BWDIK: Axford, Harden, Paxton, Pivetta, Roncetti, Sanchez, Wick
August 11, 2019
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame presented Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton with the 2018 Tip O’Neill Award prior to the Toronto Blue Jays game against the New York Yankees at the Rogers Centre on Friday. The award was given to Paxton for his 2018 season with the Seattle Mariners in which he posted an 11-6 record with a 3.76 ERA in 28 starts and tossed a no-hitter against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on May 9 to became the first Canadian major leaguer to throw a no-hitter on Canadian soil.
• Speaking of Canadian big league pitchers, right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) has established himself as one of Joe Maddon’s go-to relievers out of the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen. The converted catcher/outfielder and former Junior National Team member is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings for the Cubs this season. The hard-throwing 26-year-old’s performance is one of the reasons the Cubs were comfortable in releasing veteran reliever Brad Bach on Monday. Wick was asked about his big league success in an interview on TSN 1040 Vancouver on Wednesday. You can listen to the interview here.
• Victoria, B.C., native Nick Pivetta is another Canuck excelling as a big league reliever. After struggling to a 5.80 ERA in 12 starts for the Philadelphia Phillies to begin the season, the 6-foot-5 right-hander was moved to the bullpen in mid-July. In eight relief appearances since, he has posted a 2.88 ERA and has 22 strikeouts in 17 innings.
• According to Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae, John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his throwing elbow on Thursday. This will sideline the veteran right-hander for the rest of the year, but he should be ready for spring training. After signing a minor league deal with the Blue Jays in February, Axford suffered a stress reaction in his right elbow during spring training and was attempting to rehab his arm, but he made only one appearance with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays before being shut down. Axford went 4-1 with a 4.41 ERA in 45 appearances for the Blue Jays last season before he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline. The 36-year-old reliever has registered a 3.87 ERA and notched 144 saves in 543 big league appearances in his 10-year major league career that has included stops with the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, Oakland A’s, Blue Jays and Dodgers.
• It was great to see that Victoria, B.C. native Rich Harden threw out the first pitch at the Toronto Blue Jays’ class-A Short-Season Vancouver Canadians game on Thursday. The Canuck righty has maintained a low profile since throwing his last big league pitch in 2011. The Canadians gave away a commemorative Harden postcard to the first 2,000 fans on Thursday and they had the opportunity to have it signed by the former Oakland A’s and Chicago Cubs hurler.
• The New York Mets have won 11 of 12 since announcing they had acquired right-hander Marcus Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays. With that said, Stroman hasn’t been much of a factor in the streak. In his two starts with the Mets, he has two no-decisions and a 6.10 ERA in 10 1/3 innings. But Stroman will definitely help the Mets in their quest for a wild-card spot down the stretch.
• Meanwhile Aaron Sanchez allowed just one run on three hits in five innings for the Houston Astros on Saturday for his second win in as many starts for his new club. He has now permitted just three hits and has struck out 12 batters in his 11 innings with the Astros.
• Please take a moment to remember Toronto baseball legend and 1998 Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Ron Roncetti who would’ve turned 108 today. Born near Rome, Italy, Roncetti came to Toronto with his parents when he was eight months old. Settling with his family near Elizabeth Street in downtown Toronto, he developed a passion for baseball and starred as a centre fielder for the Toronto Lizzies during the 1920s. Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers Carmen Bush and Goody Rosen were among his Lizzies teammates. The fleet-footed outfielder moved on to toil with the Wellington Juniors and Eastern Athletic Club in Toronto in the 1930s before becoming one of Toronto’s top amateur coaches. In the late 1940s, Roncetti created and founded the Leaside Baseball Association. Under his leadership, Leaside became a powerhouse on the Toronto baseball scene. Starting in 1953, Roncetti led Leaside teams to four consecutive city championships at the juvenile and junior levels. Among Roncetti’s Leaside graduates were Ron Taylor, Frank Mahovlich and Pete Conacher. In 1954, Roncetti began moonlighting as a scout for the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs. A respected and passionate voice for Canadian talent, Roncetti soon found himself scouting for the big league Chicago White Sox prior to landing similar gigs with the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos. In 1973, he began a long scouting affiliation with the New York Mets that would see him rewarded with a 1986 World Series ring. In his final scouting stint, he evaluated talent for the Toronto Blue Jays. Roncetti passed away in 1992.
• Fifty years ago today, legendary Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale announced his retirement due to a chronic shoulder injury. The tough-as-nails right-hander registered 209 wins, 2,486 strikeouts and a 2.95 ERA in parts of 14 major league seasons. During his big league career, he won the National Cy Young Award in 1962, was an eight-time all-star and a three-time World Series champion. Prior to his Hall of Fame major league career, the intimidating righty honed his skills as a 19-year-old with the International League’s Montreal Royals in 1955, posting an 11-11 record and a 3.33 ERA in 28 appearances. He would later serve as an analyst on Expos broadcasts. Sadly, he passed away from a heart attack in a Montreal hotel room in 1993 when he was in the city as part of the Dodgers’ broadcast team.
• According to a story on the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s website, Montreal Expos great Gary Carter’s family has donated a ball from the game in which he set the National League for most games played as catcher, as well as a jersey, a cap and a mask from his final major league season with the Expos in 1992 to the Cooperstown shrine. And while I’m delighted to know that these items will be properly preserved (the National League Baseball Hall of Fame staff is fabulous), I can’t help but feel that the Expos items would’ve looked great in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. With that said, the St. Marys, Ont.-based already has a nice collection of Carter artifacts, including some of his catcher’s gear and one of his Gold Glove Awards.