August 21, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
– Right-hander Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) allowed just one hit and struck out eight in four scoreless innings in a rehab start with the High-A Rome Braves on Tuesday. It was his first appearance in a professional game since he tore his right Achilles tendon in his start with the big league Braves on August 3, 2020. A graduate of the Calgary Redbirds and Junior National Team, Soroka was a first-round pick (28th overall) of the Braves in 2015. In 2019, he went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Unfortunately, his Achilles injury limited him to three starts in the pandemic shortened 2020 campaign. After extensive rehab, Soroka re-tore his Achilles tendon in June 2021 and started the 2022 season on the 60-day injured list. Soroka will continue his rehab with a start with the triple-A Gwinnett Stripers today. If all goes well, he could return to the Braves’ rotation in early September.
– Unfortunately, the update on left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) isn’t as positive. The Canuck southpaw, who’s working his way back from Tommy John surgery in the Boston Red Sox organization, was removed from his rehab start in the rookie-level Florida Complex League in the first inning on Thursday after he experienced lat tightness. Chris Cotillo, of MassLive.com, reports that Paxton has a mild lat strain and will undergo an MRI. The veteran lefty has been shut down from throwing. The most recent plan for Paxton was to have him back with the Red Sox in September. That now seems unlikely. 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. 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.
-It was 12 years ago today that Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.) belted the 21st pinch hit home run of his major league career to break Cliff Johnson’s pinch-hit home run record. The ball Stairs hit off Milwaukee Brewers reliever Kameron Loe for his record-setting round-tripper fortuitously ricocheted back on to the field and Stairs was able to retrieve it. In all, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee socked 23 pinch-hit home runs, which still stands as the big league record.
-On this date 26 years ago, Jason Dickson (Miramichi, N.B.) made his major league debut with the California Angels at Yankee Stadium. Before the Canadian right-hander could even catch his breath, his third big league pitch was deposited over the left field wall by Derek Jeter. But Dickson, who is now the president of Baseball Canada, regrouped and shut out the Yankees over the next 6-1/3 innings to record his first big league win.
-Happy 38th Birthday to Baseball Canada alum, former Detroit Tigers pitcher and all-around inspirational guy Dustin Molleken (Regina, Sask.)! Selected in the 15th round of the 2003 MLB draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Lethbridge Community College, Molleken toed the rubber for parts of eight seasons in Bucs’ system before enjoying tenures in the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Guardians and Detroit Tigers organizations. The 6-foot-4 righty made his big league debut with the Tigers in 2016. During his pro career, Molleken also consistently answered the call for the national team and he was a member of Canada’s gold medal winning squad at the 2011 Pan Am Games. He most recently pitched for Canada at the Americas Olympic Qualifier in 2021. In January 2022, he was named the pitching instructor of the Regina Red Sox Academy.
-St. Louis Cardinals slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) has had four two-hit games since last Sunday. It has been a difficult and injury-plagued season for the Canadian outfielder that has seen him battle shoulder, hamstring, wrist and leg injuries that have forced him to miss more than 40 games. For the season, the Langley Blaze and Junior National Team alum is batting .230 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs in 70 games.
-It was 29 years ago today that Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) belted the first grand slam of his major league career. Batting cleanup for the Montreal Expos, he delivered the bases-clearing blast off Cincinnati Reds right-hander John Roper in the top of the first inning at Riverfront Stadium to give the Expos a 4-0 lead. The Expos would eventually win 6-3. It was one of seven grand slams Walker hit during his 17-season major league career.
-Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) underwent successful surgery on his left rotator cuff and bicep on Friday. The surgery will require six months rehabilitation and he should be ready for spring training. The 38-year-old Votto announced he would undergo the surgery just four days after playing his 1,989th major league game which broke Walker’s record for most major league games played by a Canadian. Votto batted .205 with 11 home runs in 91 games this season. The 16-season veteran has one year left on his contract with the Reds (with a team option for 2024).
-Nineteen years ago today, Vladimir Guerrero belted a 454-foot home run off Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Odalis Perez in the third inning at Dodger Stadium for his 226th home run as a Montreal Expo. With this home run, he broke Andre Dawson’s franchise record for most home runs. Guerrero would sock eight more homers to finish with a record 234 as an Expo.
-Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) told writer Ray Bala for a Toronto Star article published on Saturday that he’ll retire at the end of this season. The 29-year-old outfielder is playing for the Guelph Royals of the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL). “I decided for myself that when Guelph reached out to me that it was something I needed to do for myself,” Pompey told Bala. “(You want to) go out, play the way you want to play and enjoy your last year of playing. I just wanted to end my career on a high note.” Pompey is batting .386 in 29 games for the Royals, which is the second-best in the IBL. After he hangs up his spikes, Pompey plans to pursue a career in the emergency services field. Pompey has spent parts of the past two seasons in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ and Los Angeles Angels’ organizations respectively. Those stints came after parts of 10 seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization. Selected by the Blue Jays in the 16th round of the 2010 MLB draft, Pompey got his first taste of big league action in 2014 and he began the following season as the Blue Jays’ starting centre fielder and served as a valuable pinch runner for the club in their 2015 playoff run. Unfortunately, in the ensuing seasons, he was hampered by a variety of injuries – including three concussions. In all, he competed in parts of four big league campaigns with the Blue Jays.
-This week’s trivia question: Six players have hit more than 200 home runs for the Toronto Blue Jays. Name three of them. Please provide your answer in the Comments section below.
– The answer to last week’s trivia question Other than the aforementioned Walker and Votto, four other Canadians have played 1,500 or more major league games. Name two of them.) was any two of Stairs, Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.), Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) and Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.).