But What Do I Know? . . . Edouard Julien, Owen Caissie, Zach Pop, John Upham

Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) made his MLB debut with the Minnesota Twins on Thursday. Photo: Baseball Canada

April 16, 2023

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:

-In the first inning of his second major league game, Junior National Team alum Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.), who was called up by the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday, recorded his first two big league hits. Leading off against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, Julien singled off the right field wall. Later in the Twins’ nine-run frame, the 23-year-old Canuck homered to left. With that, according to OptaStats, he became the first the big league player of the modern era to register their first two major league hits in the first inning of the same game. Also according to OptaStats, Julien is only the fourth hitter since 1974 to record his first career hit and first career home run in the same inning. Aramis Garcia was the last player to do this. He did it for the San Francisco Giants on August 31, 2018.

-Julien is wearing No. 47 for the Twins. That’s the same number Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.) donned for his seven seasons with the Twins from 1998 to 2004. In 816 games with the Twins, Koskie batted .280 with a .373 on-base percentage (OBP) and 101 home runs. An honest Julien admitted to Star Tribune reporter Patrick Reusse that he didn’t know much about the significance of No. 47. “I don’t think so. I think there was an old baseball player … I can’t remember his name. I’m really sorry. He’s an old Canadian,” said Julien when asked about the number. Of course, he was referring to Koskie. Reusse then called Koskie who had already heard the “old Canadian” remark. “You’re too late,” said Koskie. “I’ve already been told that. He’s right. I am an old Canadian ballplayer.” There are, however, some similarities between Julien and Koskie. Like Koskie, Julien is an offensively gifted left-handed hitting infielder.

-Julien is the 11th Canadian to play for the Twins. Thanks to Scott Crawford, the director of operations at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, for helping me assemble a list of the 10 previous Canadians that have played for the Twins. That list includes Reno Bertoia (Windsor, Ont.), Georges Maranda (Levis, Que.), Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.), Vince Horsman (Dartmouth, N.S.), Koskie, Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), Jesse Crain (Toronto, Ont.), Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.), Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) and Rene Tosoni (Port Coquitlam, B.C.).

-So with Julien now in the big leagues, who will be the next Canadian to crack a major league roster? Well, Owen Caissie (Burlington, Ont.) is making a strong case for himself with the Chicago Cubs’ double-A Tennessee Smokies. The 20-year-old outfielder belted three home runs and drove in six for the Smokies in their 8-5 win over the Montgomery Biscuits on Wednesday. He followed that up with another home run and a triple on Thursday. His red-hot start comes on the heels of his strong performance for Canada at the World Baseball Classic that saw him homer and drive in four runs in three games. Chosen by the San Diego Padres in the second round of the 2020 MLB draft, the Junior National Team and Fieldhouse Pirates alum never played a game in the Pads’ organization before he was dealt to the Cubs as part of the package for right-hander Yu Darvish in December 2020. Since then, Caissie has played two full seasons in the Cubs’ organization. After batting .302 with seven home runs in 54 games between Rookie Ball and Low-A in 2021, Caissie spent 2022 in High A and batted .254 with 11 home runs in 105 contests.

-Right-hander Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont.) became the first Canadian to earn a win in a Toronto Blue Jays’ home opener when he did so in his relief appearance on Tuesday in the Blue Jays’ 9-3 win over the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre. Pop relieved starter Alek Manoah in the fifth inning with the Blue Jays trailing 3-2 and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the victory. For good measure, Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) was the winning pitcher in the second game of that series. The hard-throwing closer pitched a scoreless top of the 10th before Blue Jays outfielder George Springer hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the frame to secure a 4-3 victory.

-Congratulations to Jim and Marie Fanning’s daughter, Cynthia, and her husband Nathan who welcomed their first child at 9:38 a.m. on Saturday. It’s a boy named William David – named for grandpas William Jim Fanning and David Brubaker. William David weighs in at 7 pounds, 13 ounces. Marie is a very proud grandma and Grandpa Gentlemen Jim is applauding from heaven.

-Left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) threw 70 pitches in his second rehab start for the triple-A Worcester Red Sox on Friday. He allowed two runs on four hits, while striking out six, in 3 1/3 innings against the Columbus Clippers. “Felt good. Step in the right direction,” said Paxton to Cooper Boardman of WEEI after the game. “Fastball felt good. Still need to dial in the breaking balls a little bit, but it was a step in the right direction.” This comes after he threw 58 pitches in three scoreless innings in his first start for Worcester last Sunday. Paxton has not taken the mound in a major league 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 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.

-Meanwhile, right-hander Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) permitted just one run on three hits, while striking out five, in four innings in his second start with the Atlanta Braves’ triple-A Gwinnett Stripers. This was an improvement on his first start in which he allowed one run on four hits in 3 2/3 innings. Soroka made his first Grapefruit League start of the season for the Braves on March 22 against the Tigers. He threw just 36 pitches, but it was the first time he had toed the rubber in a major league game since tearing his Achilles tendon on August 3, 2020. The 25-year-old righty is aiming to rejoin the Braves’ starting rotation in 2023. He was sidelined for much of this spring with tightness in his left hamstring. After initially tearing his Achilles in 2020, Soroka then re-tore it the following June. After two years of recovery and rehabilitation, Soroka returned to game action in August last year and posted a 5.40 ERA in six late-season starts between class-A and triple-A before being shut down with elbow inflammation. A graduate of the 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.

Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Oscar Judd (London, Ont.)

-It was 82 years ago today that left-hander and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Oscar Judd (London, Ont.) made his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox. He recorded the final out of the eighth inning in relief of starter Charlie Wagner in the Red Sox 8-7, 12-inning win over the Washington Senators at Fenway Park. It wasn’t until 1942, however, that Judd became a regular starter with the Red Sox. His breakout campaign came in 1943 when he posted an 11-6 record, a sparkling 2.90 ERA and was selected to play in the All-Star Game.

-After homering for the triple-A Louisville Bats on the first pitch of his minor league rehab assignment on April 1, Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) has struggled at the plate. He is currently 7-for-38 (.184 batting average) in 10 games in triple-A. Reds manager David Bell told reporters on Thursday that there is still no set timetable for Votto’s return. “He’s healthy, but he’s still fighting his way to getting all the way to where any player needs to be to be able to compete at this level,” Bell told Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He’s not quite there yet. Still day to day.” The 39-year-old Votto underwent shoulder 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. Now entering his 17th major league season, he has one year left on his contract with the Reds (with a team option for 2024).

-On this date 56 years ago, left-hander John Upham (Windsor, Ont.) made his major league debut with the Chicago Cubs. Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) started the game for the Cubs, but left the contest after 6 1/3 innings with the Cubs leading 5-2 over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Upham was the second reliever for the Cubs and he allowed a single to Manny Mota in the ninth inning. Mota was the only batter he’d face before being replaced by right-hander Joe Niekro. The Pirates then rallied for a 6-5 win. Upham was actually a two-way player for the Cubs in parts of the 1967 and 1968 seasons. During those two campaigns, the versatile Canuck made seven mound appearances and played in the outfield in four games.

– Few things are as painful to me as listening to my own voice, but I also love to talk about Canadian baseball history. I was recently interviewed by Matt Betts for the Canadian Baseball Network podcast. I listened to it. I cringed at some of my answers, but overall I’m not completely embarrassed. If you want to listen to me, here’s the link.

-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: Outside of John Upham, name another Canadian who spent time in the big leagues as both a left-handed pitcher and as an outfielder. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.

-The answer to last week’s trivia question (John Hiller made 545 major league appearances. Who is the only Canadian left-hander with more major league appearances?) was Rheal Cormier (Cap Pele, N.B.) who made 683 big appearances.

18 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? . . . Edouard Julien, Owen Caissie, Zach Pop, John Upham

Add yours

  1. Really enjoying the newsletter. I subscribed a month or so ago after following on Twitter, and the depth of Canadian baseball information you share is fantastic. I could very well be mistaken, but I wanted to mention that I believe Mike Soroka has requested to be called Michael this season. I’ve seen it in a few reliable places (The Athletic being one) and a couple of comments by him.

  2. Georges Maranda, also wore # 47 as a Canadian for the Twins. He played only one season for team with an ERA of 4.46 in 72.2 innings.

  3. Great news about Julien! Let’s hope Paxton and Soroka keep pitching well.
    Lots of great news all around.

  4. I really liked the interview with you on the podcast. Thanks for including the link to it.

    1. Hi Frank. It gets tricky with photos. I try to use baseball cards or photos where I don’t have to worry about copyright issues. Zach Pop, as far as I know, doesn’t have a Toronto Blue Jays card yet. The section about Judd in the article is more about his debut, but you’re right I could’ve mentioned about his time with the Maple Leafs. Thanks for reading.

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