But What Do I Know? . . . Zach Pop, Vin Scully, Jordan Romano, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Right-hander Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont), shown here with the Junior National Team, became the 13th Canadian to pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays when he tossed a scoreless inning against the Minnesota Twins on Friday. Photo: Baseball Canada

August 7, 2022

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:

-Right-hander Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont.) pitched a scoreless sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins in his Toronto Blue Jays’ debut on Friday. With that, according to Sportsnet statistician Scott Carson, Pop became the 13th Canadian to pitch for the Blue Jays. He logged another scoreless inning in the Blue Jays’ 7-3 loss on Saturday. The former Ontario Blue Jay and Junior National Team alum was acquired by the Blue Jays from the Miami Marlins, along with veteran reliever Anthony Bass, prior to the trade deadline on Tuesday in exchange for top infield prospect Jordan Groshans. Pop was originally selected by the Blue Jays in the 23rd round of the 2014 draft out Notre Dame Secondary School in Brampton, but he elected not to sign and headed to the University of Kentucky.

– Thirteen rounds earlier in that same 2014 MLB draft, as Matt Betts pointed out on Twitter on Tuesday, the Blue Jays chose right-hander Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.). Despite a tough-luck loss in relief on Friday against the Twins, Romano has been outstanding in 2022, particularly during the month of July. On Tuesday, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, who was selected to the American League All-Star team, was named American League Reliever of the Month for July. Last month, he posted a 0.84 ERA with seven saves in 10 outings. He struck out 12 batters in 10 2/3 innings. With his save against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, Romano became just the seventh Canadian pitcher to register 50 career major league saves, according to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. See their tweet below.

-Vin Scully, the legendary voice of the Dodgers and arguably the best play-by-play broadcaster Major League Baseball has ever known, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 94. His broadcasting career with the Dodgers spanned a remarkable 67 seasons from 1949 to 2016. Former Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.) and Canadian pitching legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) were among the many to pay tribute to Scully:

-After a rough start to July which saw his ERA balloon to 5.30 on July 9, right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) has not allowed a run in his last eight relief appearances for the Chicago Cubs, lowering his ERA to 4.23. Wick, who was sidelined for much of 2021 by an oblique injury, has made 43 appearances and has four saves for the Cubs this season. The Vancouver Cannons and Junior National Team alum spent parts of four previous seasons in the majors. 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 San Diego Padres in 2018.

-Consistency continues to elude Boston Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.). He had a 4-1 record in each of May and June, with sparkling ERAs of 2.11 and 2.25 respectively. Unfortunately, those months are sandwiched between April where he went 0-3 with an 8.27 ERA in four starts and July where he posted an 0-3 record and a 9.38 ERA in five starts. On Wednesday, in his most recent start, he permitted three runs on seven hits in five innings to the Kansas City Royals but received a no-decision. The 29-year-old Victoria Eagles and Junior National Team alum’s record on the season is 8-8 with a 4.51 ERA in an American League-leading 22 starts, spanning 122 2/3 innings.

-A couple of months ago, there were actually people on Twitter suggesting the Blue Jays should send Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) to the minors to rediscover his power stroke. They complained he was hitting too many ground balls, despite the fact that he was on a 35-plus home run pace for the season. Hopefully, Guerrero has silenced those critics with his current 17-game hitting streak that has seen his batting average rise from .262 to .290 and his slugging percentage rise from .478 to .514. He has belted three home runs during his career-high 17-game hitting streak, which I’m sure isn’t enough for his critics. But I’ve long contended that Guerrero Jr. is an elite all-around hitter. He doesn’t have to hit a home run every game for me to appreciate his greatness at the plate.

-Speaking of great all-around hitters born in Canada, Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) has started looking like his old self in recent weeks. In his last 13 games, he has four home runs and owns a .444 on-base percentage (OBP). He has also boosted his batting average from .213 to .224.

-According to Baseball America’s Minor League Transactions page, the Detroit Tigers released outfielder Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.) near the end of July. Robson, who made his big league debut with the Tigers in 2021, had struggled with triple-A Toledo this season, batting .192 in 53 games. When Robson made his major league debut with the Tigers on August 12, 2021, he became the 13th Canadian to play in the big leagues that season. The Canuck outfielder got in four games and scored his first big league run, before he was sent back to triple-A. Robson was also a standout for the Canadian national team in 2021 at the Americas Olympic Qualifier in Florida, going 8-for-19 (.421 batting average). Selected in the eighth round of the 2016 MLB draft, the Junior National Team alum played parts of six seasons in the Tigers’ organization and owns a .283 batting average, .376 OBP and has 111 stolen bases in 552 minor league games.

Joe Siddall (Windsor, Ont.) hit his first MLB home run 24 years ago today.

-It was 24 years ago today that Joe Siddall (Windsor, Ont.) belted his first major league home run. Fittingly, it came as a Detroit Tiger, the team he grew up cheering for, at Tiger Stadium, a stadium he frequented as a child. Siddall’s homer was a solo shot off Seattle Mariners left-hander Jeff Fassero that cleared the right centre field wall at Tiger Stadium in the first game of a doubleheader. The ball banked off the façade in the upper deck in right centre field and bounced back on to the field where Mariners Hall of Fame centre fielder Ken Griffey Jr. picked it up and tossed it to a fan in the stands. Tigers staff attempted to get the ball back for Siddall and the fan finally relinquished it in exchange for a signed bat and ball from Griffey Jr. Siddall now has the ball at his Windsor home.

-Happy 38th Birthday to national team alum, former Houston Astros prospect and current Blue Jays mental skills coach Jimmy Van Ostrand (Vancouver, B.C.). Selected in the eighth round of the 2006 MLB draft by the Astros, the right-handed hitting outfielder/first baseman played parts of six professional seasons in the Astros’ organization, before completing his first pro career with two seasons in the Washington Nationals’ system. He was a key contributor to the Canadian national team over the years, including at the 2008 Olympics and on the 2011 gold medal-winning Pan Am Games squad. In 2012, in three games at the World Baseball Classic qualifier, he hit .538, bashed four home runs and knocked in 10. He has been the Blue Jays mental skills coach since 2019.

-This week’s trivia question: Two Canadians have recorded 40 or more saves in a major league season. Name them. Please provide your answer in the Comments section below.

– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) has 25 saves this season. Who holds the Canadian record for most saves in an American League season?) was John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.) who had 38 saves in 1973.

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