My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· What team had the most hits in an inning off Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) this spring? The answer is the Canadian Junior National Team (JNT), a squad he once honed his skills with. Ontario Blue Jays outfielder David Calabrese (Maple, Ont.) and Ontario Terriers infielder Elijha Hammill (Oakville, Ont.) had singles off him in the first inning of the JNT’s annual contest against the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla., on Thursday. That was the last day of spring training games before the exhibition schedule was cancelled due to the threat of the coronavirus. The hard-throwing Romano was one of the most impressive relievers in Blue Jays camp this spring. The 6-foot-4 right-hander employed a fastball that has clocked as high as 98 mph and a nasty slider to strike out six batters in five scoreless innings. The soon-to-be 27-year-old, who fanned 21 batters in 15 2/3 innings in 17 appearances in his first taste of major league action last season, has to be one of the leading contenders for a spot in the Blue Jays’ bullpen when the MLB resumes play.
· Speaking of making good impressions, Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.), another Junior National Team and Ontario Terriers alum, made a strong case for a spot in the San Diego Padres’ starting rotation this spring. In three appearances, including two starts, he allowed just one run and two hits and struck out nine in seven innings. That should be enough to land the 25-year-old right-hander a big league roster spot with the Padres. In his rookie campaign with the Pads in 2019, the 2016 first-rounder went 6-8 with a 5.16 ERA in 23 appearances, 18 of them starts.
· Things didn’t as smoothly for right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) this spring. The flame-throwing Canadian, who was experimenting with a new cutter-slider pitch, permitted nine earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in five appearances for the Chicago Cubs. But when you look at his historical spring training stats, this is probably nothing to be concerned about. His spring training ERAs since 2017 are: 15.43, 22.50, 6.00 and 17.36. But thanks to his strong performance in the Cubs’ pen last season, it’s still likely that he’ll head north with the club when the season eventually begins. According to Foolish Baseball on Twitter, Wick pitched more innings (33 1/3) than any other reliever in MLB in 2019 without allowing a home run. Last season, he made 31 big league appearances and recorded a 2.43 ERA while striking out 35 batters. Wick, another Junior National National Team grad and a converted catcher, made his big league debut with the Padres in 2018.
· Last week we celebrated Montreal Expos broadcasting legend and 2020 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jacques Doucet’s 80th birthday. This week I received word that he will be featured on his first Topps baseball card. This card (pictured below) will be part of the Topps’ 2020 Opening Day Ballpark Profile subset. Thank you to friend and generous Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame supporter Michael Murray for letting me know. It should be noted that Doucet will also have a baseball card issued by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame to commemorate his induction in June.
· And thank you to Laurier Shank for sharing the following footage on Thursday. If you click on the link below, you can watch Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Cooperstown inductee Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) face San Francisco Giants sluggers Bobby Bonds and Willie Mays on August 16, 1969. Jenkins tossed a three-hit shutout at Candlestick Park that game.
· I’m looking forward to reading the new book about Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and London, Ont., native George “Mooney” Gibson that’s being published by McFarland. The book is co-written by Richard Armstrong and Martin Healy, two great guys who are hardcore Canadian baseball historians. You can pre-order a copy of the book here.
· It was 20 years ago yesterday that Pedro Martinez and five Boston Red Sox relievers combined to throw a perfect game against the Blue Jays in Grapefruit League action at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla. Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Rheal Cormier (Cape-Pele, N.B.) hurled a hitless seventh inning for the Red Sox while Windsor, Ont., native and current Blue Jays analyst Joe Siddall caught the final three innings for Boston.
· Rest in peace to former Blue Jays infielder Ted Cox who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 65. Cox batted .300 with two home runs and nine RBIs in his final 15 major league games with the Blue Jays in 1981. Prior to that, he had big league stints with the Red Sox (1977), Cleveland Indians (1978-79) and Seattle Mariners (1980). With the Red Sox in 1977, he went 6-for-6 with a walk in his first seven plate appearances – a record that still stands today. You can read his official obituary here and another detailed obituary by Sam Gazdziak of RIP Baseball here.
· For a few years, I’ve been sharing my favourite mound visit story involving Jim Kern and Pinky May from his minor league days on social media. I’ve read the story in different places over the years with varying details. So it was great when Kern, himself, stopped by my Cooperstowners in Canada Facebook page on Thursday to provide the true account. The story is better when he tells it (See below).
· This week’s trivia question: I mentioned that Ted Cox hit two home runs for the Blue Jays in 1981. Who led the Blue Jays in home runs that season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person with the correct answer will win a five-pack of Larry Walker cards (sorry, no rookie cards).
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) seems destined to be a part of the Blue Jays bullpen this season. There have been two Canadian pitchers that recorded at least one save for the Blue Jays over the years. Name one of them.) was Paul Spoljaric (Kelowna, B.C.) and Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.)