By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Just how dominant has Canadian right-hander Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) been out of the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen this season? Not only has he not allowed a run in seven appearances (spanning seven innings), he has not allowed a hit. He is the only MLB reliever to make seven appearances this season and not permit a hit. Three other relievers – Junior Guerra (Arizona), Jeremy Jeffress (Chicago Cubs) and Tyler Kinley (Colorado) – have made six appearances this season without allowing a hit. According to Baseball Savant, Romano’s fastball has been averaging 96.4 mph, but it’s his newly refined slider that has been his biggest weapon. He’s now throwing this pitch 56.6 per cent of the time. Don’t be surprised if the former Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team hurler is the Blue Jays’ closer by the end of the season.
– Speaking of Canadian closers, Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) picked up his second save of the season for the Chicago Cubs on Monday. The Canuck right-hander now has a pair of saves this season and has not allowed a run in four appearances. The flame-throwing Canadian is coming off a strong 2019 campaign with the Cubs in which, according to Foolish Baseball on Twitter, he pitched more innings (33 1/3) than any other reliever in MLB without allowing a home run. In total last season, he made 31 big league appearances and recorded a 2.43 ERA while striking out 35 batters. The Junior National National Team grad and converted catcher made his big league debut with the San Diego Padres in 2018.
– It’s been a disappointing start to the season for Canadian slugger Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.). With the universal DH being implemented, Naylor seemed like a good candidate for a lot of at bats with the Padres, but that has not been the case. He was just 3-for-13 before the Pads optioned him to their alternate site on Friday. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, who put up strong offensive numbers at every minor league level after he was selected in the first round of the 2015 MLB draft, batted .249 with eight home runs in his first 94 games of MLB action last season.
– No doubt you’ve heard that Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) tore his right Achilles tendon in his third start of the season for the Atlanta Braves on Monday night. The Canadian right-hander and Atlanta Braves ace, who turned 23 on Tuesday, is out for the season and likely part of 2021. According to a tweet from the Braves on Saturday, Soroka underwent successful surgery on Friday in Green Bay, Wisc. Experts say it generally takes nine-to-12 months to recover from this type of injury. The Braves’ Opening Day starter had posted a 1.59 ERA in two starts prior to the injury. In his rookie campaign in 2019, he went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Soroka posted a message on Twitter yesterday to thank everyone for their well wishes following his injury. His message is below.
Thank you to everyone, from family, friends, and fans for reaching out and showing tons of support the last few days. Feeling humbled and lucky to be surrounded by so many who care. Can’t wait to be back stronger than ever💪🏼🤘🏼
— Mike Soroka (@Mike_Soroka28) August 8, 2020
– It was 39 years ago today that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Montreal Expos legendary catcher Gary Carter belted two home runs in the Major League Baseball All-Star game to propel the National League to a 5-4 win over the American League. For his efforts, Carter was named the game’s MVP. It was the first MLB game played after a 50-day players’ strike. The Midsummer Classic was contested in front of 72,086 fans at Cleveland Stadium.
– Happy 48th Birthday to former Texas Rangers all-star pitcher and Kelowna, B.C., native Jeff Zimmerman! The Canuck right-hander honed his skills with the Canadian junior national team, but went undrafted, so in 1993, he headed to France to play for a team called the Barracudas de Montpellier and worked on his slider. He eventually returned to Canada and signed with the independent Northern League’s Winnipeg Goldeyes in 1997 where he posted a 2.82 ERA in 18 appearances, including 16 starts. The following January, the Rangers purchased his contract from the Goldeyes and after he posted a 1.28 ERA in 51 appearances at the class-A Advanced and double-A levels in 1998, he made the big league roster the following spring. His first half of the 1999 campaign with the Rangers was one for the ages. In 35 appearances, he posted an 8-0 record and a 0.86 ERA and allowed just 18 hits in 52 1/3 innings. It earned the 26-year-old rookie a spot on the American League All-star team. He’d finish that season with a 2.36 ERA in 65 games. He’d toe the rubber for two more seasons with the Rangers, becoming the team’s closer and notching 28 saves in 2001. Unfortunately, the next year he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and then a second surgery. He initially retired in 2006, but then attempted a comeback with the Mariners in 2009, but he retired for good after one minor league appearance.
– It was 18 years ago today that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Vladimir Guerrero belted his 200th home run as a Montreal Expo. It was a solo home run in the top of the ninth inning off Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Mike DeJean in an Expos’ 11-4 win over the Brewers at Miller Park. With that, Guerrero became just the fourth Expo to reach the 200-home run mark, joining Andre Dawson (225), Gary Carter (220) and Tim Wallach (204).
– Happy 49th Birthday to national team alum, former Olympian and ex-Seattle Mariners outfielder Ryan Radmanovch! Selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 14th round of the 1993 MLB draft, the 6-foot-2 outfielder/first baseman toiled in the affiliated minor pro ranks for 10 seasons and made his big league debut for the Mariners in 1998, batting .217 with two home runs in 25 games. He later played seven seasons in the independent ranks, primarily with the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. In all, including his tenure in the independent circuits, Radmanovich belted 271 home runs in 17 professional seasons. He also suited up for the national team on several occasions, including at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
– Because I’m a baseball nerd, I love to search for outstanding, but little-talked about minor league seasons players had before they reached the big leagues. On Friday, I stumbled upon Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Trail, B.C. native Jason Bay’s stats with the Montreal Expos’ class-A Clinton Lumber Kings in 2001. In 87 games that season, Bay had a slash line of .362/.449/.572. He also registered 13 home runs, 15 stolen bases, 20 doubles and four triples. One of his fellow outfielders on that squad was an 18-year-old named Grady Sizemore.
– This week’s trivia question: Jeff Zimmerman (Kelowna, B.C.) was selected to participate in the major league All-Star Game in his rookie season. In the past 25 years, two other Canadian pitchers have been chosen to participate for either the American League or National League in the All-Star Game in their rookie seasons. Can you name one of them? 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 Toronto Blue Jays players have had more than 50 doubles in a single-season for the club. Name one of them? ) was either Carlos Delgado (57 doubles in 2000) or John Olerud (54 doubles in 1993).