Breault opening day starter on ’11 champion Canadians
*RHP Zack Breault (Amherstburg, Ont.) was 2-2 with a 6.32 ERA, walking 33 and striking out 42 in 68 1/3 innings for the class-A Northwest league champion Vancouver Canadians. Photo: Alexis Brudnicki ….
By Alexis Brudnicki
DUNEDIN, Fla. – Zack Breault made his first trip all the way over to the west coast of Canada last year.
While he had been to Medicine Hat, Alta., for Canada Cup competition, he had never before ventured to BC.
So what does a 22-year-old from Amherstburg, Ont., do when he arrives in Vancouver for the first time?
He makes the Opening Day start for the Vancouver Canadians.
Or at least, that’s what Breault did last year.
“Pitching Opening Day in Vancouver, that was pretty cool,” he said. “I was the Opening Day starter. That was pretty neat. Making your [pro] debut on Opening Day and eventually winning a championship; that was a pretty cool thing to be a part of.”
Now that he’s had his first taste of Vancouver, the right-handed hurler can’t say enough good things about the city and the people that he encountered within it.
“It was a really good city,” Breault said. “The fans were unbelievable. The host families were awesome. The fans are dedicated; they are really committed to their team. It was pretty cool.”
Breault finished the season 2-2 with a 6.32 ERA in 15 starts and 68 1/3 innings. The righty struck out 42 and walked 33 with the Toronto Blue Jays Class-A affiliate. This season he looks to build on what he learned last year and continue to progress, this time out of the bullpen.
“Last year I was in a starting role,” the 23-year-old said. “I was in the rotation the whole year through and I was a little bit inconsistent personally.
“Toward the middle of the season I had a good run of four or five starts where I was rolling pretty good, but I had some inconsistency through there and I was getting adjusted I think. This year I’m in the bullpen so we’ll see how it goes from there. It’s a different role.”
The pitcher also spent time last season getting acclimated to the schedule and workload of minor league baseball, something that he feels better prepared for now after altering his winter routine.
“Going into my first year I didn’t know what to expect about the daily stuff,” Breault said. “I was getting after it a little more in the off-season which I think in turn burned me out. I threw a little too much. So now preparation-wise with throwing, I think I knew what I had to do more to get ready for that routine and what went on with the throwing program we have here and what sets you up for the season.”
The native of Amherstburg has found his transition to life in the minor leagues much easier this year off the diamond as well, with a better understanding of how things work.
“This is my second go-around so I think with anything the second time around is a little easier,” he said. “You know the ins and outs and you just know the daily routine; you know what you’re getting into. You know the grind of six-day weeks and everything like that. The second time through has been a little smoother.”
Breault finds himself playing pro ball after being signed as an undrafted free agent. The right-hander played in college but it was his success in the Intercounty Baseball League with the London Majors that brought him to the Blue Jays.
“After my junior year or third year of college, I played for London,” he said. “I had a good season and played in the All-Star Game. From there I had some workouts set up from some of the coaches that were in that league. I had a workout with Toronto and San Diego and was offered contracts by both teams and I chose Toronto.”
Even though Breault grew up more as a fan of certain players and the game in general than he did as a fan of a specific team, the decision to go with the hometown club wasn’t a hard one.
“You’ve always got to look at both sides,” he said. “But Toronto was the best choice, being Canadian. That was a big factor in my decision.”
Being Canadian and being in the Blue Jays organization seems to go hand-in-hand these days.
The Blue Jays organization houses a large number of Canadian players, including seven others who are currently with Breault at extended spring training.
There are a number of familiar Canuck faces in the clubhouse at the Bobby Mattick Training Complex, including Breault’s former Team Ontario teammates Shane Davis and Les Williams. Breault and Davis are also roommates in Florida, and the Belmont native is someone that Breault likens himself to.
“I think we’re kind of the same person,” the right-hander said. “We have the same personality. We have the same sense of humour so we get along pretty well. As a player I’m probably just even keel. That would be the best way [to describe me]. I don’t get too high; I don’t get too low.”
Breault hopes to be playing with the southpaw once again this season for the Canadians in Vancouver, and would love to see as much of a Canuck presence on that roster as there was last year.
“Like with any other minor league team, the roster really overlaps,” he said. “It changes. I think we might see a lot of good faces in Vancouver. The rosters haven’t been released yet and everybody here hopes to be in Vancouver but it’d be good to have a lot of the same guys; a lot of the Canadian guys back on that roster and maybe we can try and repeat last year.”