But What Do I Know? . . . Rob Thomson, John Axford, Joey Votto, Rob Butler

Rob Thomson was a coach with the double-A London (Ontario) Tigers in 1989.

June 12, 2022

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:

– I have a running joke on Twitter that Rob Thomson (Corunna, Ont.) is on pace to never lose a game as a major league manager. After the Philadelphia Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday, the Phils have now won eight straight games since Thomson replaced Joe Girardi. Of course, Thomson and the Phils are going to lose a game at some point, but you can’t help but feel good for the Canadian baseball lifer who spent more than three decades in the professional coaching ranks before getting his first opportunity to manage in the big leagues. Thomson became the first full-time Canadian major league manager since George Gibson (London, Ont.) with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1934 when he took over for Girardi on June 3.

-Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) has been much more productive at the plate since his return from a 19-day stretch on the COVID-19 list in May. In his last 21 games, he has five home runs, nine doubles and 19 RBIs. He has boosted his batting average from .121 to .212 and his on-base percentage from .277 to .347. He also continues to climb the Reds’ all-time statistical leaderboards. Last Sunday, he moved into second place on the franchise’s all-time doubles list, passing Barry Larkin.

-Here’s one of the best tweets I read this week. This was written by Baseball Canada alum and former Toronto Blue Jays reliever John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) on Monday:

-It was three years ago today that Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) made his major league debut with the Blue Jays. He tossed a three-up, three-down seventh inning, striking out the first two batters he faced, against the Baltimore Orioles. Yes, he was dominant that day, but I don’t think any of us would’ve predicted then that Romano would evolve into one of the top closers in the American League. Heading into Sunday’s action, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum is tied for the American League-lead with 16 saves this season. That’s pretty amazing for a 10th round draft pick who was used almost exclusively as a starter in the minors and didn’t make his big league debut until he was 26.

-Right-hander Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) continues to be one of the most reliable starting pitchers in the American League. The Cleveland Guardians right-hander allowed three runs in seven innings in his start against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday to pick up his third win of the season. That marked his seventh consecutive start in which he has pitched at least six innings. The Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team alum’s record on the season is 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 60 2/3 innings in 10 starts.

-On Friday, Boston Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) struck out 11 batters in just five innings but was saddled with the loss as the Sox were defeated 5-2 by the Angels. The loss snapped a personal five-game winning streak for Pivetta. The 29-year-old Victoria Eagles and Junior National Team alum has still been one of the most dominant starters in the American League over the past month. He is now 5-1 with a 2.03 ERA in his last six starts. In those appearances, he has struck out 40 batters in 40 innings.

-Slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) returned to the St. Louis Cardinals’ lineup on Tuesday after being sidelined since May 19 with right shoulder impingement. He promptly had two-hit performances in three of the first four games. He belted his third home run of the season on Wednesday. It was a solo shot in the fourth inning off Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Corey Kluber. He also doubled and drove in three runs in the Cards’ 5-4 win over the Reds on Saturday. With this recent hot stretch, the Langley Blaze and Junior National Team alum has boosted his batting average from .203 to .219.

-It was 29 years ago today that Rob Butler (East York, Ont.) made his MLB debut with the Blue Jays. Batting ninth and starting in left field, he went 1-for-4 in the Blue Jays’ 12-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium. His first major league hit was a single off left-handed reliever Tom Bolton to lead off the ninth. Butler went on to bat .271 in 17 games for the Blue Jays that season and was on the postseason roster of the World Series-winning squad. In Game 4 of the World Series, he became the first Canadian to score a run for a Canadian team in the Fall Classic. The following contest, he became the first Canuck to register a hit for a Canadian team in the World Series.

-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony in St. Marys, Ont., on Saturday. It’s the Hall’s first in-person induction ceremony since 2019. The Hall announced this week that in addition to 2020 inductees Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) and Duane Ward and 2022 inductee Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.), 2018 inductee and Montreal Expos great Pedro Martinez will be in attendance. Unfortunately, 2020 inductees Jacques Doucet (Montreal, Que.) and John Olerud will be unable to attend the ceremonies. The plan is to honour them in person in 2023. Induction Day in St. Marys is a magical day. You should make the trek to the Stonetown to experience it. It’s free to attend the ceremony. More information can be found here.

-If you’re a Canadian baseball history buff, like me, do yourself a favour and buy the recently released SABR book called Our Game Too: Influential Figures and Milestones in Canadian Baseball. It was edited by my friend, baseball historian and co-founder of the Centre for Canadian Baseball Research, Andrew North, and it features chapters by many of my favourite Canadian baseball writers and historians, including Andrew North, Bill Humber, Chip Martin, Tom Hawthorn, David Matchett, Richard Armstrong, Stephen Dame, Allen Tait and Warren Campbell. There’s even a chapter on Ed Pinnance by the wonderful Marty Healy who passed away in 2020. I was happy to see that his contributions to Canadian baseball history are still being recognized. You can purchase the book on Amazon or at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. The local SABR chapter will also be selling copies on induction day.

-This week’s trivia question: Three other Canadians have appeared in a postseason game for the Toronto Blue Jays since Rob Butler did so in 1993. Name two of them. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.

-The answer to last week’s trivia question (J.A. Happ won 20 games for the Blue Jays in 2016. Who is the only other LEFT-HANDER to win 20 games in a season for the Blue Jays?) was David Wells in 2000.

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