By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
-Right-hander Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) has earned a spot in the Seattle Mariners’ starting rotation. The team officially announced this yesterday, one day after the 6-foot-1 righty was outstanding in his final spring training start. On Friday, Brash struck out five and allowed just two hits and one run in 4 1/3 innings in the M’s eventual 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies. In total, in three appearances this spring, Brash posted a 0.96 ERA and struck out 12 in 9 1/3 innings. In 2021, he went a combined 6-4 with a 2.31 ERA and fanned 142 in 97 1/3 innings in 20 appearances (19 starts) between High-A and double-A in the Mariners’ organization. He also topped all Canadians in the affiliated minor league ranks in strikeouts and finished second in ERA and innings pitched. For his efforts, he was called up by the Mariners on September 28 during their push for a Wild Card spot, but he didn’t get into a game. A fourth-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2019, Brash, 23, was named the Canadian Baseball Network’s 2021 Wayne Norton Award winner, as the top Canuck pitcher in the affiliated minor league ranks. He was also named the Mariners’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. When he throws his first regular season pitch, he will become the first player from Kingston, Ont., to play in the big leagues.
-It was great to Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) back in the lineup for the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday. The left-handed hitting Canuck was playing in his first Cactus League game since he sustained multiple leg fractures in an on-field collision with a teammate last June. Batting fifth and playing right field for the Guardians, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum went 2-for-3 in the five innings he played. He has since suited up for two more games and is 4-for-9 (.444 batting average) with two doubles. Guardians manager Terry Francona told reporters on Saturday, however, that Naylor will begin the season on the injured list. Francona says this will be short term. Naylor batted .253 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in 69 games last season before his injury. In total, he has hit .250 and belted 16 homers in 203 games in parts of three major league campaigns with the San Diego Padres and Guardians.
-The Toronto Blue Jays reported on Thursday that closer Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) had suffered a mild ankle sprain after he stepped in a hole while walking his dog. Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters that Romano would be “day-to-day” with the injury. But Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reported on Saturday that Romano threw “full effort” with normal velocity and movement at his bullpen session on Friday. Romano is slated to pitch in a minor league game today and a major league game on Tuesday. The Ontario Blue Jays alum told Nicholson-Smith that he expects to be “ready to go” after that. In a Blue Jays’ bullpen that struggled for much of the 2021 season, Romano was consistently excellent. He finished with a 7-1 record and a 2.14 ERA and struck out out 85 batters in 63 innings in 62 appearances. His 23 saves tied him with Claude Raymond (St. Jean, Que.) for most saves in a season by a Canadian for a Canadian major league team.
-It was 22 years ago today that Vladimir Guerrero became the second Montreal Expos player to homer twice on Opening Day when he went deep two times at Olympic Stadium in the Expos’ 10-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Guerrero accomplished the feat in front of 51,249 at The Big O. Al Oliver was the first to home twice on Opening Day for the Expos. He did it on April 6, 1983 in the Expos’ 3-0 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
-Speaking of Guerrero, how is this (See image below) for a must-have baseball card for Expos fans? It’s a Topps card signed by Guerrero, as well as fellow National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.). Walker shared a photo of the cards he signed on Twitter on Friday. I’m not sure what Topps product this card will be in, but it has to be one of the greatest Expos cards ever made.
-I’ve often written about Canadian pitching legend Fergie Jenkins’ batting prowess. In his 1971 Cy Young Award-winning season, the Chatham, Ont., native belted six home runs. That number was equaled by Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano in 2006, but it still stands as the record for most by a Cubs pitcher in a season. And with the new universal DH rule, it’s a record that will likely stand forever. Jenkins posted this fun photo of him with Zambrano on Twitter on Friday.
-If you’re a Canadian baseball supporter, I hope you know the name Elizabeth Benn. Just 28 years old, she was recently named the director of major league operations for the New York Mets. Prior to that, the Toronto native had been blazing a trail for women in Major League Baseball’s head office for five years. I recently had the opportunity to speak with her and write this profile about her for the Canadian Baseball Network (Note: A paid membership is required to read it. It’s just $2 for a month).
-Want to feel old? Ken Griffey Jr. made his major league debut 33 years ago today. Batting second and playing centre field for the Seattle Mariners, he doubled off Oakland A’s right-hander Dave Stewart in his first at bat. He finished the game 1-for-3 and M’s lost to the eventual World Series champion A’s 3-2 at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium.
-Dale Murphy was my favourite player when I was growing up, so I followed his career very closely. But even I sometimes forget that he played his final 26 major league games with the Rockies. He was signed by the Rockies 29 years ago today and 29 years later, this baseball card (below) still looks weird to me:
-This week’s trivia question: Eleven different pitchers made more than one Opening Day start for the Blue Jays. Name three of them. 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 triples in a season?) was Tony Fernandez with 17 in 1990.