The answer is not very well. On June 17, 1993, the elder Quantrill started for the Boston Red Sox against the eventual World Series-winning Blue Jays team led by the WAMCO offence (WAMCO, for those too young to remember, stood for White, Alomar, Molitor, Carter, Olerud ). Quantrill would allow four runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings and was saddled with the loss in the Blue Jays’ 7-0 win. Left-hander Al Leiter toed the rubber for the Blue Jays that day and tossed a two-hit shutout, which was the first complete game and first shutout of his major league career.
· It was definitely an exciting weekend to be a Canadian baseball fan at Rogers Centre. On Friday, the day before Quantrill’s start, Mississauga, Ont., native Josh Naylor made his major league debut for the Padres against the Blue Jays. Batting sixth and DHing, the left-handed hitting slugger went 0-for-4 in front of friends and family. He fared much better on Saturday when he played right field and was moved up to the second spot in the Padres’ order. In the Padres’ lopsided win, Naylor recorded his first three major league hits and his first two RBIs. Now in his fifth professional season, the 21-year-old Naylor had a .299/.378/.538 slash line and 10 home runs and 35 RBIs in 45 games with the triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas this season prior to his promotion. Naylor was a first-round pick (12th overall) of the Miami Marlins in 2015 before he was swapped to the Padres on July 29, 2016 as part of a seven-player deal. Naylor has excelled in his four seasons in the Padres’ organization. Last season with the double-A San Antonio Missions, he batted .297 with 17 home runs and 74 RBIs in 128 games.
· Naylor was actually the second Canadian to be called up to the big leagues this week. On Wednesday, the Chicago Cubs promoted North Vancouver, B.C., native Rowan Wick to serve in their struggling bullpen. The Canadian right-hander allowed a run in an inning to the Philadelphia Phillies in his first appearance for the Cubs on Thursday before being sent back down on Sunday. The Cubs acquired Wick from the Padres last November for minor league infielder Jason Vosler. The 6-foot-3 Canuck had been solid for the triple-A Iowa Cubs, posting a 3.32 ERA and striking out 25 batters in 19 innings prior to his call-up. Wick made his big league debut with the Padres last year and he ended up making 10 appearances with the club and struck out seven batters in 8 1/3 innings. The 26-year-old Canadian, who was converted from a catcher and outfielder to a pitcher while in the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 2015, has played parts of eight minor league seasons since being selected by the Cards in the ninth round of the 2012 draft.
· So how good has Calgary native Mike Soroka been for the Atlanta Braves this season? Well, put it this way, he allowed two earned runs in 14 innings in two starts this past week and his ERA actually went up. He is now 5-1 with a 1.07 ERA in 50 2/3 innings in eight starts this season. He is also the first pitcher in major league history to allow one earned run or less in 11 of their first 13 major league starts. His dominance even inspired a parody song about him (Click on the video/link below). Soroka made his big league debut with the Braves in 2018 and went 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA in five starts before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. A graduate of the Canadian Junior National Team, Soroka was a first-round pick (28th overall) of the Braves in the 2015 MLB draft.
· After the justifiable kerfuffle about the Toronto Blue Jays sitting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on Victoria Day, it got me wondering how his father fared for the Montreal Expos on Victoria Day at Olympic Stadium. The answer is not particularly well. In three games, the senior Guerrero played for the Expos in Montreal on Victoria day, he went just 2-for-11 (.182 batting average).
· Thank you to Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae for answering a question that ran through my head on Friday? When Cavan Biggio (son of Craig Biggio) and Guerrero Jr. were in the Blue Jays’ lineup on Friday, it represented the first time that the sons of two Hall of Famers had been in the same lineup in a regular season major league game.
· Thank you to London Majors legend and baseball historian Dan Mendham for sharing this video (click on link below) of Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and London, Ont., native Frank Colman. Colman can be seen walking towards the camera at the beginning of the footage which is believed to have been taken at Wrigley Field during the 1943 season. Colman won the Intercounty League’s batting crown and MVP award, while leading his hometown London Majors to a championship in 1936. His efforts would attract the interest of several pro clubs, including the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs who converted him into an outfielder in 1941. After hitting .300 with the Leafs in 1942, Colman’s contract was purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He toiled with the Pirates for parts of five seasons, including 1944, when he hit .270 and knocked in 53 runs in just 252 at bats. In 1946, the New York Yankees signed him, and Colman would make his pinstripes debut on September 22 that year, the same day as Yogi Berra. The Canuck outfielder, who roomed with Berra, also belted two pinch-hit homers for the 1947 World Champion Bronx Bombers. Colman returned to the minors the following season and eventually re-signed with the Maple Leafs, where he served as a player-coach from 1951 to 1953. He returned to his birth city in 1954 to fulfill a similar role with the London Majors. The following year he purchased the Majors and guided them to a championship in 1956. In 1955, he co-founded London’s Eager Beaver Baseball Association (EBBA), a minor ball organization that’s now one of the most respected in the country. Colman passed away in 1983 and was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 1999.
· This week’s trivia question: Cal Quantrill, Josh Naylor and Rowan Wick (all mentioned in this column) started their big league careers with the San Diego Padres. Can you name two other Canadians who have played for the Padres over the years? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win an autographed Juan Guzman card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Calgary, Alta., native Mike Soroka has five wins for the Atlanta Braves this season. Name another pitcher born in Alberta that has registered a major league win) was any one of Jim Henderson (Calgary, Alta.), Mike Johnson (Edmonton, Alta) or Dave Shipanoff (Edmonton, Alta.).