May 8, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
-Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there! And especially to my mom, Glenyce Glew, who my dad and I have dragged to enough Toronto Blue Jays games over the years that she has become one of the team’s more spirited fans. I’m very fortunate in that not only does my mom enjoy baseball, she’s also loving, supportive, compassionate and generous. She also reads this blog. I love you, mom.
-This is one of my favourite photos of Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) (below). Here he is pictured with his mother Delores at Wrigley Field. Jenkins’ mom lost her vision after giving birth to him, but that didn’t stop her from coming to many of his games. She would sit in the stands and listen to the game on a portable radio.
-After struggling in his last three starts, right-hander Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) was sent down to triple-A Tacoma by the Seattle Mariners on Thursday. The Canuck right-hander had two solid starts to begin the season, but he has allowed 13 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings in his last three outings. “Everything feels good. I feel great. I’m just not executing. I just need to be better,” Brash told Daniel Kramer of MLB.com after he gave up four runs in three innings in his start on Wednesday. Command has been an issue for Brash. The 23-year-old has 17 walks in 20 innings. Mariners manager Scott Servais believes that Brash might be better suited to a bullpen role. “I definitely think he’s a guy that can help us win games this year. I just think the chance to impact our team is probably greatest if he can assimilate to the bullpen and come out and help us there on multiple days in a week versus just one day a week,” Servais told reporters on Thursday. The 6-foot-1 Brash, who won a rotation spot out of spring training, went a combined 6-4 with a 2.31 ERA in 20 appearances (19 starts) between High-A and double-A in the Mariners’ organization last season. He also struck out 142 in 97 1/3 innings.
-On Monday, Toronto Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) was named American League Reliever of the Month for April. Canadian Baseball Network contributor Neil Munro pointed out in an article that this is the first time a Canadian pitcher has secured that honour since it started being handed out in 2017. Munro also noted that Romano’s 10 saves in April marked the 11th time a Canadian has recorded 10 major league saves in a month. The others to do it are Jeff Zimmerman (Kelowna, B.C.). Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.), who did it six times, Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) and John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) who did it twice.
-So who has had the best month ever by a Canadian reliever? Before reading Munro’s article, my money would’ve been on Gagne, Axford or even John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.). But the answer is Dempster. In September 2005 with the Chicago Cubs, he had 13 saves in 13 opportunities and did not allow a run in the entire month. He also struck 19 batters in 15 2/3 innings.
-It was four years ago today that left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) became the first Canadian to throw a no-hitter in a Canadian major league ballpark when he did so for the Seattle Mariners against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Canuck lefty struck out seven and walked three in his history-making 99-pitch performance to lead the Mariners to a 5-0 win. With that, Paxton became just the second Canadian to throw a no-hitter in the big leagues. The other was authored by Dick Fowler (Toronto, Ont.) for the Philadelphia A’s on September 9, 1945. Paxton’s no-hitter was the third thrown in Toronto and the first since Justin Verlander, then with the Detroit Tigers, no-hit the Blue Jays on May 7, 2011. Oakland A’s right-hander (and future Blue Jay) Dave Stewart became the first pitcher to toss a no-hitter in Toronto on June 29, 1990. “It’s very special. I can’t think of a better place to have done it,” Paxton told Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae in a post-game interview. “The Canadian fans are great. I’m very happy to have done it here.”
-Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) was placed on the COVID-19 list on Tuesday. The Canuck slugger has not tested positive for the virus but he self-reported symptoms. Much like the 4-23 Reds, Votto has slumped to begin the season, batting just .122 with no home runs in 22 games. The Reds are listing the 38-year-old infielder as day-to-day.
-Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) has continued to swing a hot bat for the Cleveland Guardians. He is now batting .317 with 19 hits – including three doubles and two home runs – and 12 RBIs in 17 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.
-Right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) has reestablished himself as one of the Chicago Cubs’ go-to relievers this season. In nine appearances, he is 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA and has 11 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings. 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.
-So who was the first Canadian to be featured on a Topps baseball card box? My guess would’ve been Larry Walker or Joey Votto. The answer is Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.), who was featured in his colorful Astros uniform on the 1980 Topps box (photo below).
-If you read my blog, you know how much I love to write about big leaguers who made brief appearances with the Blue Jays that most have forgotten about. Well, I recently uncovered a 1997 Blue Jays spring training program in my basement and even I forgot that Mike Aldrete and Marvin Freeman spent that spring in Blue Jays’ camp. Here are their photos from the program:
-This week’s trivia question: Who owns the Montreal Expos record for most saves in a season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.) 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. ) was one of Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.), Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.) and Shawn Hill (Georgetown, Ont.).