By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Self-described Baseball Reference Play Index adherent Austin J. Eich shares a seemingly endless stream of fascinating baseball stats on Twitter, including this one (below) about Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.). Eich notes that Jenkins is one of just four MLB pitchers since 1904 to have a month of May (in a single-season) with at least five wins, 60 strikeouts and fewer than 10 walks. He did that in his 1971 National League Cy Young Award winning campaign.
– In 1992, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Gary Carter returned to the Montreal Expos for his final season. And it was on this day, 28 years ago, that he caught his 2,000th career game, which at the time made him just the third catcher to reach that milestone, joining Carlton Fisk and Bob Boone. Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Kendall have since added their names to this exclusive list.
– According to a report by Scott Lauber in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday, Canadian right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) has remained in Clearwater, Fla., during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Phillies’ new pitching coach, Bryan Price, has been in contact with Pivetta. Price has told all of his Phillies pitchers to train like it is the end of January or early February and they are revving up for spring training. Price has encouraged them to threw a bullpen session early each week and then a two-inning simulated game a few days later. It had been a rough spring for Pivetta before the Grapefruit League was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After making extensive changes to his off-season training regimen and rejigging his mechanics, he posted an 8.22 ERA in three appearances. But he also struck out 10 batters in 7 2/3 innings. The 27-year-old right-hander will have to fight for a rotation spot with the Phillies after a disappointing 2019 campaign – his third in the big leagues – that saw him record a 5.38 ERA in 30 appearances, including 13 starts.
– Happy 76th Birthday to Orv Franchuk! The Amesbury, Alta., native has spent close to 50 years in the amateur and professional baseball ranks and is considered one of Canada’s most respected coaches and scouts. After playing college ball at Pepperdine University, Franchuk served as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds from 1977 to 1984. During that period, he doubled as a coach for the Canadian national team. By 1988, Franchuk had transitioned to the California Angels organization where he served as a scout and as a minor league hitting coach before returning to his home province in 1995 to work as the hitting coach for the Oakland A’s triple-A Edmonton Trappers. After a stretch as a roving hitting coach in the A’s organization, he came back to Canada again in 2002 when he was hired to manage the A’s class-A Short-Season Vancouver Canadians. Following that campaign, he moved to the Boston Red Sox organization, where he’d work as a minor league hitting instructor and earn a World Series ring with the club in 2004. He’d later have tenures as a hitting coach in the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres organizations prior to returning home again to manage the independent Northern League’s Edmonton Cracker-Cats to a North American League championship. For his efforts at the local, national and professional levels, he was inducted into the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
– Former Canadian Baseball Network writer Alexis Brudnicki continues to do outstanding work during the MLB break. Now employed by MLB.com, she is writing profiles about some of our country’s top scouts. This week her story about former Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays pitcher turned New York Yankees scout Shawn Hill (Georgetown, Ont.) was published. In the article, Hill provides some advice to those who want to get into scouting. “There are so many resources available now,” he shares. “Dabble into as many different fields as possible — analytics, software, reach out to high-performance facilities for opportunities to get a feel for what they’re doing on that level. Try to create as many contacts, resources and skillsets as you can to give yourself a wide berth to get into the game. Read and absorb as much as you can, but use as many resources as you can at different levels to try to filter out which information you should be taking to heart. It’s easier said than done.” You can read the full article here.
– Please take a moment to remember Hall of Famer and legendary Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew who passed away nine years ago today at the age of 74. As a Canadian baseball history buff, when I think of Killebrew, I think of the influence he had 2020 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and fellow Twins legend Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.). Morneau used to talk hitting with Killebrew, but Killebrew is also responsible for Morneau’s very neat signature. You can hear the story in the following video.
– Zany and unforgettable former Montreal Expos pitcher Pascual Perez would’ve turned 63 today. He died in 2012. What we tend to forget about him is that beyond his enthusiasm, energy and antics on the field, he was an excellent pitcher for the Expos. In 10 starts for the club in 1987, he went 7-0 with a 2.30 ERA. He followed that up with 12 wins and a 2.44 ERA in 27 starts in 1988 and a 3.31 ERA in 33 appearances in 1989. You can watch some fun highlights of him in the following video.
– This is my kind of birthday cake. When he was five years old, Houston Chronicle digital sports editor Matt Young (no relation to the former big league left-hander) asked for a Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) themed cake for his fifth birthday. His parents granted his wish (Click on the tweet below).
– This week’s trivia question: Prior to Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.), who was the last Canadian to throw a regular season pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. Please note: I’m going to hold off awarding prizes until after the COVID-19 pandemic. Hope you understand.
– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Two Expos pitchers threw five-inning no-hitters for the club (Poor weather cancelled the rest of their games). Can you name one of these pitchers?) was either of Dave Palmer (April 21, 1984) or Pascual Perez (September 24, 1988).