July 7, 2024

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:

-Cleveland Guardians slugger Josh Naylor belted his 21st home run of the season on Friday to set a new career-high. It was a solo shot in the fourth inning off San Francisco Giants right-hander Spencer Bivens in the Guardians’ 4-2 loss. Naylor’s 21 home runs are the most fifth-most in the American League. He also has 65 RBIs, which rank third in the AL.

-With his 10-strikeout performance on Thursday, Boston Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) now has the fourth-most strikeouts by a Canadian pitcher in the big leagues with 1,045. Thanks to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for pointing this out. He moved past John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.) who finished with 1,036. Ahead of Pivetta on the list are Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont., 3,192 strikeouts), Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C., 2,075 strikeouts) and Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont., 1,246 strikeouts). Pivetta’s 10-strikeout performance was the 14th double-digit strikeout game of his career and it came in one of his best starts when he limited the Miami Marlins to one hit in seven scoreless innings.

-Chicago White Sox right-hander Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) continues to strike out batters at a phenomenal rate since he was moved to the bullpen after his start on May 12. In his last five relief appearances, spanning 14 2/3 innings, he has fanned 24 batters and allowed just three earned runs. After beginning the season with a 6.39 ERA in nine starts, Soroka has a 3.29 ERA in 11 relief appearances and has 45 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings.

-Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) has been voted the starting first baseman for the American League in the MLB All-Star Game that will take place on July 16 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. It’s the third time Guerrero will start in the Midsummer Classic. According to Sarah Langs, of MLB.com, the only other Blue Jays to start in the All-Star Game at least three times are Roberto Alomar (four times), Jose Bautista (four times) and Joe Carter (three times).

-Right-hander Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) had another strong start for the Colorado Rockies on July 4 when he allowed two runs in five innings in his club’s 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Coors Field. For the season, he is 6-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 18 starts and is leading the Rockies in WAR (2.8). The Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team alum is earning $6.5 million on a one-year deal this season, and with the Rockies buried in the National League West basement, there are reports that the club is listening to trade offers for him. The 29-year-old is in his sixth big league campaign.

–Joey Votto belted the first home run of his rehab assignment with the low-A Dunedin Blue Jays last night. It was a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth inning in the Blue Jays’ 2-1 win over the Clearwater Threshers at TD Stadium. The 40-year-old Votto is now 5-for-21 (.238 batting average) in his eight games with Dunedin. After signing a minor league deal with the Blue Jays on March 10, Votto homered in his only Grapefruit League at bat in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater on March 17. Unfortunately, after returning to the dugout, he turned his ankle on a bat. Since then, he has continued to work his way back in Dunedin and only recently started playing in minor league games. Votto, of course, played 17 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds before signing with the Blue Jays.

–Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) underwent arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday to repair an impingement in his right elbow. Blue Jays manager John Schneider told reporters that Romano will not throw for at least six weeks, but depending on his progress, the Canuck closer could return before the end of the season. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team grad has been on the injured list since June 1 with elbow inflammation. It had been a rocky start to the 2024 season for the 31-year-old. In 15 appearances, he has posted a 6.59 ERA and has allowed 10 runs on 16 hits in 13 2/3 innings.

-So just how bad has the Blue Jays’ bullpen been this season? Thanks to a suggestion by Bob Elliott, I compared the stats of four of the Blue Jays’ top relievers – Romano, Yimi Garcia, Erik Swanson and Tim Mayza – between this season and last season. At this point last season (July 7, 2023), those four pitchers had combined to throw 139 innings and post a 3.17 ERA. This season that same quartet has tossed 80 innings and owns a 6.08 ERA.

-Right-hander Jordan Balazovic (Mississauga, Ont.) has signed with the Doosan Bears of the Korea Baseball Organization. The deal was reported late Wednesday by Jeeho Yoo, of Yonhap News. The 6-foot-5 right-hander had posted a 5-4 record and a 5.60 ERA in 24 appearances (one start) for the Minnesota Twins’ triple-A St. Paul Saints this season. It has been a rollercoaster past year for the 25-year-old reliever. After pitching 3 2/3 scoreless innings in his major league debut for the Twins against the Detroit Tigers on June 18 last season, Balazovic proceeded to make 17 more big league appearances in 2023. However, on February 7, he was designated for assignment by the Twins, only to be signed to a minor league contract and invited to the club’s big league spring training less than a week later. Chosen in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Twins, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum has pitched in parts of eight seasons in the Twins’ system.

-And the Cooperstowners in Canada jinx continues. Last Sunday, just hours after I had heralded James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) as a National League All-Star candidate in this column, the Dodgers lefty was rocked for nine runs in four innings in his start against the San Francisco Giants. His record on the season fell to 7-2 and his ERA ballooned from 3.39 to 4.28. Paxton rebounded to allow two runs in five innings in his start against the Brewers last night in a game the Dodgers eventually won 5-3.

-Nineteen years ago today, Adam Stern (London, Ont.), shown in the photo above, made his MLB debut with the Boston Red Sox. Batting eighth and playing centre field, he registered his first MLB stolen base in the fourth inning in a rain-shortened contest at Camden Yards that the Orioles won 3-1.

-The Marlins placed infielder Otto Lopez on the 10-day injured list with lower back inflammation on Thursday. The Canadian national team alum was batting .252 with three home runs and 19 RBIs in 54 games with the Marlins this season. On February 13, Lopez, who lived in Montreal for part of his youth, had his contract sold to the Giants by the Blue Jays. He spent spring training with the Giants before he was designated for assignment and claimed on waivers by the Marlins. Born in Santo Domingo, D.R., Lopez was signed as an international free agent by the Blue Jays on July 4, 2016.

-Happy 41st Birthday to Baseball Canada alum and former big league left-hander R.J. Swindle (Vancouver, B.C.)! Selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 14th round of the 2004 MLB draft, the 6-foot-3 left-hander pitched parts of two seasons in the big leagues with the Phillies (2008) and Brewers (2009). In total, he toed the rubber for parts of nine professional campaigns in the Red Sox, New York Yankees, Phillies, Cleveland, Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals organizations. He also pitched for Canada at the 2008 Olympics.

-This week’s trivia question: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) won the MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby last year. Who was the first player born in Canada to win the MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.

-The answer to last week’s trivia question (What Canadian player has been selected to participate in the most MLB All-Star Games?) was Joey Votto, who has been selected to six All-Star games.

The post But What Do I Know? . . . Josh Naylor, Nick Pivetta, Michael Soroka, Adam Stern appeared first on Cooperstowners in Canada.