By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-Early Friday afternoon, Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker said in an interview on the MLB Network that Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) would miss the rest of the season due to nagging issues with the torn Achilles tendon injury the right-hander suffered last August. But shortly after that, Snitker backtracked on his comments and said that this may not be the case. David O’Brien, of The Athletic, shared that Soroka underwent an “exploratory/clean-up” surgery on his Achilles on May 17 and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. It was originally announced that the Canadian righty had suffered a setback in his rehabilitation from the torn Achilles injury on May 12. That was 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. Tests showed no structural damage, but there was some inflammation and he hadn’t starting throwing again before he was placed on the Braves’ 60-day injured list on April 30. Soroka 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.
-St. Louis Cardinals slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) hasn’t missed a beat since returning from the fractured finger that sidelined him for 10 days. He has homered in his first three games since his return and the 25-year-old Canuck is now batting .272 with 11 home runs in 33 games this season. Now in his fourth big league campaign, his 11 home runs are already a career-high. His broken finger led to his second trip to the injured list in 2021. In April, he had been sidelined with a groin injury.
-Now 50 games into the season, I think it’s safe to say that Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) is enjoying a breakout season. Just how good has the 22-year-old been? Well, heading into today’s doubleheader against Cleveland, he’s leading the American League in batting average (.331), home runs (16), on-base percentage (.440), slugging percentage (.652), on-base plus slugging percentage (1.092) and total bases (118).
-If it feels like Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) is striking out major league batters at a rapid pace this season, that’s because he is. The 28-year-old flame-thrower has 12.2 strikeouts/per nine innings for the Blue Jays and he’s been particularly dominant recently. He has pitched one inning in each of his last eight outings and in three of those appearances, he has struck out the side. In another, he fanned two batters and he struck out one batter in his other four appearances. That gives the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team grad 15 strikeouts in his last eight innings and 24 in 17 2/3 innings this season.
-It was 39 years ago today that Cal Ripken Jr. began his streak of 2,632 consecutive games played. The first game of that iron-man streak came against the Blue Jays at Memorial Stadium. Batting eighth and starting at third base for the Baltimore Orioles, he went 0-for-2 with a walk against Blue Jays right-handers Jim Gott and Roy Lee Jackson in the Blue Jays’ 6-0 win. Many think of Ripken primarily as a shortstop, but he played his first 27 games of the streak at third base.
-Happy 24th Birthday to Canadian national team right-hander Will McAffer! He is the youngest player on the Canadian national team roster that will compete in the Americas Olympic Qualifier in St. Lucie and West Palm Beach, Fla. that will begin tomorrow. The North Vancouver, B.C. native was selected in the 25th round of the 2018 MLB draft by the Blue Jays and has two saves and 12 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings for the class-A Advanced Vancouver Canadians this season. This is his third season in the Blue Jays’ ranks after honing his skills with the North Shore Twins and Canadian Junior National Team. For more on the Canadian roster for the Olympic qualifier, you can read the detailed article I wrote for the Canadian Baseball Network.
-Seventy-four years ago today, Toronto native Dick Fowler tossed a five-hit shutout for the Philadelphia A’s over the New York Yankees at Shibe Park in a A’s 1-0 victory. Fowler, who was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985, out-duelled Spud Chandler that day and shut down a Bronx Bombers lineup that included Joe DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto. Fowler walked two and struck out four. That was Fowler’s third of 12 wins that season for the A’s. He finished the 1947 campaign with a 2.81 ERA, which was the third-best in the American League.
-If you’re wondering where some ex-Blue Jays are playing, the first place to check might be the New York Mets’ active roster which includes: Miguel Castro, Yennsy Diaz, Aaron Loup, Sean Reid-Foley, Marcus Stroman, Brandon Drury, Jonathan Villar and Billy McKinney. Also on the Mets’ injured list are ex-Jays Kevin Pillar and Taijuan Walker.
-Please take a moment to remember former Philadelphia A’s pitcher and Leamington, Ont., native Bob Hooper who would’ve turned 99 today. Hooper pitched parts of six big league seasons with the Philadelphia A’s, Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, but like the aforementioned Fowler, his best seasons were with the A’s. The 5-foot-11 right-hander won a career-best 15 games with the A’s in 1950 and 12 more in 1951. According to his SABR bio, Hooper settled in New Jersey after his playing days and became a physical education teacher. He passed away in Brunswick, N.J. in 1980.
– My trivia question for this week: Three different Canadian pitchers won 15 games in a season for the Philadelphia A’s between 1940 and 1950. I mentioned Dick Fowler and Bob Hooper in this column. Who is the third? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) recorded 284 major league wins (the most by a Canadian) and Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current, Sask.) 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? ) was Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) with 132 wins and Kirk McCaskill (Kapuskasing, Ont.) with 106 wins.