April 2, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-Catcher Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) didn’t crack the Cleveland Guardians’ Opening Day roster, but he did homer in his first at bat of the season for the triple-A Columbus Clippers on Friday. He also had a single and a walk in the Clippers’ season opener that they lost 11-5 to the Iowa Cubs. Naylor played in four Cactus League games for the Guardians this spring and also impressed behind the dish for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. He caught all four contests for the national team and belted a home run against Mexico in the final game. The younger brother of Josh, Bo received his first big league promotion with the Guardians on October 1, 2022 and proceeded to appear in five games. The Junior National Team and Ontario Blue Jays grad was also on the club’s postseason roster. Before his call-up, the 23-year-old catcher, a first-round pick of the Guardians in 2018, batted .263 with a .392 on-base percentage (OBP), while belting 21 home runs and stealing 20 bases, in 118 games between double-A and triple-A in 2022. For his efforts, Baseball America named him the Guardians’ Minor League Player of the Year and he was named to the International League All-Star Team.
-According to Gabrielle Star of the Boston Herald, left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) will make his first minor league rehab start on Wednesday. This comes after he threw a second live batting practice session at the Red Sox complex in Fort Myers, Fla., on March 29. Paxton has not thrown in a game since exiting his spring training start on March 3 with a hamstring injury. 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 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.
-Congratulations to left-hander Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta.) who not only made the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Opening Day roster, but also recorded the win for his club in their first game of the season. The Canuck southpaw tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in the Pirates’ 5-4 Opening Day win over the Cincinnati Reds. It was the first time in the 31-year-old’s 10-year pro career that he has made a big league Opening Day roster. “The off-day is going to be nice tomorrow so I can let it all soak in and take my wife to a nice dinner because she’s been traveling all across the world . . . so it will be nice to have her relax for a little bit,” Zastryzny told Alex Stumpf of DK Pittsburgh Sports after Thursday’s game. Earlier in March, Zastryzny started for Canada against Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. Zastryzny was a second-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2013. He recorded a 4.41 ERA in 18 relief appearances with the Cubs from 2016 to 2018 and earned a World Series ring in 2016. From 2019 to 2022, he pitched in the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Los Angeles Angels organizations. In December, he signed a minor league deal with the Pirates.
-Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) had his streak of 14 consecutive Opening Day starts snapped on Thursday (That’s also a record for Canadian major leaguers). But the Canuck first baseman was at The Great American Ballpark on Opening Day and took batting practice with the Reds. The Reds sent Votto to triple-A Louisville on Saturday for a minor league rehab assignment and he promptly homered on the first pitch of his first at bat. Votto is still recovering from shoulder surgery. The 39-year-old underwent the surgery last summer, just four days after playing his 1,989th major league game which broke Larry Walker’s record for most games played by a Canadian. The 16-season veteran has one year left on his contract with the Reds (with a team option for 2024). If Votto can return early in the 2022 season, he has strong shot at breaking more of Walker’s all-time Canadian big league records. For example, Votto has 2,093 career hits, which is just 67 short of Walker. The Reds first baseman has also belted 453 doubles. Walker had 471.
-After an outstanding performance with Canada at the World Baseball Classic that saw him go 7-for-13 (.538 batting average) with two home runs and five walks in four games, Edouard Julien (Quebec, Que.) continues to swing a hot bat in the Minnesota Twins’ organization. The prized infield prospect homered in his triple-A debut with the St. Paul Saints in their season opener against the Toledo Mud Hens on Friday. Julien also went 8-for-23 (.348 batting average) with three home runs in eight Grapefruit League games for the Twins this spring. Selected in the 18th round of the 2019 MLB draft by the Twins, the Junior National Team alum enjoyed a breakout season in 2022. He batted .300 and posted a .441 OBP in 113 games for the double-A Wichita Wind Surge. He also belted 17 home runs, walked 98 times and stole 19 bases. The 23-year-old Julien also excelled in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) for the Glendale Desert Dogs, finishing with a .400 batting average in 21 games to lead the circuit. He also topped the AFL with a .563 OBP and 1.248 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). For his efforts, he was named AFL Breakout Player of the Year and the second baseman on Baseball America’s Double-A All-Star Team. Baseball America ranks him as the Twins’ fourth-best prospect.
-Toronto Blue Jays legend Jesse Barfield will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on June 17. On Twitter on Thursday, he revealed the artifacts (Photo below) he will shipping to the Canadian ball hall for his display. Barfield’s display will include the last batting helmet he wore as a Blue Jay, a game-worn Blue Jays cap, a Canadian Cooper game-used bat and his Blue Jays batting cage jacket.
-I did this research about Toronto Blue Jays Opening Day starters prior to their first regular season game of 2023 on Thursday. The biggest surprise to me was the shortstop position. I would’ve thought for sure it would be Tony Fernandez.
-I saw this photo (below) of a young Cal Quantrill at his father’s Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in St. Marys, Ont., in 2010 on the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Twitter feed on Thursday and had to share it. Quantrill seems to be on the same trajectory as his father, who has the most major league pitching appearances (841) of any Canadian. Cal, an Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team alum, will make his regular season debut with the Cleveland Guardians when he starts against the Seattle Mariners today. The 28-year-old right-hander is coming off an outstanding 2022 season with the Guardians in which he set career-highs with 15 wins and 186 1/3 innings pitched, while posting a 3.38 ERA. His 32 starts were tied for the second-most by an American League starter.
-Happy 78th Birthday to the criminally underrated Reggie Smith! Before he batted .287 and collected 2,020 hits – including 314 home runs – in his 17-season major league career, the switch-hitting outfielder honed his skills with the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs, managed by Dick Williams, in 1966 (See if you can find him in the photo below). In that season, Smith batted .320 and had 18 home runs and 80 RBIs in 143 games. Smith was also a seven-time big league all-star who won a Gold Glove as an outfielder with the Red Sox in 1968.
-I’m sending my best to the following Canadians who were released from their major league organizations in March (according to George Farelli of the Canadian Baseball Network): Nolan Machibroda (Saskatoon, Sask.) by the Minnesota Twins, J.D. Osborne (Whitby, Ont.) by the Miami Marlins, Alex Nolan (Burlington, Ont.) by the Toronto Blue Jays and Conor Angel (Pointe Claire, Que.) by the Tampa Bay Rays.
-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony to be held on June 17 is free to attend. But the Hall does rely on donors, sponsors and advertisers to be able to hold this event. One of the ways you or your business can help the Hall is by taking out an ad in their annual induction program which is sold on induction day and in the museum for the rest of the year. You can purchase an ad for as low as $125. Click here for more information.
-This week’s trivia question: What Montreal Expos pitcher made the most Opening Day starts for the team? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who is the only Canadian to be named to an All-World Baseball Classic Team after one of the tournaments?) was outfielder Michael Saunders in 2013.