By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes:
-Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) recently spoke with the Calgary Booster Club and provided an update on his progress on his surgically repaired Achilles’ tendon that re-tore last June. The likeable righty said he’s not putting a precise timetable on his return. “After the first (surgery), I was much more timeline-oriented,” he said. “I wanted to be back for opening day, I wanted to make it, I wanted to push, I wanted to do it to prove to myself, and obviously everybody else, that I could. But at this point it’s just making sure that I am 100 per cent of what I was — and more. I think (returning in) July is still pretty reasonable. If I could get back on the mound for bullpen (sessions) by the very end of spring training — end of March or even in April — I would be happy. That would kind of be the start to being able to really map out a return date.” The Junior National Team alum made just three starts in 2020 prior to tearing his Achilles the first time, but in his rookie campaign in 2019, Soroka went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
-The universal DH is part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between Major League Baseball and its players. This means that National League pitchers will no longer hit. The new DH rule inspired Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) to send out the tweet below. In actuality, there was no need for a DH when Jenkins was scheduled to pitch. He belted 13 home runs during his big league career. In his 1971 National League Cy Young Award winning season, he clubbed six home runs and had 20 RBIs in 39 games, and his .478 slugging percentage was better than that of Hall of Fame teammate Ron Santo.
-Plenty of former Toronto Blue Jays players remain free agents with spring training camps set to officially open today. Here’s a partial list of the ex-Jays still unsigned: Jeff Mathis, Eric Sogard, Jonathan Villar, Travis Shaw, Brandon Drury, Joe Panik, Kevin Pillar, Billy McKinney, J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez.
-Please take a moment to remember All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) standout and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Helen (Callaghan) Candaele St. Aubin who would’ve turned 99 today. She passed away in 1992. Born in Vancouver, B.C., she was one of Vancouver’s top softball players before heading south to become one of the stars of the AAGPBL. A left-handed hitting outfielder, she played in the AAGPBL from 1944 to 1949 with Minneapolis, Fort Wayne and Kenosha. Her strong throwing arm made her one of the best left fielders in the league, but it was her blazing speed that set her apart. She stole 419 bases in 495 games and compiled a career on-base percentage of .355. She would also raise a family of five sons, including her youngest, Casey Candaele, who went on to a major league playing career. An older son, Kelly Candaele, co-produced a documentary on the AAGPBL in the late 1980s which inspired the film, A League of Their Own.
-Former Texas Rangers’ first-round pick Kellin Deglan (Langley, B.C.) signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays this off-season to return to the organization. The Canuck catcher, who’s heading into his 11th professional season, will turn 30 on May 3. He has yet to play a game in the major leagues. Arden Zwelling wrote this excellent feature about Deglan’s baseball odyssey for Sportsnet that was published on Wednesday. The article details just how close Deglan was to being called up by the New York Yankees last season after spending much of the first half on the team’s taxi squad. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen and Deglan was dealt to the Blue Jays on August 3 and he finished the year with triple-A Buffalo. Here’s hoping that Deglan gets that call-up with the Blue Jays this season. “At some point, baseball ends — and you’ve got to get a job in the real world,” Deglan told Zwelling. “And I’ve wondered, what would I do? Would I go back to school? Would I get a job coaching? Would I go learn a trade? But I don’t want to do any of that right now. I still love playing baseball. So, I’m going to keep playing as long as they’ll let me. Until they tell me I can’t.”
-The Blue Jays have signed reliever Joe Biagini to a minor league contract. Sportsnet’s Jamie Campbell was the first to report the signing on Thursday. The entertaining right-hander was one of the Blue Jays’ most effective relievers in 2016 when he posted a 3.06 ERA in 67 1/3 innings in 60 appearances after the club selected him in the Rule 5 draft in December 2015. Following parts of three more seasons with the Blue Jays, he was dealt to the Houston Astros along with Aaron Sanchez for Derek Fisher. He made just 17 appearances with the Astros in 2019 and 2020 before signing with the Chicago Cubs. He appeared in one game with the Cubs in 2021.
-Former Minnesota Twins star and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.) was cleaning up his office on February 27 and he posted some clippings and letters that he rediscovered on Twitter. Below is the letter that Koskie received from the Twins after he was drafted in the 26th round in 1994. On another note, I didn’t know his first name was Cordel.
-Happy 43rd Birthday to one of Koskie’s former teammates, two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana! For a five-year stretch from 2003 to 2007, the Twins left-hander was arguably the best pitcher in the American League. On top of winning the Cy Young Award in 2004 and 2006, Santana also finished in the top five two other times before being dealt to the New York Mets on February 2, 2008. Unfortunately, a series of injuries shortened his career, but Blue Jays fans may remember that he signed with the club on February 26, 2015 to attempt a comeback. He spent that spring with the club but never saw any Grapefruit League action. In June that year, he announced he was ending his comeback bid.
-This week’s trivia question: Who holds the Toronto Blue Jays’ record for most sacrifice hits? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who is the oldest living former Toronto Blue Jays player?) was Rico Carty who will turn 83 this year.