But What Do I Know? . . . Michael Soroka, James Paxton, Nick Pivetta, Larry Walker, Ed Sprague

May 7, 2023

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:

-After recording wins in both of his starts with triple-A Worcester over the past seven days, left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) will join the Boston Red Sox this week, according to Ian Browne of MLB.com. Last Sunday, Paxton permitted just two hits and fanned eight in 5 1/3 scoreless innings in the Worcester’s 5-0 win over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. He followed that up by allowing just two runs on two hits in a start against the Buffalo Bisons on Friday. Since last Sunday, he has lowered his triple-A ERA from 10.32 to 6.23. The veteran lefty has never pitched a regular season game for the Red Sox and has not taken the mound in a major league game since exiting his spring training start on March 3 with a hamstring injury. Paxton, 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 34-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.

-On Saturday, right-hander Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) allowed three earned runs in four innings against the Charlotte Knights in his fifth start with the Atlanta Braves’ triple-A Gwinnett Stripers. He gave up seven hits and struck out five in the contest. He now owns a 5.23 ERA in five starts with the Stripers. Soroka was sidelined for much of this spring with tightness in his left hamstring. After initially tearing his right Achilles tendon on August 3, 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.

-Happy 86th Birthday to former Montreal Expos pitcher and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Claude Raymond! The St. Jean, Que., native made his major league debut with the Chicago White Sox on April 15, 1959. From 1961 to 1971, while playing with the Milwaukee Braves, Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves and Expos, Raymond evolved into one of the National League’s premier relief pitchers. He finished in the top 10 in saves four times (1962, 1966, 1967, 1970) and earned an All-Star selection in 1966. When he was sold to the Expos on August 19, 1969, he became the first Canadian to play for a Canadian major league team. In his second season in Montreal, he registered a career-high 23 saves and cemented his legacy as the greatest big league pitcher ever to come out of the province of Quebec. Following his playing career, Raymond became a well-known TV and radio analyst for the Expos. 

-The Toronto Blue Jays placed right-hander Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont.) on the 15-day injured list with a hamstring strain on Friday. Pop, who has posted a 6.59 ERA in 15 appearances for the Blue Jays this season, sustained the injury with two outs in the eighth inning of the Blue Jays’ 11-5 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Thursday. The 26-year-old right-hander had been hit hard in his two appearances in May after a strong April that saw batters hit just .167 against him. After the Blue Jays acquired him from the Miami Marlins on August 2, 2022, Pop developed into a reliable middle reliever for the club, posting a 2-0 record a 1.89 ERA in 17 appearances. In a combined 35 regular season games between the Blue Jays and the Marlins in 2022, he went 4-0 with a 2.77 ERA and fanned 25 in 39 innings. After three collegiate seasons with the Kentucky Wildcats, Pop was chosen in the seventh round of the 2017 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made five scoreless appearances in Rookie ball for the Dodgers that year and allowed just one run in 19 games out of the bullpen in High-A the ensuing year before he was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles as part of the package for Manny Machado that July. He spent parts of two seasons in the O’s organization before he was taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 draft in December 2020. The D-Backs then flipped him to the Marlins. The Junior National Team alum spent the entire 2021 season in the big leagues with the Marlins, posting a 1-0 record and a 4.12 ERA in 51 appearances, striking out 51 batters in 54 2/3 innings.

-Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) earned his second career win against the Blue Jays on Wednesday. The 30-year-old right-hander allowed three runs and struck out six in six innings in the Red Sox 8-3 victory over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park. The Victoria Eagles and Junior National Team alum’s previous win against the Blue Jays came at the Rogers Centre on July 19, 2021 when he allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings in the Red Sox 13-4 victory. In six starts this season, Pivetta is 2-2 with a 4.99 ERA and has struck out 34 batters in 30 2/3 innings.

-Right-hander Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) was released by the Chicago Cubs on April 30 (Hat tip to the Canadian Baseball Network’s George Farelli for being the first to report this) and then signed by the Minnesota Twins to a minor league contract on Thursday. The 27-year-old righty had permitted five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings with the triple-A Iowa Cubs to start the reason. Taylor, who was one of Canada’s top relievers at the World Baseball Classic, is in his seventh professional season. Selected out of the University of British Columbia in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Taylor has since spent tenures in the D-Backs, Tampa Bay Rays, Blue Jays and Washington Nationals organizations. He has pitched in triple-A in each of the past three campaigns. In total, in 150 minor league appearances (including 19 starts), he owns a 3.55 ERA and has struck out 304 batters in 258 2/3 innings. He had signed a minor league deal with the Cubs in early February.

-On this date 28 years ago, Colorado Rockies outfielder Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) belted his 100th major league home run. It was a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth inning off Dodgers right-hander Hideo Nomo in the Rockies’ 12-10 loss at Coors Field. With that home run, Walker became just the third Canadian to sock 100 home runs in the major leagues, joining George Selkirk (Huntsville, Ont.) and Jeff Heath (Fort William, Ont.).

-On June 11, six days prior to his induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, longtime Manitoba baseball executive and coach Joe Wiwchar will be celebrated in his hometown of Morden in a ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. at Buhler Field. He will throw out the first pitch prior to a game between the Morden Mudhens and Winkler Whips. The celebration will then carry on to the Access Event Centre, which is home to the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Wiwchar has devoted seven decades to baseball in his home province, as a player, manager, coach, volunteer, executive and administrator. Best known for his long and successful coaching career, which spanned from 1953 to 2013, the tireless Manitoban regularly coached two or more teams in a season. One of his most successful years was 1971 when he managed the South Central Beavers Peewee squad to a provincial title and a silver medal at the Western Canada Championship. That same year, he started a 28-year tenure as head coach of the Morden Mohawks of the Border League, a senior baseball circuit. During one stretch with the Mohawks, he piloted the club to 12 league championships in 18 years. Along the way, he helped lead Team Manitoba to a silver medal at the 1977 Canada Summer Games as an assistant coach and he was the head coach of the provincial Bison (Juvenile) team that captured the 1977 Western Canada championship. As an executive, Wiwchar was a member of the committee that formed the Manitoba Baseball Association in 1968. Since that time, he has served in many key capacities for the organization, including as president in 1976 and 1977. On a national level, Wiwchar served on the Baseball Canada executive and planning committee in 1974 and 1975. In 2004, he was recognized for his more than 50 years in baseball, with Baseball Canada’s Volunteer of the Year Award. In 1998, he became the first administrative manager of the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame, a position he held until 2022. For his efforts, Wiwchar was inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Association Honour Society in 1989 and was named a Life Member by the Western Canada Baseball Association. He was also inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999 and won the Sport Manitoba Order of Sports Excellence Volunteer Service Award seven years later. In 2011, he was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

-Twenty-three years ago today, Miami Marlins right-hander Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) tossed a one-hitter against the New York Mets at Pro Player Stadium. Mike Piazza ruined Dempster’s no-hitter with a double in the sixth inning in the Marlins’ 3-0 win. Dempster walked four and struck out eight in the contest. It was the only one-hitter he threw in his career.

-On this date in 1991, Ed Sprague made his major league debut with the Blue Jays. Batting eighth and playing third base, he went 0-for-3 but he fielded four balls cleanly in the Blue Jays’ 3-2 loss to the Texas Rangers at SkyDome. Sprague would, of course, go on to become a key member of the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series-winning teams in 1992 and 1993.

-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame has opened for its 26th season in St. Marys, Ont. You can visit them today. For more information, you can read my blog entry.

-This week’s trivia question: Who is the Toronto Blue Jays’ all-time leader in sacrifice hits? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.

-The answer to last week’s trivia question (The great Felipe Alou managed the Montreal Expos from 1992 to May 30, 2001. Who took over for Alou as Expos manager in 2001?) was Jeff Torborg.

9 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? . . . Michael Soroka, James Paxton, Nick Pivetta, Larry Walker, Ed Sprague

Add yours

  1. Thanks for another Sunday morning Canadian baseball fix. Is the answer to the trivia question Tony Fernandez?

  2. So happy for Paxton. Great news. Let’s hope he pitches well enough to stick. Thanks for all the weekly info kevin

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