By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-Just how good has right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) been for the Boston Red Sox this season? Well, the 6-foot-5 right-hander is tied for the lead among American League pitchers in wins (5) and his 5-0 record also makes him the leader in winning percentage (1.000). Pivetta is also leading the Red Sox staff with 42 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings. So far in 10 starts with the Red Sox since he was acquired last August, Pivetta is 7-0 with a 2.91 ERA. The Victoria Eagles and Junior National Team alum came to the Red Sox in a trade last August after spending parts of four seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.
-Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) has suffered a setback in his rehabilitation from the torn Achilles tendon injury he suffered last August and will undergo exploratory surgery this week to deal with the issue. Recently, the 23-year-old Calgary native had reported feeling discomfort in his right Achilles again. It’s unknown how long the surgery will keep him out for, but he’s not expected back in the short term. It’s another disappointing turn of events for the Junior National Team alum who has been sidelined with right shoulder discomfort since leaving his start at the Braves’ alternate site on April 6. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with right shoulder inflammation. Tests showed no structural damage, but he hadn’t starting throwing again before he was placed on the Braves’ 60-day injured list on April 30. All reports had been positive on Soroka’s recovery from his Achilles injury until this week. The Canadian right-hander made just three starts in 2020, but 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.
-Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 10th home run of the season for the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday in his 38th game. In comparison, he clubbed nine home runs in 60 games in 2020. Even more impressive has been Guerrero’s patience at the plate. In 2020, he had 20 walks in 60 games, this season he already has 27 walks, which has boosted his on-base percentage to .436 this season versus .329 in 2020.
-Similar to Guerrero Jr., St. Louis Cardinals slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) is also hitting with more power this season. With three more home runs this week, O’Neill now has eight in 29 contests. He had seven round-trippers in 50 games last season. Since being activated from the 10-day injured list on April 23 after missing 10 games with a groin injury, O’Neill has raised his season average from .171 to .245 and continued to play the type of defence in left field that won him his first Gold Glove Award in 2020.
-Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) has donated his Arizona Diamondbacks uniform (photo below) from the 2020 season to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. McKay, who was inducted into the Canadian ball shrine in 2001, is in his seventh season as the D-Backs first base coach and his 37th as a big league coach. Despite not having a baseball team at his high school and only playing about 12 games a year as a teen, McKay evolved into a big league prospect and signed with the Minnesota Twins on June 20, 1971. After being called up by the Twins in August 1975, he homered in his first big league at bat. He’d spend another partial season with the Twins, before being selected by the Blue Jays in the 1976 expansion draft. The switch-hitting infielder was the only Canadian on the field in the Blue Jays’ first game on April 7, 1977. Despite the snow falling at Exhibition Stadium, McKay had two hits and drove in the winning run in the Blue Jays’ 9-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox. McKay finished his playing career with three seasons with the Oakland A’s prior to accepting a coaching position with the A’s. When Tony La Russa was named the A’s manager in 1986, McKay was retained as a coach. He worked on La Russa’s staff for more than two decades, and moved with the renowned skipper to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1996. One of the game’s hardest working coaches, McKay owns three World Series rings, securing one in 1989 with Oakland and two with St. Louis (2006, 2011). After La Russa retired for the first time (He’s back managing the White Sox now), McKay moved on to serve as the first base coach with the Chicago Cubs in 2012 and 2013 before moving on to the D-Backs in 2014.
-Ontario Blue Jays alum and former big league catcher George Kottaras (Scarborough, Ont.) shared footage of him (Click on the link below to watch it.) hitting a broken bat home run with the Milwaukee Brewers on June 2, 2010 on Twitter this week. I didn’t know he did this. It was a two-run home run off Marlins’ reliever Jorge Sosa in the top of the eighth inning at Sun Life Stadium in the Brewers’ 7-4 win. This was one of 32 big league home runs Kottaras belted in his parts of seven seasons in the big leagues from 2008 to 2014.
-It was 37 years ago today that the Blue Jays signed Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.) as an amateur free agent. Born in Toronto, Ducey was raised in Cambridge, Ont. After being named MVP of the Rookie Ball Medicine Hat Blue Jays in the same year he was signed, he rose through the organization’s ranks to make his big league debut on May 1, 1987. He would suit up for parts of six seasons with the Blue Jays, prior to being dealt to the California Angels in 1992. Tenures with the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Phillies would follow, as well as a two-year stint in the Japanese Pacific League with the Nippon Ham Fighters in 1995 and 1996. He returned to Toronto for five games in 2000 and saw his final big league action with the Montreal Expos in 2001. Following his professional career, Ducey competed for Canada at the 2004 Olympics and served as a coach at the 2006 World Baseball Classic and 2008 Olympics. He has also been a scout for the Blue Jays and as a coach in the Phillies organization. He is currently the hitting coach for the Fubon Guardians of the Korean Baseball Organization.
-Twenty-seven years ago today, Greg O’Halloran (Toronto, Ont.) made his major league debut with the Florida Marlins. He pinch hit for Marlins’ reliever Rob Nen in the top of the ninth inning against New York Mets reliever Josias Manzanillo and grounded out to second base in the Marlins’ 3-1 win at Shea Stadium. O’Halloran would play 12 games for the Marlins that season.
-Who was the first Blue Jays pitcher to win 20 games in a season? The answer is Hall of Famer Jack Morris who won 21 games for the Blue Jays in their 1992 World Series-winning campaign. Morris turns 66 today. Happy Birthday to him! Morris registered seven more wins for the Blue Jays in 1993. So 28 of his big league victories came in a Blue Jays uniform. In all, in 18 big league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays and Cleveland, he posted a 254-186 record in 549 appearances. He threw 175 complete games and was the ace of three different World Series-winning teams: Tigers (1984), Twins (1991) and Blue Jays (1992). He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2018.
– My trivia question for this week: Who is the only Montreal Expos pitcher to win 20 games in a season for the club? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (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? ) was Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) with 11 in 2001.