It has been reported that right-hander Cade Smith (Abbotsford, B.C.) will make the Cleveland Guardians’ Opening Day roster. Photo: MLB.com

March 24, 2024

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Some Canadian baseball news and notes:

-Outside of Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) signing a minor league contract with his hometown Toronto Blue Jays, the best feel-good Canadian major league story this spring has been the performance of right-hander Michael Soroka with the Chicago White Sox. Soroka allowed just one hit and an unearned run, while striking out five batters, in his latest Cactus League start on Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds. In four starts this spring, he owns a 1.38 ERA and has fanned 17 batters in 13 innings. It was enough for White Sox manager Pedro Grifol to anoint Soroka as his No. 2 starter heading into the season. The 26-year-old Soroka was traded to the Sox by the Atlanta Braves on November 16 after posting a 6.40 ERA in seven big league games last season. Those were his first major league appearances since he tore his right Achilles tendon for the first time on August 3, 2020. Soroka spent the bulk of 2023 with the triple-A Gwinnett Stripers, going 4-4 with a 3.41 ERA in 17 starts. A graduate of the Calgary Redbirds and 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.

–According to Mandy Bell, of MLB.com, Cade Smith (Abbotsford, B.C.) will make the Cleveland Guardians’ Opening Day roster. In eight Grapefruit League appearances this spring, Smith has posted a 2.25 ERA and has 11 strikeouts in eight innings. Last season, the 24-year-old right-hander struck out 95 batters in 62 2/3 innings in 47 appearances between the double-A Akron RubberDucks and the triple-A Columbus Clippers. Signed by the Guardians as a free agent in 2020 out of the University of Hawaii, the Junior National Team and Abbotsford Cardinals grad topped all Canuck minor league pitchers in 2023 in appearances, saves (15) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.6).

–Rob Longley, of the Toronto Sun, reported that Toronto Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) was playing catch at the Blue Jays’ minor league complex on Saturday. It was the first time Romano has thrown in a week after being diagnosed with elbow inflammation. It’s still not clear if he will be ready for Opening Day, but that seems unlikely. Blue Jays manager John Schneider told reporters on Tuesday that an MRI on Romano’s elbow showed no structural damage. In five Grapefruit League appearances this spring, Romano struck out six batters and had a 2.08 ERA in 4 1/3 innings. In 2023, Romano recorded a 2.90 ERA and matched his career-high with 36 saves. Originally chosen in the 10th round of the MLB draft by the Blue Jays in 2014, the 30-year-old righty is heading into his sixth major league season and fourth as Blue Jays closer. In total, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team grad has a 2.67 ERA with 97 saves in 216 relief appearances with the Blue Jays during his major league career.

-On Thursday, Ryan Divish, of the Seattle Times, reported that right-hander Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) threw 20 pitches off the mound on Wednesday at 70% effort. He added that Brash would throw off a mound again in a few days. This is progress for Brash, but the Mariners reliever won’t be ready for Opening Day. In late-February, Brash experienced pain in the throwing elbow. An MRI in early March revealed that he had medial elbow inflammation but would not require surgery. Last season, Brash developed into a go-to late-inning reliever for the Mariners. He led major league pitchers with 78 appearances and had a 9-4 record and a 3.06 ERA. Thanks largely to his devastating slider, he fanned 107 batters in 70 2/3 innings, good for a 13.6 strikeout-per-nine-inning rate.

-When James Paxton‘s name was absent from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ roster in their season-opening series against the San Diego Padres in South Korea, there was some concern that the Canadian lefty might be injured. But Juan Toribio, of MLB.com, reported that nothing was wrong with Paxton and that the Ladner, B.C., native “was just staying back to keep building up since he wasnt going to pitch out of the bullpen in either game.” Paxton pitched four innings in a minor league game on Wednesday. So far, the veteran southpaw has made just one Cactus League start for the Dodgers and that was back on February 29. In that contest, he struck out four Reds batters in two innings. Earlier in February, Paxton signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers that guarantees him $7 million. After missing nearly two full seasons due to Tommy John surgery and other injuries, Paxton went 7-5 with a 4.50 ERA, while striking out 101 batters in 96 innings, in 19 starts for the Red Sox last season. He missed the seasons final month with right knee inflammation. A North Delta Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, the 35-year-old Paxton has pitched in parts of 10 major league campaigns with the Mariners, New York Yankees and Red Sox and owns a 64-38 record and a 3.69 ERA in 156 starts.

–Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) will not get the Opening Day start for the Red Sox. Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced on Tuesday that right-hander Brayan Bello will get the ball when the Sox open their season against the Mariners on March 28. Pivetta had been a contender for the Opening Day nod and it would have been his first. Yesterday, Pivetta allowed two earned runs in six innings, while striking out nine Minnesota Twins batters, in his fifth and final Grapefruit League start. He finishes the spring with a 4.50 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 18 innings. The Junior National Team alum is heading into his eighth big league campaign and his fourth with the Sox. In total, he owns a 50-59 record and a 4.86 ERA in 196 major league appearances (152 starts) and has 967 strikeouts in 883 2/3 innings.

–Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) was hit hard in his final spring training start for the Colorado Rockies yesterday, allowing six runs on 12 hits in 4 1/3 innings to the Cincinnati Reds. With that, his record this spring fell to 2-1 and his ERA rose to 5.28 in four starts. Quantrill was traded to the Rockies by the Guardians on November 17 after a rough 2023 campaign in which he was limited to 19 starts by shoulder woes. He completed the season with a 4-7 record and a 5.24 ERA in 99 2/3 innings. That came after Quantrill had set career-highs with 15 wins and 186 1/3 innings in 2022. The 6-foot-3 right-hander honed his skills with the Ontario Terriers and the Junior National Team before being selected eighth overall by the San Diego Padres in the 2016 MLB draft. He pitched in parts of two big league seasons with the Padres prior to being dealt to the Guardians on August 31, 2020.

–Otto Lopez (Montreal, Que.) was optioned to the Giants’ minor league camp on Tuesday. He had been competing for a bench spot with the Giants after being acquired from the Blue Jays on February 13. The 25-year-old national team alum, who can play second base, shortstop, third base and centre field, got off to a good start with the Giants this spring, belting a two-run home run in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs in the Giants’ first Cactus League game. Overall, he batted .227 with nine RBIs in 16 contests this spring. Lopez, who spent part of his youth in Montreal, hit .258 in 84 games with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons in 2023. He missed a large chunk of the season due to a left oblique strain. He joined the Bisons after recording a team-leading six RBIs in four games for Canada at the World Baseball Classic. Born in Santo Domingo, D.R., Lopez was signed as an international free agent by the Blue Jays prior to the 2017 season. He hit well at every stop in the Blue Jays organization, registering a .298 batting average and a .364 on-base percentage (OBP) with 90 stolen bases in 510 minor league games.

-Marie Fanning has been a very generous supporter of this blog. She knows how much I thought of her husband, Jim, who was a Montreal Expos legend and a Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee. I always enjoy hearing her stories about Jim. She recently shared this one with me: “When Jim was catching for the Chicago Cubs, he was up at bat, and already had two strikes. Before he took his third swing, a fan leaned over the dugout and shouted out to him, ‘Hey, have you been ‘fanning’ all your life?’ Jim stood there laughing and tipped his hat to the fan. His next swing was a double!”

-As many of you know, Easter Seals is an organization that has helped my nephew Kalin immensely over the years. Kalin has cerebral palsy, but he doesn’t let that hold him back. He is full of positive energy and has worked tirelessly to advocate for improved accessibility in the London area. He has been attending Easter Seals Camp Woodeden for 16 years and is now an ambassador for the camp. The Conn Smythe Sports Celebrities Dinner and Auction is set to take place in Toronto on March 27. This is one of Easter Seals’ biggest fundraisers. One of the guests this year will be Blue Jays legend Ernie Whitt. You can buy tickets to the dinner here. But if you can’t go in person, you can still bid in their Silent Auction. There are some amazing sports items (tickets, signed items, etc.) up for grabs. You can check them out and bid here. Just an FYI if you do bid, you will likely have to pick up the item at the Easter Seals’ office in Toronto.

-This weeks trivia question: Who has made the most Opening Day starts at shortstop for the Blue Jays? (Hint: It’s not who think). Please provide your answer in the Comments section below.

-The answer to last weeks trivia question (Felipe Alou has the most wins as manager of the Montreal Expos. Who has the second-most wins as Expos manager?) was Buck Rodgers.

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