By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-Help could be on its way for the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen from a veteran Canadian, provided that the club can clear a spot on their 40-man roster. Right-hander John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) has allowed just one hit in seven appearances, spanning 8 2/3 innings, for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons since he was signed by the Blue Jays in June. He was inked to a minor league deal after his fastball hit 98 mph on the radar gun for the Canadian national team at the America’s Olympic Qualifier in Florida. The 38-year-old right-hander, who has served as an analyst on Sportsnet’s Blue Jays Central in recent months, has not pitched in the big leagues since September 21, 2018. He signed with the Blue Jays prior to spring training in 2019, but made just one minor league appearance for the club that year due to an elbow injury. In 2018, the 6-foot-5 righty went 4-1 with a 4.41 ERA in 45 appearances for the Blue Jays before being dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline. The Canuck reliever has registered a 3.87 ERA and notched 144 saves in 543 big league appearances in his 10-year major league career that has included stops with the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, Oakland A’s, Blue Jays and Dodgers.
–Right-hander Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) is quietly having a very strong month in the starting rotation for Cleveland. Since the start of July, he has registered his first two wins of the season and in 22 1/3 innings in four starts, he owns a 3.22 ERA. In total this season, the Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team grad sports a 3.84 ERA in 28 appearances (10 starts). Quantrill started last season with the San Diego Padres before he was traded to Cleveland on August 31. He’s now in his third major league campaign.
-Scott Crawford, of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, pointed out on Twitter earlier this week that Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was born in Montreal, Que., recorded his 78th RBI of the season last Sunday. And with that, the 22-year-old slugger broke Russell Martin’s Blue Jays’ record for most RBIs in a season by a player born in Canada. Martin knocked in 77 runs in 2015.
– Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, they received the hat that left-hander Ben Onyshko (Winnipeg, Man.) donned in the ninth inning in the Canadian national team’s combined no-hitter against Colombia in the first game of the America’s Olympic Qualifier on May 31 (Photo above). The St. Marys, Ont.-based shrine previously added the hat and cleats that Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) wore when he tossed the first seven no-hit innings of that contest, as well as the hat that Brendan McGuigan (Canadian citizen) wore when he hurled a hitless eighth inning.
-This (above) is likely the most Canadian major league photo you’ll see this year. Shared by Bally Sports Midwest on Twitter during Friday night’s game, this photo shows Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) holding St. Louis Cardinals slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) on first base, while Cardinals first base coach Stubby Clapp (Windsor, Ont.) offers O’Neill his guidance. I’m also pretending that the first base umpire in the photo is Stu Scheurwater (Regina, Sask.). It’s not, it’s Adam Hamari, who was born in Marquette, Mich.
-It was on this date 41 years that right-hander Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current, Sask.) pitched a five-hit shutout for the Milwaukee Brewers over the Baltimore Orioles to record his 100th major league win. With this, he became just the second Canadian to reach that milestone (Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) was the first). Cleveland outduelled Hall of Famer Jim Palmer at Memorial Stadium in the contest which turned out to be the last complete game of Cleveland’s career. The Canadian right-hander finished his big league career with 105 wins, which ranks fourth among Canucks, behind Jenkins (284), Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C., 132 wins) and Kirk McCaskill (Kapuskasing, Ont., 106 wins).
-So who will be the next Canadian to make their MLB debut? If I was a betting man, my money would be on Jordan Balazovic (Mississauga, Ont.). Selected in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum has been dominant with the Twins’ double-A Wichita Wind Surge this season. In nine starts, he is 3-1 with a 2.44 ERA and has 57 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings. He has not allowed an earned run in his last four starts (25 2/3 innings). Now in his fifth season in the Twins’ organization, the 22-year-old righty owns a 3.18 ERA in 58 minor league appearances, including 47 starts.
-On this date 17 years ago, Carlos Delgado belted a three-run home run for the Blue Jays in their 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre. With that home run, Delgado recorded his 1,000th RBI as a Blue Jay, making him the first player in franchise history to reach that mark. He finished with 1,058 RBIs during his 12 seasons with the Blue Jays. He remains the only player in franchise history to reach 1,000 RBIs.
-It was 11 years ago today that Montreal Expos legendary outfielder Andre Dawson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It took nine years on the writers’ ballot, but Dawson finally became the second player to be inducted pictured in an Expos cap on their plaque (Gary Carter was the first in 2003). Dawson was a standout at Florida A&M University when he was selected by the Expos in the 11th round of the 1975 amateur draft. After minor league stints in Lethbridge, Quebec City and Denver, Dawson made his big league debut on September 11, 1976. The following year, he hit .282 and belted 19 home runs, earning himself National League Rookie of the Year honours. In all, in his 11 seasons with the Expos, the five-tool outfielder was selected to three All-Star teams, won three Silver Slugger Awards and captured six Gold Gloves. He also accumulated 225 home runs, 838 RBIs and 2,679 total bases – all numbers that rank second in franchise history. After leaving Montreal, Dawson enjoyed an MVP season with the Chicago Cubs in 1987, belting 49 home runs and knocking in 137 runs. He would spend five more seasons at Wrigley, earning four more All-Star nods, before splitting his final four seasons between the Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins. In total, in parts of 21 big league seasons, Dawson recorded 2,774 hits, 438 home runs, 1,591 RBIs and 314 stolen bases. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.
-Right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.), who had been sidelined since last September with an oblique injury, started a rehab assignment with the Chicago Cubs’ class-A South Bend Cubs on July 17. He has since pitched three innings in three appearances and has struck out seven batters, while allowing just one hit. The hard-throwing right-hander had been a go-to, late-inning reliever for the Cubs in 2019 and 2020. Last season, he led Canadian big league pitchers in appearances (19) and saves (4), while posting a 3.12 ERA and striking out 20 in 17 1/3 innings before being shut down. The Vancouver Cannons and Junior National Team alum is a converted catcher who made his big league debut with the Padres in 2018.
-It was 67 years ago today that a 19-year-old outfield prospect named Roberto Clemente belted his first professional regular season home run in North America when he clubbed a walk-off homer for the Montreal Royals to lead his club to 7-6 win over the Havana Sugar Kings at Delorimier Stadium. Clemente entered the game as a defensive replacement for left fielder Gino Cimoli in the eighth inning. It was his first at bat in two weeks.
-If you live in the London, Ont., area, you should purchase a Southwestern Ontario Baseball Heritage Pass. For just $15, you can visit three baseball attractions in the area: the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., historic Labatt Park (the world’s oldest continuously used baseball grounds) in London, Ont., and the Beachville Museum in Beachville, Ont., which was home to one of the first documented baseball games in North America. For more information and to purchase your pass, click on this link.
– My trivia question for this week: Name the two former Montreal Expos managers who have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Note: One was inducted for their managerial career, while the other was inducted for their playing career. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (Aside from Larry Walker, who are the only other two Canadians to register 1,500 or more hits in the major leagues? ) was Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) and Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.).