June 4, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-On Wednesday, Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs to lead the Cleveland Guardians to a 12-8 win over the Baltimore Orioles. According to Baseball Reference, Naylor’s performance represented just the fourth time in Cleveland franchise history that a player has had four hits, a stolen base and has driven in six runs in the same contest. The other players to do it were Rube Lutze (1923), Grady Sizemore (2008) and Shin-Soo Choo (2009). For the record, the six RBIs were not a single-game best for Naylor. He had eight RBIs for the Guardians against the Chicago White Sox on May 9, 2022. All in all, it was an outstanding month of May for the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team grad. In 23 games, he batted .293 with five home runs and 25 RBIs.
-The news wasn’t as positive for his teammate and fellow Junior National Team alum Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.). The Canuck right-hander was placed on the 15-day injured list by the Guardians on Friday with right shoulder inflammation. The Ontario Terriers grad had allowed 14 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings in his last two starts. And after setting career-highs with 15 wins and 186 2/3 innings pitched in 2022, Quantrill has struggled to a 2-4 record with a 5.61 ERA in 11 starts, spanning 59 1/3 innings, this season.
-Left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) had another solid start for the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday. He allowed just one run on four hits, while striking out eight, in five innings against the Cincinnati Reds. The Red Sox eventually lost 5-4. That performance represented the third time in four big league starts this season that Paxton has tossed at least five innings and permitted two earned runs or fewer. He owns a 4.26 ERA and has 27 strikeouts in 19 innings. Paxton’s four starts with the Red Sox this year are his first in the major league regular season since April 6, 2021 with the Seattle Mariners. Since that time, Paxton has endured his second Tommy John surgery, a grade 2 lat tear and, most recently, a hamstring injury. The 6-foot-4 lefty, who had signed with the Red Sox prior to the 2022 season, exercised his $4-million option with the team in November. A North Delta Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, the 34-year-old southpaw has pitched in parts of 10 major league campaigns.
-Paxton’s return was a major reason why Canadian Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) was shifted to the bullpen by the Red Sox. It’s a move, however, that’s beginning to pay dividends for the club. In three relief appearances this week, Pivetta has allowed just two hits and struck out seven in five scoreless innings. The 30-year-old righty had struggled to a 3-3 record and a 6.30 ERA in eight starts this season before being sent to the pen. Pivetta was a workhorse for the Red Sox in 2022, starting 33 games, which was tied for the most in the American League. In all, Pivetta has pitched parts of seven big league seasons for the Phillies and Red Sox.
– Right-hander Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) will make his second start of the season for the Atlanta Braves today. On Monday, in his first regular season big league start in 1,029 days, he allowed four runs on five hits in six innings in a loss to the Oakland A’s. But his pitching line wasn’t all that important. Getting back on a big league mound in a regular season game was a triumph on its own. The 25-year-old righty had posted a 4.33 ERA in eight starts, spanning 35 1/3 innings, with the triple-A Gwinnett Stripers prior to his call up on Monday. The Braves had been taking a cautious approach with Soroka who had not pitched in a regular season big league game in nearly three years. He 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.
–Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) was sent back to triple-A by the Minnesota Twins on Thursday. In his most recent stretch with the Twins which began on May 19, the Canadian infielder went 7-for-35 (.200 batting average) with two doubles, two home runs, four RBIs, six walks and four runs in 11 games. In total, in his two tenures with the Twins this season, he is 13-for-62 (.210 batting average) in 19 big league games. Julien, who impressed with Canada at the World Baseball Classic, made his major league debut with the Twins on April 12 but was returned to the minors after initially playing eight games with the club. In 33 contests with the triple-A St. Paul Saints this season, Julien has batted .287 with a .442 on-base percentage (OBP) with four home runs.
-Thank you to Canadian baseball historian Tyler Partridge for the note on Thursday indicating that Markham, Ont., native Jordan Romano‘s save in the Blue Jays’ series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers moved the hard-throwing right-hander into a tie for sixth with Ron Taylor (Toronto, Ont.) on the all-time Canadian major league saves list. Romano then passed Taylor when he tossed a scoreless ninth against the New York Mets on Friday to notch his 75th career save. Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.) has the most saves by a Canadian with 187. Also above Romano on the all-time saves list are John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.), John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.), Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) and Claude Raymond (St. Jean, Que.).
–Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.) was recalled by the Milwaukee Brewers prior to their series against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Tuesday. Toro homered off Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah in his first at bat in the Brewers’ 4-2 win on Wednesday. Going deep at Rogers Centre has become a regular occurrence for Toro. Back on September 1, 2019, it was his two-run shot at Rogers Centre when he was with the Astros that accounted for the only two runs in Justin Verlander’s no-hitter against the Blue Jays. Toro also clubbed a solo home run at the Rogers Centre to help the Seattle Mariners to a 5-1 win on May 18, 2022. His three home runs at Rogers Centre are the most he has hit at any stadium other than Minute Maid Park where he spent parts of three seasons with the Astros and at Safeco Field, where he played parts of two campaigns with the Mariners.
-The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony in St. Marys, Ont., is less than two weeks away. It will take place on Saturday, June 17. One of the 2023 inductees is rifle-armed former Blue Jays slugger Jesse Barfield. As a Canadian baseball history junkie, one of the most enjoyable pieces of trivia I uncovered this week while reviewing Barfield’s page on Baseball Reference was that the most similar batter to him is 2019 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.) (See chart below).
-It’s been a good news, bad news type of year for right-hander Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.). The good news is that he has 42 strikeouts in 22 innings out of the bullpen for the Seattle Mariners. That’s good for an astounding 17.2 strikeouts per nine innings. The bad news is his ERA is 4.50 and he has allowed 28 hits. Chosen in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB draft by the San Diego Padres, the Kingston Thunder alum made his national team debut in March at the World Baseball Classic. Brash made just five appearances in the Padres’ organization before he was dealt to the Mariners on September 17, 2020 to complete a transaction for reliever Taylor Williams. He made the M’s roster out of spring training in 2022 but after beginning the season in the rotation, the 6-foot-1 righty was successfully converted into a reliever. In total, after joining the M’s bullpen on July 9, the 24-year-old Canuck registered a 2.35 ERA in 34 appearances and struck out 43 batters in 30 2/3 innings.
-On this date in 1838, teams from Oxford and Zorra townships did battle in Beachville, Ont., in what’s now recognized as one of the first documented games in North American history. It was Dr. Adam Ford, a former resident of St. Marys, Ont., home of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, who later recounted details of this contest in a letter published in the May 5, 1886 issue of Sporting Life magazine. Living in Denver, Colo., when he penned his recollections, Ford recalls that the match was played on a square field in a pasture. The competition between Beachville and Zorra featured five bases, fair and foul balls, players employing a hand hewn stick as a bat and a ball made of twisted yarn and covered with calf skin. The Beachville District Historical Society has researched Ford’s account and has concluded that the information in his letter is authentic.
-It was 34 years ago today that the Blue Jays mounted one of the most remarkable comebacks in franchise history. Trailing the Boston Red Sox 10-0 after six innings at Fenway park, the Blue Jays rallied to take the lead 11-10 in the ninth inning when Ernie Whitt hit a grand slam off closer Lee Smith (Watch the video below). The Red Sox would tie it in the bottom of the ninth before Junior Felix socked a two-run home run in the 12th inning to secure a 13-11 win. Duane Ward pitched three scoreless innings in relief to earn the victory.
-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 visit their website.
-This week’s trivia question: Who was the first Canadian pitcher to record a save in a MLB postseason game? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the first Montreal Expos player to be selected to participate in the MLB All-Star Game?) was Rusty Staub in 1969.