March 5, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-Boston Red Sox left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) exited his first spring training start on Friday with a hamstring injury. On Saturday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters that Paxton has a Grade 1 hamstring strain and will be shut down temporarily. Although it’s the least serious type of hamstring strain, Paxton is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day. “This is not how I wanted this to go,” Paxton told MLB.com on Friday after the injury. “I wanted to go through Spring Training clean. But, you know, I can’t control that. All I can control is going to work on this now and doing whatever I can to get back out there and pitch again.” The Canuck lefty, who had signed with the Red Sox prior to the 2022 season, exercised his $4-million option with the club in November. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2021, Paxton had been working his way back in the Sox system when he suffered a grade 2 lat tear in late August 2022 that shut him down for the season. A North Delta Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, the Canuck lefty has pitched in parts of nine major league campaigns and owns a 57-33 record and a 3.59 ERA in 137 starts.
-It appears that veteran left-hander Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) will pitch out of the bullpen for Canada at the World Baseball Classic. “We’re not asking him to go out there and throw seven innings anymore or have us jump on his shoulders,” Baseball Canada national teams director Greg Hamilton told Scott Roblin of Global News of Albers’ role on the WBC squad. “We’re asking him to bring situational experience and be able to navigate through some stats that are going to be important to the overall success of the team.” Albers, who hasn’t pitched professionally since 2021, has been getting his arm into shape in his home province of Saskatchewan. He told Roblin that he is ready to pitch in the World Baseball Classic and even after it, if an opportunity is presented to him. “If someone comes knocking to offer me a minor league deal, there’s a good chance that I would try to go play,” said Albers. “Again, it’s so hard to hang them up and especially after an injury, trying to feel where you’re at and see if you can still go out there and do it.” In his 13-season professional career that has included big league stops with the Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners, as well as a successful tenure with the Orix Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League, Albers owns a 3.70 ERA in 327 appearances, including 174 starts, spanning 1,462 2/3 innings. He has made appearances at eight different tournaments for the Canadian national team and was a member of both Pan Am Games gold medal-winning teams in 2011 and 2015. He also pitched the first seven innings of a combined no-hitter for Canada against Colombia in the Americas Olympic Qualifier on May 31, 2021.
-Catcher/first baseman Andy Yerzy (Toronto, Ont.) has signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds and has withdrawn from the World Baseball Classic. Bob Elliott, of the Canadian Baseball Network, was the first to report the transaction. Yerzy, who will be replaced on the Canadian roster by Blue Jays outfield prospect Dasan Brown (Oakville, Ont.), was a free agent after playing parts of six seasons in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization, where he rose to the double-A level. Initially during his pro career, the Toronto Mets and Junior National Team alum was used exclusively as a catcher but in recent years, he has seen more action at first base. In total, he has socked 61 home runs in 438 professional games. Yerzy previously suited up for Canada’s Senior National Team in the 2019 Pan Am Games qualifier and at the 2019 Premier12 Tournament.
–George Farelli, of the Canadian Baseball Network, reported that right-hander Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs in early February. The 6-foot-6 right-hander, who will pitch out of the bullpen for Canada at the World Baseball Classic, was selected out of the University of British Columbia in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has since spent parts of six seasons in the professional ranks in the D-Backs, Tampa Bay Rays, Blue Jays and Washington Nationals organizations. He has pitched in triple-A in each of the past two campaigns. In total, in 147 minor league appearances (including 19 starts), he owns a 3.42 ERA and has struck out 297 batters in 255 innings.
-Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) is working his way back from shoulder surgery. There’s no set timetable for his return, but just in case you need a reminder of how great he is, I stumbled upon this stat on Twitter:
-Happy 44th Birthday to Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.)! Selected in the sixth round of the 1999 MLB draft by the Baltimore Orioles, the Canadian left-hander would pitch in parts of 11 major league seasons. His finest campaign came with the O’s in 2007 when he went 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA, while striking out 221 batters in 182 innings, to finish fifth in the American League Cy Young voting. After parts of five seasons with the O’s, Bedard enjoyed stints with the Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros and Rays. In all, in 241 major league games (230 starts), he registered 71 wins and posted a 3.99 ERA. His 1,246 big league strikeouts are the third-most by a Canadian behind only Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) and Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.). Bedard also pitched for Canada at the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
-Speaking of Canadian left-handers, here’s something I learned this week about the way former Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.) signs his autograph:
-Here’s another remarkable Fergie Jenkins stat, courtesy of Codify Baseball. I should have known this, but somehow I didn’t:
-Toronto Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) will not be pitching for Italy at this year’s World Baseball Classic, but two former Blue Jays pitchers are. Right-handers Joe Biagini and Sam Gaviglio will toe the rubber for the Italian squad. As Roberto Angotti shares in this article, Biagini and Gaviglio pitched on the 2018 and 2019 Blue Jays together. Both right-handers have Italian roots. It will be Biagini’s first time pitching for Italy and the second for Gaviglio, who toed the rubber for the Italians in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
-Who was the first player ever acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays? The answer is catcher Phil Roof. He was acquired by the Blue Jays from the Chicago White Sox on October 21, 1976, two weeks prior to the 1976 MLB expansion draft. Roof turns 82 today. The veteran catcher suited up for just three games for the Blue Jays, but by the time he landed in Toronto, he had already played in 14 major league seasons, starting with the Milwaukee Braves in 1961. Roof also played for the California Angels, Cleveland, Kansas City/Oakland A’s, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins and the White Sox. He batted .215 in 857 big league games. At 82, he is the second oldest living former Blue Jays player, which leads to his week’s trivia question.
-This week’s trivia question: Who is the oldest living former Toronto Blue Jays player? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) made 841 pitching appearances in the majors. Six other Canadian pitchers have made more than 500 major league appearances. Name two of them. ) was any two of Rheal Cormier (Cap-Pele, N.B.), Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.), Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.), John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.), John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) and Jesse Crain (Toronto, Ont.).