Canadian baseball notes: Naylor, Romano, Soroka, Paxton, McGriff

July 26, 2023

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Some midweek Canadian baseball notes:

Bo Naylor belts two for Guardians

Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) clubbed two home runs for the Cleveland Guardians in their 5-1 win over the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field on Tuesday night. It was the younger Naylor’s first two-home run game in the majors. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum socked a solo homer in the bottom of the third inning and a two-run blast in the fifth. Both came off former American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.

In case you were wondering, his older brother, Josh, had his only two-home run game on May 9, 2022 in the Guardians’ 12-9 win over the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Romano moves up on all-time Canadian saves list

Toronto Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) recorded his 88th career save in the Blue Jays’ 4-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on Sunday. With that, Romano passed right-hander Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) and now has the fourth-most major league saves by a Canadian. Romano trails only Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.), 187 saves; John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.), 144 saves; and John Hiller (Toronto Ont.), 125 saves.

Romano moved closer to the top of the list with his 89th career save on Monday, when he shut down the Dodgers in the bottom of the 11th inning in the Blue Jays’ 6-3 win at Dodger Stadium. As the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame noted on Twitter, Romano’s outing on Monday also represented his 200th major league appearance, which made the Junior National Team alum the 17th Canadian to pitch in at least 200 major league games.

Paxton to make 150th MLB start

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame also pointed out on Twitter on Monday that left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) is set to make his 150th major league start. He will likely start for the Boston Red Sox on Friday or Saturday against the San Francisco Giants. This will make the veteran southpaw the 11th Canadian hurler to start at least 150 games in the majors. Not surprisingly, Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) tops that list with 594 major league starts.

Soroka sent to Triple-A by Braves

In a surprising development, after he had pitched six innings and picked up his second win of the season for the Atlanta Braves on Friday, Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) was sent down to the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers two days later. The move was made to create a roster spot for veteran right-hander Yonny Chirinos whom the Braves acquired off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays. Chirinos was 4-4 with a 4.02 ERA in 15 appearances (four starts) for the Rays this season. Soroka, who has fought his way back to the big leagues after tearing his right Achilles twice, is 2-1 with a 5.52 in six appearances (five starts), spanning 29 1/3 innings, for the Braves this season.

Young sent to Triple-A by Cubs

The Chicago Cubs optioned first baseman Jared Young (Prince George, B.C.) to triple-A Iowa on Sunday. The left-handed hitting Canuck had gone 6-for-35 (.171 batting average) with a home run in 13 games for the Cubs this season. Chosen in the 15th round of the 2017 MLB draft by the Cubs, the Okanagan Athletics alum has played parts of six seasons in the Cubs’ system. He was batting .326 with 13 home runs and 45 RBIs in 52 games in triple-A before his call-up this year. In March, Young played for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. He made his major league debut last season when he went 5-for-19 in six contests with the Cubs.

McGriff praises Cito Gaston in induction speech

Fred McGriff had some kind words for Cito Gaston in his National Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech on Sunday. “Cito Gaston was my hitting coach in Toronto. And we hit, hit and hit,” said McGriff. “We spent a lot of time working on hitting mechanics. We would hit before spring training games, after spring training games and during the season, we would even take batting practice on the road five hours before the start of the game. Cito would get the young players like me and Cecil Fielder, it wasn’t an option, you had to be there. We hit all the time. We couldn’t help but get better.” 

Mendham hits first pro home run

After signing his first professional contract with the independent Frontier League’s Ottawa Titans on June 18, David Mendham (Dorchester, Ont.) belted his first pro home run on Saturday. It was a solo shot in the sixth inning against the Florence Y’Alls in the Titans’ 6-5 win at Ottawa Stadium. The left-handed hitting slugger is coming off a strong senior collegiate season with the NCAA Division I Oklahoma State Cowboys in which he topped the team with 77 hits in 61 games. He also hit .312 with 14 home runs and finished second on the team with 18 doubles and 64 RBIs. It was the 24-year-old’s second season with the Cowboys.

Guardians promote Fascia to High-A

While one Canadian catcher (Bo Naylor) is belting homers for the Guardians in the big leagues, another is climbing the Guardians’ minor league ranks. After hitting .276 in 52 games and leading the low-A Lynchburg Hillcats in triples (7), Zac Fascia (Brampton, Ont.) was promoted to the High-A Lake County Captains on Tuesday, according to the Canadian Baseball Network’s Matt Betts.

A Brampton Royals and Purdue Boilermakers alum, Fascia is in his third season in the Guardians’ organization after signing with the club as an amateur free agent in July 2021.

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