June 25, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-After belting a home run in his second at bat in his first major league game this season, after missing the Cincinnati Reds’ first 72 contests while recovering from a shoulder injury, Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) socked two more on Friday night. The first was a solo shot in the fourth inning off Atlanta Braves right-hander A.J. Smith-Shawver and the second was a three-run blast off right-hander Colin McHugh the following frame. The Reds beat the Braves 11-10 for their 12th consecutive win. As Sportsnet Stats indicated on Friday, it was the 19th multi-home run game of Votto’s major league career. That’s the third most by a Canadian behind only Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) who had 32 and Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) who had 20. The home runs were also the 344th and 345th of Votto’s career which leaves him 38 behind Walker for the most by a Canadian.
-Toronto Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) recorded his 21st and 22nd saves of the season against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively and his 23rd save against the Oakland A’s on Saturday. He is tied with Cleveland Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase for the American League lead in saves. Somehow I missed this last week, but Blue Jays fact finder Scott Blue Jays Always pointed out on Twitter that Romano is only the fifth Blue Jay to have three consecutive seasons with 20 or more saves. See Scott’s list below. And please follow Scott on Twitter here.
-Boston Red Sox left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) exited his start against the Chicago White Sox after four innings on Saturday with knee soreness. He had allowed just one run on two hits in the contest. “I think I’ll be good going forward though,” he told reporters after the game. Let’s hope so. Paxton has been one of the best comeback stories of 2023. He picked up his third win of the season with the Red Sox on Monday when he limited the Minnesota Twins to three runs on three hits, while striking out seven, in 6 1/3 innings in the Red Sox 9-3 victory. Paxton is now 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA, with 54 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings, in eight starts with the Red Sox this season. Prior to his return to the Red Sox rotation in May, the Junior National Team alum had gone nearly three years between big league starts after enduring a series of injuries, including his second Tommy John surgery.
-Speaking of Canadian pitchers on the Red Sox, Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) was sent to the club’s bullpen shortly after Paxton joined the rotation, but he has excelled in his new relief role. He owns a 2.16 ERA in 11 relief appearances and has struck out 18 batters in 16 2/3 innings. Last Sunday, he pitched three scoreless and hitless innings and struck out four in relief against the Yankees to earn the win in the Sox 8-6 victory. His relief work has drawn raves from his manager Alex Cora. “I think this (is a) different pitcher as a reliever than as a starter,” Cora told reporters after Sunday’s game. “His stuff is getting better. The cutter/slider mix is a good one.” Since his first relief appearance on May 21, the Junior National Team alum’s season ERA has dropped from 6.30 to 5.08.
-Cleveland Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) continues to be red-hot at the plate. He had two four-hit games this week and for the month of June, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum is batting .366 with 30 hits in 20 games. His 56 RBIs are the fourth most in the American League.
-According to Ryan Lewis of Akron-Beacon Journal, Naylor’s Guardians teammate Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) has reported to the double-A Akron RubberDucks. According to Lewis, the expectation is that Quantrill will make a rehab appearance with the RubberDucks today before rejoining the Guardians. The Canuck right-hander was placed on the 15-day injured list by the Guardians on June 2 with right shoulder inflammation. The Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team grad had allowed 14 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings in his last two major league 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.
–Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) came within one out of throwing a seven-inning no-hitter for the triple-A Gwinnett Stripers in the second game of a doubleheader against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp on Thursday. Catcher Austin Allen homered for the Jumbo Shrimp with two outs to ruin Soroka’s no-hitter and shutout. The Canuck righty still finished with a one-hitter and is now 3-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 11 triple-A starts. Earlier this season, Soroka made two big league starts for the Braves but after being roughed up for five runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 2/3 innings by the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 4, he was sent back down to triple-A. 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.
-Seattle Mariners reliever Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) has not allowed a run in his last seven appearances, and since the beginning of June, his ERA has dropped from 4.50 to 3.82. Brash is tied for the American League lead in pitching appearances with 37 and has struck out 56 batters in 30 2/3 innings. That’s good for an astounding 16.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
-Happy 51st Birthday to Blue Jays legend Carlos Delgado! Born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Delgado was signed as an amateur free agent by the Blue Jays in 1988. After beginning his professional career as a catcher followed by a short stint as an outfielder, he was moved to first base and evolved into the most productive offensive player in Blue Jays history. Delgado became a regular with the Blue Jays in 1996 and would star with the club for the next nine seasons. During that stretch, he had eight consecutive, 30-home run campaigns, was selected to two All-Star games (2000, 2003), won three Silver Slugger awards (1999, 2000, 2003), a Hank Aaron Award (2000) and was named The Sporting News Major League Player of the Year (2000). On September 25, 2003, he became the first Blue Jay – and 15th player in major league history – to belt four home runs in a game. While suiting up for the Blue Jays, Delgado rewrote much of the club’s record book and is the team’s all-time leader in home runs (336), RBIs (1,058), doubles (343), runs (889), total bases (2,786), slugging percentage (.556), extra-base hits (690) and walks (827). For his efforts, he was added to the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2013 and inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. After leaving the Jays following the 2004 season, Delgado extended his string of consecutive 30-home run seasons to 10 with the Florida Marlins and New York Mets. He finished his career with 473 home runs (34th all-time) and 1,512 RBIs (55th all-time) in 17 big league seasons.
-Left-hander Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta.) was placed on the 15-day injured list by the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 16 with forearm inflammation. The Canadian southpaw has posted a 5.29 ERA in 18 relief appearances for the Pirates this season. Earlier in the campaign, Zastryzny missed more than a month with left ulnar neuritis. In March, the 31-year-old lefty started for Canada against Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. The 6-foot-3 Canuck was a second-round pick of the 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.
-Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont.) permitted two runs and walked two batters, while also striking out three, in 1 1/3 innings during a rehab appearance with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders yesterday. This came on the heels of him throwing an inning for the Bisons on Thursday and an inning with class-A Dunedin last Saturday. These are his first three game appearances after he had been shut down for two weeks after experiencing discomfort in his hamstring during his first rehab efforts. He was initially placed on the 15-day injured list on May 5 with a hamstring injury. Prior to his injury, the Junior National Team grad was 1-1 with a 6.59 ERA in 15 appearances for the Blue Jays this season.
-Friday was the 45th anniversary of Blue Jays catcher Brian Milner‘s major league debut. He was 18 years and 218 days old when he made his debut, which makes him the youngest player in Blue Jays history. He batted ninth and went 1-for-4 against Cleveland at Cleveland Stadium. It just so happens that 45 years later his son, Hoby, a left-handed reliever with the Milwaukee Brewers, is playing in Cleveland against the Guardians this weekend. Brian was with Hoby last weekend in Milwaukee on the 45th anniversary of the date he signed with the Blue Jays. Here is a photo of Brian and Hoby from last weekend:
-This week’s trivia question: During the 2004 season, three Canadians made 80 or more major league pitching appearances. Name two of them. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (There have been two Canadian father and son combinations that have played in the major leagues. Name one of them.) was either Cody and Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) or Paul and Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.).