April 17, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
-It has become an Easter tradition on this blog to pay tribute to ex-big league slugger Luke Easter on Easter Sunday. “Luscious Luke” was a hulking, 6-foot-4, 240-pound slugger who became the 11th African-American to compete in the big leagues when he debuted with Cleveland on August 11, 1949. Known for clubbing tape-measure homers – including a 477-foot blast that was the longest ever recorded at Municipal Stadium – Easter, due to segregation, didn’t make his big league debut until he was 34. After three seasons in which he never socked less than 27 homers for Cleveland, Easter, hobbled by knee and ankle injuries, was released, but he continued to belt moonshot round-trippers in the International League (IL) for the Ottawa Athletics in 1954. Later he starred with the IL’s Buffalo Bisons and Rochester Red Wings. A jovial, easygoing man who rarely refused an autograph request, Easter was once approached by a fan who told him that he saw him hit his longest home run, to which Easter responded, “If it came down, it wasn’t my longest.” Sadly, Easter was murdered in a bank parking lot in Euclid, Ohio on March 29, 1979.
-Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) was activated by the Cleveland Guardians prior to their game on Friday against the San Francisco Giants. Batting seventh and playing first base in that contest, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum went 0-for-3, but Cleveland fans gave him a warm ovation during his first at bat. Naylor then had two singles and a walk in four at bats on Saturday. The left-handed hitting Canuck sustained multiple leg fractures in an on-field collision with a teammate last June and had started the season on the injured list. Prior to his injury last season, Naylor batted .253 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in 69 games. In total, he has hit .251 and belted 16 homers in 205 games in parts of four major league campaigns with the San Diego Padres and Guardians.
-Congratulations to Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) who recorded his 26th consecutive save on Monday to break Tom Henke’s three-decade-old Toronto Blue Jays’ record. Romano tossed a scoreless ninth in the Blue Jays’ 3-0 win over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium to set the mark. He has since added to the record with saves on Wednesday and Friday. But as great as Romano has been, he still has a long way to go to break the record for most consecutive saves by a Canadian big league reliever. That mark is held by Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.) who collected 84 consecutive saves for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a streak that extended from August 8, 2002 to July 3, 2004. Those 84 consecutive saves also represent a major league record.
-Baseball is an extremely difficult and humbling game. Just ask Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.). On Wednesday, he went 4-for-4 with three home runs and a double against the Yankees. The next night, he went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.
-My condolences to Canadian baseball legend Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) on the passing of his sports idol Mike Bossy. Bossy, who was a superstar right winger on the New York Islanders’ four Stanley Cup-winning teams of the 80s, passed away on Friday at the age of 65 after battling lung cancer. This 1993 Pinnacle card highlights Walker’s worship of Bossy:
-Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) has picked up where he left off last season in his first two starts with the Cleveland Guardians. In 9 2/3 innings, he has permitted six hits and four runs. He picked up his first win of the season last Sunday against the Kansas City Royals. In 2021, after starting the campaign in Cleveland’s bullpen, Quantrill joined the starting rotation and evolved in the team’s ace in the second half. His 1.94 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break was the second-best in Major League Baseball for starting pitchers who tossed at least 55 innings. Overall, the Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team alum finished 2021 with a 2.89 ERA, which was the third-best among American League pitchers who tossed at least 149 innings. His 3.9 WAR was also the best among Canadian big league hurlers.
-Right-hander Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) was outstanding in his major league debut with the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday. He started and allowed just two earned runs on four hits, while striking out six, in 5 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox. Unfortunately, he was saddled with a loss when the M’s couldn’t muster much offence in a 3-2 loss. With the start, Brash became the first player from Kingston to play in the big leagues. Longtime Kingston writer Patrick Kennedy spoke to Brash after his debut and wrote this excellent article. Brash won a spot in the M’s rotation after a strong spring that saw him post a 0.96 ERA and strike 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. 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.
-On the flip side, it’s been a rough start for Boston Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.). On Friday, in his second start of the season, he allowed four runs in two innings to the Minnesota Twins. This came on the heels of permitting four runs in 5 2/3 innings to the Yankees in the Red Sox second game of the season. Pivetta finished the 2021 regular season with a 9-8 record and a 4.53 ERA and struck out 175 batters in 155 innings in 31 appearances, including 30 starts. The Junior National Team alum also earned a save in the final game of the regular season, with a Wild-Card berth at stake, and was arguably the Red Sox best pitcher in the postseason. In Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, Pivetta struck out seven in four scoreless innings in relief to pick up the win.
-Many former players have been critical of Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts’ decision to lift Clayton Kershaw from his start on Wednesday after the veteran left-hander had tossed seven perfect innings against the Twins. Kershaw, who is coming off an elbow injury, had thrown 80 pitches. Count Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.), who threw 267 complete games in his major league career, as one who didn’t agree with the decision. Here’s the note he sent out on Twitter:
-Twenty years ago today, left-hander Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) made his major league debut with the Baltimore Orioles against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He relieved O’s starter Josh Towers in the eighth inning and allowed a single to Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi before getting Jorge Posada to pop out to the catcher. He then struck out Robin Ventura. Bedard was then replaced by right-hander Willis Roberts who promptly gave up a two-run home run to Rondell White. The O’s lost the game 7-1. Bedard went on to pitch parts of 11 major league seasons with the Orioles, Mariners, Red Sox, Pirates, Astros and Rays.
-It was 53 years ago today that Bill Stoneman tossed the first no-hitter in Montreal Expos’ history. It came in the team’s ninth game. Stoneman no-hit the Philadelphia Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium. He walked five and struck out eight to lead the Expos to a 7-0 win. Rusty Staub and Coco Laboy each had four hits for the Expos. It’s interesting to note that while the Expos’ first no-hitter came in just their ninth game in franchise history, the Blue Jays had to wait until their 14th season when Dave Stieb finally completed the feat on September 2, 1990.
-This week’s trivia question: There have been two coaches that have served as the big league pitching coach for the Montreal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays (at different times during their respective careers, of course). Name one of them. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the only left-hander to make more than one Opening Day start for the Montreal Expos?) was Jeff Fassero, who made three Opening Day starts for the Expos from 1994 to 1996.