August 27, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-When Cleveland Guardians catcher Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) went deep in the third inning of the Guardians’ 5-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Friday, he became the first Canadian to homer in their first at bat in a Canadian major league stadium, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. His home run was a solo shot off Blue Jays right-hander Chris Bassitt. The Blue Jays post-game media notes also indicated that Naylor became the 16th Canadian to hit a home run at Rogers Centre. The home run was the left-handed hitting catcher’s fifth of the season. Overall, the 23-year-old Canadian has six hits in his last 15 at bats. This hot streak has raised his batting average from .198 to .205.
-Jordan Romano’s save in the Blue Jays’ 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ballpark on August 19 was his 30th of the season. The Markham, Ont., native collected another save on Wednesday in the Blue Jays’ 6-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. Romano is just the third Canadian major leaguer to register back-to-back 30-save seasons, joining Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.) who did for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2002 to 2004 and John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.), who accomplished the feat for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 and 2012.
-Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) was placed on the 10-day injured list by the Cincinnati Reds on Friday with left shoulder discomfort. That’s the same shoulder he had surgery on last August that forced him to miss the first 72 games of the 2023 season. Gordon Wittenmyer, of the Cincinnati Enquirer, reported that Votto will participate in strengthening exercises before the Reds provide a timeline on his return. The soon-to-be 40-year-old slugger had 13 home runs and a .459 slugging percentage in 51 games with the Reds this season. His 34 hits this season give him 2,127 for his career. That’s 33 behind Maple Ridge, B.C. native Larry Walker’s Canadian big league record.
-It was a rollercoaster week for Minnesota Twins right-hander Jordan Balazovic (Mississauga, Ont.). After allowing three runs in an inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 19, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team grad was sent down to triple-A last Sunday. However, he was recalled on Thursday when the Twins placed right-hander Oliver Ortega on the 15-day injured list with a left lumbar strain. In 18 appearances with the Twins this season, Balazovic has a 4.44 ERA and has registered 17 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings.
-Balazovic’s Twins teammate, Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) socked a 435-foot, three-run home run to centre field in the bottom of the seventh inning at Target Field on Friday in the Twins’ 12-2 win over the Texas Rangers. It was the 11th home run of his young big league career. In 78 games with the Twins this season, Julien owns a .286 batting average, .378 on-base percentage (OBP) and an .859 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). He has to be considered an American League Rookie of the Year candidate. The last Twin to win that honour was outfielder Marty Cordova in 1995.
-Left-hander Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta.) was called up by the Pirates on Thursday to start against the Chicago Cubs. The veteran southpaw allowed one run in one inning before turning the game over to the bullpen in the Cubs’ 5-4 win at PNC Park. The start was just the second of Zastryzny’s major league career, and the first since September 29, 2016 when he permitted one run in 3 2/3 innings for the Cubs against the Pirates. The 31-year-old lefty also pitched a scoreless seventh inning in relief for the Pirates on Saturday in their 10-6 loss to the Cubs. It’s been a challenging year for Zastryzny. Earlier this season, he recorded a win in relief on Opening Day and posted a 5.29 ERA in 18 relief appearances for the Pirates, but he also had two tenures on the club’s injured list. The first due to left ulnar neuritis and his latest due to forearm inflammation. After he was activated from the 15-day injured list on July 7, he was designated for assignment. He went unclaimed by another club and reported to the Pirates’ triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis. Zastryzny posted a 4.41 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings in triple-A before being recalled on Thursday.
-Right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) returned to the Boston Red Sox bullpen on Wednesday and recorded the final two outs against the Houston Astros to pick up the win in the Sox 7-5 victory at Minute Maid Park. Pivetta now has nine wins on the season, which is one shy of his career-high that he recorded last season. He followed that up with a loss when he permitted four runs in two innings in relief against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. The Junior National Team alum has been used primarily as a long reliever and a spot starter for the Red Sox this season, and he has combined to go 9-7 with a 4.53 ERA in 32 appearances (11 starts). He has struck out 140 batters in 109 1/3 innings.
-Cleveland Guardians right-hander Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) was excellent in his fourth and final rehab start last night with the Columbus Clippers. He allowed just two runs and struck out six in 7 1/3 innings to pick up the win in the Clippers’ 4-2 victory over the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Quantrill was placed on the 15-day injured list by the Guardians for the second time this season on July 6. The 28-year-old Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team grad had just returned from 28 days on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation. After setting career-highs with 15 wins and 186 2/3 innings pitched with the Guardians in 2022, Quantrill has struggled to a 2-6 record with a 6.45 ERA in 13 starts, spanning 67 innings, this season.
-On this date 74 years ago, Boston Braves slugger Jeff Heath (Fort William, Ont.) became the first major league player to tie a game with a pinch-hit home run and then win the game with another home run later in the same contest. Heath clubbed a game-tying home run in the ninth inning and then smashed a walk-off homer in the 10th to give the Braves a 6-5 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Braves Field. Both homers came off six-time All-Star Ewell Blackwell.
-It was 31 years ago today that Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick completed one of his best late-season deals when he acquired right-hander David Cone from the New York Mets in exchange for infielder Jeff Kent and a player to be named later (Ryan Thompson). Cone proceeded to go 4-3 with a 2.55 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts) down the stretch for the Blue Jays. He then went 1-1 with a 3.22 ERA in four post-season starts, spanning 22 1/3 innings, to help the Blue Jays secure their first World Series title.
-This week’s trivia question: Aside from the aforementioned Eric Gagne, John Axford and Jordan Romano, name another Canadian who has had a 30-save season in the major leagues. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question ( Who was the first Toronto Blue Jays hitter, with a minimum of 500 plate appearances, to bat higher than .300 in a major league season?) was Bob Bailor who batted .310 in 523 plate appearances for the Blue Jays in 1977.
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