By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-Baseball Canada has unveiled the names of the 25 players that will comprise the national team roster at the Baseball Americas Olympic qualifier that will take place from May 31 to June 5 in Palm Beach and St. Lucie, Fla. Several former big leaguers will suit up for Canada, including pitchers John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.), Scott Richmond (Vancouver, B.C.), Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.), Dustin Molleken (Regina, Sask.) and Scott Mathieson (Aldergrove, B.C.). The team will again be managed by Toronto Blue Jays legend and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Ernie Whitt. Teams from eight countries will compete in the tournament and the winner will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympics this summer. The second and third place finishers will have another opportunity to qualify at a tournament in Mexico (at a date to be determined). The winner of that event will be the sixth and final country in the baseball competition at the Olympics.
-St. Louis Cardinals slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) suffered a fractured finger while stealing second base in the sixth inning of the Cards’ 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres last Sunday. He has been placed on the 10-day injured list. The 25-year-old Canuck was batting .250 with eight home runs in 30 games this season before being injured. It’s his second trip to the injured list in 2021. In April, he had been sidelined with a groin injury. On Friday night, the Langley Blaze and Junior National Team alum received his 2020 Gold Glove Award, as the National League’s top defensive left fielder, in a pre-game ceremony (photo below).
-As Scott Crawford, director of operations at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, pointed out to me in an email earlier this week, it has been a tough year for Canucks in the big leagues. O’Neill joins four other Canadians on the injured list. That list includes Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta., Achilles, shoulder), Seattle Mariners left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C., Tommy John surgery), Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont., broken thumb) and Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C., oblique). Blue Jays reliever Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) also spent 10 days on the injured list in April with ulnar neuritis.
-Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) has now played 227 major league games. So how do his numbers compare to his father’s through his first 227 big league contests? Here you go:
Guerrero Jr. – .281 batting average, 37 home runs, 138 RBIs, 96 walks, 158 strikeouts
Guerrero Sr. – .316 batting average, 43 home runs, 135 RBIs, 51 walks, 115 strikeouts
-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 allowed just one run. In his last 10 games, spanning 12 1/3 innings, he has permitted just six hits and struck out 16 batters and lowered his ERA to 4.30. 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.
-It was 41 years ago today that Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) recorded his 250th major league win when he tossed a two-hit complete game for the Texas Rangers in a 2-1 win over the Oakland A’s at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. He struck out eight and walked three in the game. Jenkins went on to record a Canadian record 284 major league wins before retiring in 1983.
-Happy 73rd Birthday to former Jenkins teammate and fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Reggie Cleveland! Cleveland was discovered in Swift Current, Sask., by carnival operator, Sam Shapiro, who encouraged his friend, Cardinals manager, Red Schoendienst, to sign him. In 1965, Cleveland inked a deal with the Cards that included a $500 signing bonus. After almost four years in the minors, Cleveland made his major league debut with the Cards on October 1, 1969, but it wasn’t until 1971 that he would become a regular in their big league rotation. On the strength of 12 wins and 10 complete games that season, he was named The Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year. He followed that up with 14 wins and 11 complete games the next year, before registering his finest major league season in 1973 by posting a 14-10 record with a 3.01 ERA. In 1975, Cleveland became the first Canadian to start a World Series game when he got the nod in Game 5. The durable righty pitched largely out of the bullpen with the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers in his final big league seasons. In all, Cleveland won 105 major league games, ranking him fourth on the all-time Canadian list. He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.
-Please take a moment to remember Blue Jays Latin super scout Epy Guerrero who passed away eight years ago today at the age of 71. Guerrero scouted and signed dozens of future big leaguers, including Blue Jays legends Tony Fernandez and Carlos Delgado. His first big league scouting gig came when Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Pat Gillick, then in charge of the Houston Astros’ farm system, hired him in 1965. When Gillick was named general manager of the Blue Jays, he brought Guerrero with him to the organization. For a complete list of players that Guerrero signed, you can read Bob Elliott’s excellent 2013 obituary about Guerrero here: http://www.torontosun.com/2013/05/23/former-blue-jays-scout-epy-guerrero-dead-at-71
– My trivia question for this week: I mentioned above that Fergie Jenkins recorded 284 major league wins (the most by a Canadian) and that Reggie Cleveland had 105, which places him fourth among Canuck big leaguers. Can you name the pitchers who have the second and third most major league wins by a Canadian? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who is the only Montreal Expos pitcher to win 20 games in a season for the club? ) was Ross Grimsley, who won 20 games in 1978.