By Kevin Glew
Canadian Baseball Network
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there! And especially to my mom, Glenyce Glew, who my dad and I have dragged to enough Toronto Blue Jays games over the years that she has become one of the team’s more spirited fans. I’m very fortunate in that not only does my mom enjoy baseball, she’s also loving, supportive, compassionate and generous. She also reads this blog. I love you, mom.
-Five days after clubbing his 300th major league home run, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch by Chicago White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel in the fourth inning of the Reds’ 1-0 win on Wednesday. No surgery is required, but the injury is expected to sideline Votto for about a month. Now 37 and in his 15th major league season, Votto was batting .226 with five home runs in 29 games this season. The Canuck slugger is approaching two more milestones. He is 68 hits shy of 2,000 for his major league career and he needs 17 RBIs to reach 1,000.
-If you’ve been following the Blue Jays this season, you probably know that left-handed starter Steven Matz is leading the team with five wins. But you might be surprised that hard-throwing reliever Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) is tied for second (with Ryan Borucki) with three wins. The 6-foot-5 Canuck, who spent 10 days on the injured list in April, picked up a win in relief on Opening Day and has since added victories out of the bullpen on May 1 versus the Atlanta Braves and May 5 against the Oakland A’s. In all, in 10 appearances this season, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum owns a 3-1 record and a 3.12 ERA and has struck out eight batters in 8 2/3 innings.
-Cleveland OF/1B Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) belted his first two home runs of the season this week. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team grad socked a two-run shot in the seventh inning off right-hander Jakob Junis in his club’s 8-6 win over the Kansas City Royals on Monday. He then clubbed a solo shot off veteran reliever Wade Davis in Cleveland’s 5-4 win over the Royals on Wednesday. The 23-year-old Naylor now has 11 major league home runs in 162 games in parts of three major league seasons.
-Ontario Terriers grad Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) has emerged as one of Cleveland’s most versatile and reliable relievers this season. The 6-foot-3 right-hander owns a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances, spanning 17 innings, out of the pen. The Junior National Team alum started last season with the Padres before he was traded to Cleveland on August 31. In all, between the San Diego Padres and Cleveland in 2020, he combined to make 18 appearances and finished with a 2.25 ERA and topped all Canadian big league pitchers in innings pitched (32) and strikeouts (31). The 26-year-old righty also made his postseason debut in the ninth inning of Game 2 of Cleveland’s Wild Card series against the Yankees. He struck out Yankees’ outfielder Aaron Hicks to close out that frame.
-On April 15, Miami Marlins reliever Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont.) allowed three runs to the Braves which pushed his early season ERA to 18.90 ERA. Since that appearance, however, the former Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team right-hander has not allowed a run. In his last seven games, spanning 8 2/3 innings, he has permitted just four hits and struck out 10 batters and lowered his ERA to 5.25. Pop was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks from the Baltimore Orioles in the Rule 5 draft in December then quickly flipped to the Marlins. He was originally chosen in the seventh round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 MLB draft and was traded to the Orioles in July 2018 as part of the package for Manny Machado. In parts of three minor league seasons – in which he reached the double-A level – Pop owned a 1.34 ERA and allowed just 48 hits, while striking out 80, in 80 1/3 innings. He underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2019.
-Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn would’ve turned 61 today. The man known as “Mr. Padre” won eight National League batting titles and finished his MLB career with a .338 batting average and 3,141 hits in seasons. As a Canadian baseball history buff, there are two images of him playing in Canada that I’ll always remember. The first is on a 1991 Upper Deck card (above) that shows him signing autographs before the 1991 All-Star Game at Toronto’s SkyDome. The second (which you can watch in the video below) is of him recording his 3,000th hit off Montreal Expos right-hander Dan Smith in the first inning of a game at Olympic Stadium on August 6, 1999. The best part of the video is during the celebration when Gwynn discovers his mom is on the field and the two embrace (This is at the 53-second mark). Gwynn died of salivary gland cancer on June 16, 2014.
-Forty-four years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Seattle Mariners 10-4 at Exhibition Stadium in the first regular season game between the two expansion rivals. Among the offensive stars for the Blue Jays were Alvis Woods who had four hits and Bob Bailor who had three. First baseman Doug Ault added a three-run home run in the sixth inning, while Bill Singer held the Mariners to three runs in seven innings to notch his second win of the season. Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) batted ninth and played third base for the Blue Jays and went 0-for-3, but had two runs. Meanwhile, right-hander Dave Pagan (Nipawin, Sask.) was roughed up for four runs in two innings of relief for the Mariners.
-You can blame me for ending Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza’s scoreless appearance streak to start the season. On Friday, I posed a question on Twitter asking if anyone knew what the Blue Jays’ record was for most consecutive scoreless appearances by a Blue Jays reliever to begin a season. Adam Darowski, of Sports Reference, quickly provided me with the answer (below). Blue Jays fans told me I had jinxed Mayza by asking the question. And sure enough Mayza proceeded to allow his first two runs of the season in the Blue Jays’ 10-4 loss to the Astros on that same day.
-For many years, I thought Prince Fielder, who turns 37 today, was born in Canada. This was largely thanks to his Baseball Reference page (below) that lists his birthplace as Ontario, CA (I think they added the U.S. flag beside his birthplace later). With his father, Cecil, having started his big league career in Toronto with the Blue Jays in the mid-80s, it made sense to me that Prince might have been born in Ontario, Canada. The truth is he was born in Ontario, California.
-When I interviewed the great Frank Howard for a project last summer, I was surprised when he asked me about hockey legend Jean Beliveau. I guess Howard and Beliveau had become friends when they attended a celebrity function together many years earlier. “He was a helluva baseball player, too.” said Howard of Beliveau. “And he liked to play baseball, but you know being a Canadian in those days, especially with the Montreal Canadiens, you better stay on those skates and on that ice.” I hadn’t heard about Beliveau playing baseball, so I did some research. According to Beliveau in his 2005 biography, My Life in Hockey, he played baseball in the summer as a child. He was a standout pitcher and infielder in Victoriaville, Que. — so talented, in fact, that he was once offered a professional contract. Obviously, Beliveau wisely chose a career in hockey instead.
– My trivia question for this week: I mentioned that Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) has three wins in relief already this season for the Blue Jays. Who has the most wins by a Canadian reliever in a season for the Blue Jays? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (Joey Votto and Larry Walker are the only Canadians to have hit 300 major league home runs, but three other Canadians have hit 200 or more home runs in the big leagues. Can you name two of them? ) was any two of Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.), Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) and Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.).