But What Do I Know? . . . Jordan Romano, Mike Soroka, Abraham Toro, Vernon Wells

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:

– Canadian right-hander Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) injured the middle finger on his throwing hand in the eighth inning of the Toronto Blue Jays’ game against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday. After retiring the first two batters he faced, Romano gave up a game-tying home run to Orioles first baseman Renato Nunez and then started flexing his right hand when facing the following batter, Jose Iglesias. He told manager Charlie Montoyo that his middle finger went numb. He has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a right middle finger strain. Romano, an Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, has been the Blue Jays’ best reliever this season. In 15 appearances, spanning 14 2/3 innings, he is 2-1 with a 1.23 ERA and has 21 strikeouts.

– Fellow Canuck right-hander Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.), who tore his right Achilles tendon on August 3, provided an update on his injury in a virtual press conference on Wednesday. The 23-year-old Atlanta Braves’ ace, who’s out for the season, said that “everything was feeling great” after his surgery which took place on August 7 in Green Bay, Wisc. Soroka mentioned that he would be a in cast for nine more days and then the cast would be replaced by a boot. He indicated that the first four months of rehabilitation are “regimented” but he was hoping to return to the Braves’ rotation sooner than expected. Experts say it generally takes nine-to-12 months to recover from this type of injury. Soroka was making his third start of the season when the injury occurred. 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.

–  If you’ve ever wondered what awards Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) has on display in his house, he offered a peak on Twitter this week (See video below). For those in Southwestern Ontario that want a closer look at a Jenkins’ 1971 National League Cy Young Award, it’s on display at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario which is only open until Friday. So if you’re going to make a trip to the museum, make it this week.

– I’ve written much about Jackie Robinson’s season with the Montreal Royals in 1946 before he broke Major League Baseball’s colour barrier. What I didn’t know until I read this excellent article by Ian Wilson at Alberta Dugout Stories was that Jackie Robinson paid a memorable trip to Calgary and surrounding area in 1955 after the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series. You can read all about it here.

– This year has been far too full of challenges and heartbreaks, but my heart broke again on Friday when I heard that Chadwick Boseman, who so beautifully portrayed Jackie Robinson in the 2013 movie “42,” had died of colon cancer at the age of 43. Reports indicate he had been privately battling the disease for four years. The photo below of him with Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel, after the premiere of the movie in 2013 is so moving that I felt I needed to share it.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

– The good news about Longueuil, Quebec native Abraham Toro’s 2020 season is that he has clubbed three home runs, which is one more than he hit in 25 games with the Houston Astros last season. The bad news is that he has just five other hits and is hitting .143 in 56 at bats. Toro has been the Astros’ DH for much of the season before starting at third base in recent days. After batting a combined .324 with 17 home runs and a .527 slugging percentage in 114 games in double-A and triple-A in the Astros’ organization last season, the switch-hitting 23-year-old made his big league debut on August 22, 2019. In 25 games for the American League pennant winners, he batted .218 with two home runs. One of his homers was a two-run shot at Rogers Centre that accounted for the only two runs in Justin Verlander’s no-hitter against the Blue Jays on September 1.

– Twenty-one years ago today, Vernon Wells made his major league debut for the Blue Jays. Batting second and playing centre field, the then 20-year-old went 0-for-3 in the Blue Jays’ 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins at Rogers Centre. Wells, of course, went on to play parts of 12 big league seasons with the Blue Jays and ranks second in franchise history in hits (1,529), doubles (339), extra-base hits (592) and total bases (2,597).

– It was 36 years ago today that the Montreal Expos fired manager Bill Virdon after the club had posted a disappointing 64-67 record during the 1984 season. They replaced him with Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jim Fanning. It was Fanning’s second tenure as manager with the club. He had previously guided the Expos to their only postseason appearance in 1981. After taking over in 1984, Fanning led the Expos to a 14-16 record down the stretch.

– Want to feel old? Blue Jays’ 2002 first-round pick Russ Adams turns 40 today. It seems like just yesterday that general manager J.P. Ricciardi was trumpeting Adams (who was Ricciardi’s first pick as Blue Jays’ GM) as a cornerstone of the team’s future. The young shortstop’s big league career got off to a promising start when he hit .304 with four home runs in 22 games at the end of the 2004 season. The following year, he served largely as the club’s leadoff hitter and batted .258 with a .325 on-base percentage in 139 games. His production dropped off after that and he suited up for his final eight big league games with the club in 2009.

– This week’s trivia question: Fergie Jenkins won 20 games in a season seven times during his major league career. Two other Canadian pitchers have won 20 games in a big league season. Can you name one of them? Hint: They played well before Jenkins. 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 (Who holds the record for most major league saves in a season by a Canadian pitcher? ) was Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.) who recorded 55 saves for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003.

13 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? . . . Jordan Romano, Mike Soroka, Abraham Toro, Vernon Wells

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  1. As always, I am enjoying getting my Sunday morning read sent directly. Well done, Kevin! Keep up the excellent work!

  2. Great read.
    Let’s hope Romano is back quickly.
    Didn’t know Soroka might be out until next July. That’s tough, let’s hope he is a fast healer.
    Fergie’s best stuff is at his museum in St. Catharines. Go visit!

  3. Thanks for the ever-consistent great reads that I and a growing number of others look so forward to on Sundays. You never disappoint Kevin!

    This isn’t a knock on JP, but simply an anecdote that made your comments about Russ Adam resonate even more with me. JP, and Tom Valcke, and just about every one I know (especially guys, for whatever reason), all want our prognostications to come through, especially, despite knowing that none of us own a crystal ball, when we demonstrate more conviction than they truly warrant. We all will even sometimes self-fulfill the prophecy just to make it come true. Well, one day I was up in the Rogers Centre Press Box talking to Jay Stenhouse near the entry door. As you would know Kevin, the entire press box, restaurant, etc., is all to the right, where there are about four rows of 30 m long desks lined with chairs behind them, and wires ever metre for AC power, phone, internet, fax, a razor, whatever is necessary for the press core, and on that night, it was about one-third full (the average) of newspaper, TV, radio, and internet reporters. To the left is the box where the cannons, not the pistols, watch the game from, meaning the likes of Beeston, Gillick, Godfrey, JP, AA, etc. Further setting the scene, it was the middle of a mid-week game, in the middle of a season, against a middle-of-the-pack-team, so, the win or loss that night didn’t have the magnitude, spotlight, or impact of say, an August or September game. Adam hit a grounder up the middle, the opposing SS made a good get, and my recollection is that he made a 360 degree turn to his left and the throw was off line on what would have been a bang-bang play. OK, Russ is on first. Great. While the next hitter arrived at the plate, a huge, HUGE bang, mimicking the sound of someone slamming a door, came from the box where the Big Cheeses sit. We all heard it and turned around, but the door had not been opened or slammed, so someone either pounded a wall with furor, or there was a fight and someone got thrown into a wall. It was that distinct. The media were poking fun at what could have just happened, as was the small group I was with, but about a minute later, still with nobody knowing what had happened, Riccardi slams open the door, storms out, and rushes over to the Blue Jays official scorekeeper, who had been doing it for years, and yet his name escapes me (Herb ??), and rips him a new one, up one side and down the other. It was worse than Earl Weaver on an umpire. None of us could hear what was said, but it was a one-way conversation, that was evident. JP stomps back into the box, and slams the door yet again! About a minute later, the scorekeeper makes an announcement to the tune of “We have a change to announce, please replace the E6 (error on the shortstop) with an infield single. It isn’t that JP didn’t have faults, and that list can be talked about on another day, but he wanted Russ Adam to become what he envisioned so bad that I witnessed just one of what I am sure is many incidents where he’d have done anything it took to make the dream come true. As a GM, you have to own your picks, and all you can do is use your scouts, your cross-checkers, and your own instincts on that day at that time. You could argue that we (I scouted full-time for a decade) are wrong 95% of the time. Do the math. Before this odd COVID19 year, the draft was 50 rounds, and before that, as many as 100. About 1,500 players get selected, going by an average of 50 picks per team (30 teams). Of those, usually about half sign, and out of those lucky 750, 5-to10% actually show up in the big leagues. The average time is about 4.5 years to get there through the minor leagues. So, going back to the “experts,” even in a good year, where 10% (75) of those signed players make it, that would mean that 5% (75 out of the 1,500 drafted) landed where the scouts, cross-checkers, special assistants, and GMs projected. To be honest, it was a hilarious scene that night, that everybody near the incident enjoyed, holding back being a privy to, that is, everyone except JP Ricciardi!

    1. That’s a great story, Tom. Thank you for sharing it. It gives us insight into both what goes on in a GM’s mind as well as some great perspective from all your years of scouting. Again, thank you.

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