But What Do I Know? . . . Cal Quantrill, Zach Pop, John Axford, Doug Melvin

Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team alum Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) has been pitching like an ace for Cleveland. Photo: AP

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:

–With Cleveland’s top two starters Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale on the 60-day disabled list, Canadian right-hander Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) is emerging as the new ace of their staff. He put together the most dominant performance of his MLB career on Friday when he registered a career-high 10 strikeouts and allowed just four hits without walking a batter in seven scoreless innings in Cleveland’s 6-1 win over the Detroit Tigers. After a strong July that saw him go 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA in five starts, he has not allowed an earned run in his first two starts of August. In total, over his past seven starts, the Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team alum is 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA in 41 1/3 innings and has lowered his season ERA to 3.14 in 31 appearances (13 starts).

– A change of scenery is doing wonders for infielder Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.). He was dealt to the Seattle Mariners by the Houston Astros, along with right-hander Joe Smith, for relievers Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero on July 27 and has since gone 17-for-40 (.425 batting average) with four doubles and three home runs. Toro, who had struggled to find a position with the Astros, has been the M’s starting second baseman since joining the team. The switch-hitting 24-year-old had batted .211 in 35 games this season with the Astros prior to joining the M’s.

-Right-hander Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont.) has allowed just one earned run in his past 11 appearances out of the Miami Marlins’ bullpen. And since the start of July, his ERA has dropped from 5.76 to 4.57. In total, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum has made 37 relief appearances, spanning 41 1/3 innings, for the Marlins this season and has struck out 38 batters. 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 of the 2017 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but was traded to the Orioles in July 2018 as part of the package for Manny Machado.

-Not all great comeback stories have a happy ending. Right-hander John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.), who had posted a 0.84 ERA in nine appearances for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons this season, was dealt by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday. Axford was immediately added to the Brewers’ bullpen for that night’s game and the 6-foot-5 righty, who had not pitched in the big leagues since September 21, 2018, was back with the club he pitched his first major league game with. Unfortunately, after pitching to just five batters in the ninth inning, he exited with an elbow injury. It was later revealed that he suffered “significant structural damage” to his elbow. The 38-year-old is now weighing his options, but if this is the end, he had a fine career. Axford owns a 3.90 ERA and has notched 144 saves in 544 big league appearances in his 10-year career that has also included stops with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, Oakland A’s, Blue Jays and Dodgers.

-Happy 69th Birthday to longtime big league general manager and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Doug Melvin! Born in Chatham, Ont., Melvin pitched in the minors in the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees organizations before moving into the administrative ranks. He worked in a number of prominent posts, including as scouting director with the Yankees and as assistant GM and director of player personnel with the Orioles, before landing his first general manager’s job with the Texas Rangers in 1994. During his time with the Rangers he was named MLB executive of the year twice in 1996 and 1998. After his tenure with the Rangers, he was named executive vice president and general manager of the Brewers in 2002 and was named executive of the year in 2011 after the team won a franchise-record 96 games and a National League Central Division title. Melvin stepped down from his post with the Brewers in 2015, but still serves as an advisor for the club. For his efforts, he has been inducted into the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame (2000) and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (2012).

– It was 25 years ago today that Melvin, as Rangers GM, traded 19-year-old pitching prospect Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) to the Marlins for veteran John Burkett. Dempster would pitch parts of four seasons with the Marlins. The best of which was in 2000 when he went 14-10 with a 3.66 ERA in 33 starts and was selected to the All-Star Game. Burkett went 5-2 with a 4.06 ERA with the Rangers down the stretch in 1996 and helped them secure a division title. He was a regular member of the Rangers’ rotation for three more seasons.

-Jim Shearon, who wrote two of the best books on Canadian baseball history, Canada’s Baseball Legends (1994) and Over the Fence is Out! (2009), has launched a new website. You can check it out here. I highly recommend that you purchase both of his books there.

-On this date, 11 years ago, Brandon Morrow came within one out of throwing a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre. It was broken up with two outs in the ninth when Rays slugger Evan Longoria hit a slow-roller that second baseman Aaron Hill ranged far to his left to corral, but couldn’t get the out at first base. Morrow’s performance is still recognized as one of the greatest games ever thrown by a Blue Jays pitcher. In that contest, he walked two batters while striking out 17 (second-most in franchise history) in throwing a complete game shutout in the Blue Jays’ 1-0 win.

-This great photo (below) is more evidence of the magic that can happen at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on induction weekend. It was snapped after the induction ceremony in June 2017. Bob Elliott shared this with me. In this photo (from left to right) is 2017 inductee Roy Halladay, 1997 inductee Pat Gillick and 2016 inductee Pat Hentgen.

– My trivia question for this week: Who holds the Montreal Expos record for most stolen bases in a season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.

–The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who holds the Toronto Blue Jays record for most stolen bases in a season?) is Dave Collins with 60 in 1984

9 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? . . . Cal Quantrill, Zach Pop, John Axford, Doug Melvin

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      1. Ha Ha I’ve been tricked on that question once before so it’s embedded in my memory.

  1. A few days ago I wrote some comments about mistakes on the biographies of two inductees.after my first visit ever vi to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame-(terrific experience). I had another important comment, I believe, of a Sensitive nature that I tried to contact the “Hall” about but they do not have an e-mail address that i could find. Could you please supply one (if there is) or alternatively is there some way I could contact you privately. I would not like to post the comment publicly here.

  2. What a great writeup Kevin. So great to read about Quantrill, Toro and Pop doing so well. Let’s hope Axford makes it back in 2022. He had his stuff back, but now the arm needs to come back.

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