July 2, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-Canadian baseball historian Tyler Partridge was the first point out on Twitter that three Canadian pitchers – Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.), for the Atlanta Braves; James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.), for the Boston Red Sox and Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.), for the Cleveland Guardians – would be starting on Friday. Baseball Canada later recognized the trio with the graphic below. All three are Junior National Team grads. So how did they do? Please read on.
-The biggest story of the three was Soroka, who was making his first home start with the Atlanta Braves in almost three years. The Canadian right-hander allowed three runs on five hits in six innings, while striking out seven, in the Braves’ 16-4 victory over the Miami Marlins to earn his first major league win since July 29, 2020. Soroka had been called up by the Braves earlier in the day after he had come within one out of throwing a seven-inning no-hitter for the triple-A Gwinnett Stripers against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp in his most recent minor league start on June 22. The Canuck righty was 3-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 11 triple-A starts this season. Soroka had previously been recalled by the Braves on May 29 and he made two big league starts 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. Following 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.
-Paxton also recorded a win on Friday. Starting for the Boston Red Sox, he permitted just three hits and struck out seven in 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in the Sox 5-0 victory. With the win, Paxton is 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA, with 61 strikeouts in 50 innings, in nine starts for the Red Sox this season. He also continued his dominance at the Rogers Centre. He is now 5-1 with a 3.27 ERA in seven starts at the Dome. That includes his no-hitter for the Seattle Mariners against the Blue Jays on May 8, 2018, which made him the first Canadian to throw a major league no-hitter on Canadian soil. Prior to his return to the Red Sox rotation in May, the Junior National Team alum had gone over two years between big league starts after enduring a series of injuries, including his second Tommy John surgery.
-Things did not go as well for Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) on Friday. In his first start for the Guardians after a 28-day stretch on the injured list due to right shoulder inflammation, the Canuck right-hander allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings to the Chicago Cubs in the Guardians’ 10-1 loss. After setting career-highs with 15 wins and 186 2/3 innings pitched in 2022, Quantrill has struggled to a 2-5 record with a 6.18 ERA in 12 starts, spanning 62 2/3 innings, this season.
-Quantrill was, however, part of history in Friday night’s contest. With Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) starting at catcher for the Guardians, Quantrill and Naylor formed the first all-Canadian battery to start a major league game in American League history, according to Canadian baseball historian David Matchett. They were also the first all-Canadian MLB battery since Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.) and Joe Siddall (Windsor, Ont.) collaborated in a National League game with the Montreal Expos on October 3, 1993. Matchett noted that it was the first American League all-Canadian battery since Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) caught reliever John Axford (Port Hope, Ont.) on July 28, 2018.
-And Matchett added that even more Canadian baseball history was made in that game. When Cubs first baseman Jared Young (Prince George, B.C.) singled off the all-Canadian battery of Quantrill and Naylor in the third inning, it was the first time since July 28, 1883 that a Canadian player has registered a hit against an all-Canadian battery in the major leagues. Prior to Young, the last player to do this was George Wood (Pownal, P.E.I.), of the National League’s Detroit Wolverines, against the New York Giants battery of Tip O’Neill (Woodstock, Ont.) and John Humphries (North Gower, Ont.).
-Congratulations to Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) who played his 2,000th major league game on Friday. He is the first Canadian to reach that milestone. On August 14, 2022, Votto suited up for his 1,989th major league game to pass Maple Ridge, B.C. native Larry Walker for the most by a Canadian. After missing the Reds’ first 72 games this season while recovering from shoulder surgery, Votto has competed in 10 games with the Reds in 2023 and is hitting .152 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
-St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) hopes to begin a minor league rehab assignment this week. He has been sidelined with a lower back strain since May 5 but he resumed regular baseball activities this past week. In 29 games this season, the Canuck slugger has batted .228 with two home runs and six RBIs. O’Neill is a two-time Gold Glove Award winner in left field who starred for Canada at the World Baseball Classic in March.
-Twenty-four years ago today, for the first and only time in major league history, two Canadian brothers pitched for opposing teams in a game. In that contest, in which the Texas Rangers defeated the Seattle Mariners 7-6 at The Ballpark in Arlington, Kelowna, B.C., native Jeff Zimmerman tossed a scoreless eighth inning for the Rangers, while his brother Jordan faced one batter in the bottom of the ninth for the Mariners.
-Happy 37th Birthday to Baseball Canada alum and former Minnesota Twins outfielder Rene Tosoni! Born in Toronto, Tosoni attended Terry Fox Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, B.C. before landing with the Junior National Team. He was selected in the 36th round of the MLB draft by the Twins in 2005. The Canuck outfielder would spend parts of five seasons in the Twins system prior to being called up in 2011 where he proceeded to bat .203 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 60 games. After another year in the Twins’ organization, followed by a season with the Milwaukee Brewers’ double-A Huntsville Stars, he closed out his playing career with three seasons in the independent ranks. Tosoni also suited up for Canada numerous times throughout his career, including at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He now scouts for the Blue Jays.
-Please send your thoughts and prayers to Blue Jays legend Jesse Barfield, whose mother passed away on Thursday morning. It was clear in Barfield’s Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech on June 17 how much his mother meant to him. Here is Barfield’s touching Twitter post about his mom:
-Happy 29th Birthday to Baseball Canada alum, former Houston Astros draft pick and Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) star Brock Dykxhoorn (Goderich, Ont.)! The 6-foot-8 righty was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB draft by the Astros and he toed the rubber for parts of five seasons in their organization before heading overseas. He is in his fourth season with the CPBL’s Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions. He enjoyed his best campaign with them in 2021. In 27 appearances, including 26 starts, that season, he posted a 17-4 record and a 1.83 ERA, while fanning 157 batters in 181 2/3 innings. His performance earned him the Canadian Baseball Network’s 2021 Claude Pelletier Award, as top Canuck pitcher in the independent or foreign ranks. In 11 starts this season, he is 4-4 with a 3.75 ERA. He has 49 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings.
-This week’s trivia question: Aside from Walker and Votto, four other Canadians have played at least 1,500 MLB games. Name two of them. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (During the 2004 season, three Canadians made 80 or more major league pitching appearances. Name two of them.) was any two of Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.), Rheal Cormier (Cap Pele, N.B.) or Chris Reitsma (Calgary, Alta.).