May 1, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame opens for its 25th season in St. Marys, Ont., today at 10 a.m.. It’s well worth the drive to visit the museum. For more information, click on this link.
-Left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) recently told Christopher Smith, of MassLive.com, that his goal is to return to the Boston Red Sox before the All-Star break. The Canuck southpaw underwent Tommy John surgery last April. “I think there’s a chance I could be back anywhere between late June and early July if everything goes really smoothly,” Paxton told Smith. “But we’ll have to see how things progress here.” Paxton has been throwing bullpen sessions at the Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., and he hopes to be tossing live batting practice in early May. Signed by the Red Sox in December, Paxton threw just 24 pitches in one start for the Seattle Mariners last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery. It was the second Tommy John procedure of his career. A North Delta Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, the 33-year-old southpaw has pitched in parts of nine major league campaigns and owns a 57-33 record and a 3.59 ERA in 137 starts.
-Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) is leading the American League in saves (10), pitching appearances (12) and games finished (12). I fear that I jinxed Romano when I mentioned his franchise record 31 consecutive saves in last Sunday’s column. That afternoon, he served up a walk-off, two-run home run to shortstop Jeremy Pena that gave the Houston Astros an 8-7 win. Romano has bounced back nicely though. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team grad has picked up a win and two saves in three appearances since then.
-The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced on Tuesday that Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) will serve as an honorary manager of one of the team’s in the Hall of Fame Classic Legends Game which will be played at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown on May 28. Due to the pandemic, this popular contest has not been played the past two years. Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith will manage the other team. Honorary coaches at the event will include Cooperstowners Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Wade Boggs, Jack Morris, Ted Simmons and Lee Smith. The teams will be comprised of former big leaguers and each major league team will be represented. Pat Borders will be in uniform to represent the Blue Jays.
-Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) has returned with a bang for the Cleveland Guardians. He belted his second home run of the season on Friday night in the Guardians’ 9-8 win over the Oakland A’s. He is now batting .311 with 14 hits in 12 games after beginning the season on the injured list. The left-handed hitting Canuck sustained multiple leg fractures in an on-field collision with a teammate last June. Prior to his injury last season, Naylor batted .253 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in 69 games. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum is now in his fourth major league season.
-As noted in this column last week, Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera recorded his 3,000th major league hit on April 23 against the Colorado Rockies. This got me wondering how many of his hits have been off Canuck pitchers? In doing some research, it turns out that lefty Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.) was the Canadian pitcher Cabrera has most liked to face. He was 10-for-24 (.417 batting average) with a home run and three doubles against Diamond. Cabrera has also fared well against Port Hope, Ont., native Cal Quantrill (3-for-6) and was 6-for-18 against Navan, Ont., native Erik Bedard. Meanwhile, 2022 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) held Cabrera to just four hits in 20 at bats and Cabrera was 1-for-4 off Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) and Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.) respectively.
-Right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) continues to be effective out of the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen. In seven relief appearances this season, he is 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA and has nine strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. He also recorded his first save of the season in the Cubs’ 6-3 win over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday. Wick was sidelined for much of 2021 by an oblique injury. After he was activated last season, the Vancouver Cannons and Junior National Team alum posted a 4.30 ERA in 22 relief appearances. He struck out 29 batters in 23 innings and picked up five saves. Selected in the ninth round of the 2012 MLB draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, Wick was a catcher when he entered the minor league ranks before being converted into a pitcher. He made his major league debut with the Padres in 2018.
-It was 35 years ago today that Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.) made his major league debut with the Toronto Blue Jays. Batting eighth and starting in left field, Ducey went 1-for-2 with a stolen base and an RBI. His first major league hit was a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning off Texas Rangers right-hander Jose Guzman at Exhibition Stadium that gave the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead. They eventually lost 3-2. In all, Ducey would suit up for parts of seven seasons with the Blue Jays,. He also had tenures with the California Angels, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies and Montreal Expos, as well as a two-year stint in the Japanese Pacific League with the Nippon Ham Fighters in 1995 and 1996. In all, Ducey played 19 seasons in professional baseball.
-Happy 48th Birthday to former Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Rich Butler! After signing with the Blue Jays as an amateur free agent in 1990, the Toronto native was called up in September 1997 and proceeded to go 4-for-14 in seven big league games before he was selected by the Rays with the 10th pick in the expansion draft. Butler would play parts of two seasons with the Rays, prior to splitting his final pro campaign between the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers organizations. He is now the owner of Line Drive Baseball Academy in Bowmanville, Ont.
-On this date four years ago, Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) made his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves. The Canuck right-hander held the New York Mets to one run in six innings at Citi Field to record the win. A graduate of the Calgary Redbirds and the Canadian Junior National Team, Soroka was a first-round pick (28th overall) of the Braves in the 2015 MLB draft. He’d make four more starts for the Braves that season and finish with a 2-1 record and a 3.51 ERA. In 2019, Soroka was still considered a rookie and he evolved into a top-of-the-rotation starter, going 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Unfortunately, he was limited to three starts in 2020 after tearing his right Achilles tendon on August 3. After extensive rehab, he re-tore his Achilles’ tendon last June and has started the 2022 season on the 60-day injured list. The Braves are not putting a timetable on Soroka’s return, but Soroka has said he believes a return in July is possible.
-Thirty-one years ago today, 44-year-old Nolan Ryan tossed a no-hitter against the Blue Jays at Arlington Stadium in Texas. The legendary fireballer fanned 16 Blue Jays, including Devon White, Roberto Alomar and Glenallen Hill three times each, in what would be his seventh and final no-hitter. The Rangers won the game 3-0.
-This week’s trivia question: Rob Ducey is one of four Canadians to have played for both the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos during their major league careers. Name one of the three others. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who are the only two active major league players to have hit a REGULAR SEASON home run at Olympic Stadium in Montreal?) was one of Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols.