But What Do I Know? … Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jimmy Key, Brandon Morrow
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
_ One of the best things about the Toronto Blue Jays signing catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be listening to Buck Martinez say his name on TV broadcasts. One of the worst things will be trying to spell his last name correctly. For the record, at 14 letters, his last name is the longest of any player in major league history. The Blue Jays inked the veteran backstop to a one-year, $1.25-million deal (with additional bonus incentives) on Tuesday. The switch-hitter, 30, who has socked 110 home runs during parts of 10 big league seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Miami Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers, will back up Russell Martin for the Blue Jays. Last season, he belted 12 home runs in 92 games for the Tigers.
_ Meanwhile, Josh Thole, who backed up Martin last year and served as knuckleballer R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher over the past four seasons, landed a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday. Like Saltalamacchia, Thole is 30, but while he’s considered a decent receiver, he hit just .180 over the past two seasons. With the D-Backs having already signed catchers Chris Iannetta and ex-Blue Jay Jeff Mathis, Thole will likely begin the season in triple-A.
_ Eighteen years ago today, former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jimmy Key announced his retirement. The underrated southpaw spent the first nine of his 15 big league seasons with the Blue Jays. During his tenure in Toronto, he registered 12 or more wins in eight consecutive seasons (1985 to 1992), was selected to two All-Star games (1985, 1991) and finished second in the American League Cy Young voting in 1987. Key is tied with Dave Stieb for the lowest ERA (3.42) by a pitcher who has tossed at least 1,000 innings for the Blue Jays. After winning the World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992, the crafty left-hander signed with the New York Yankees and was a two-time All-Star in four seasons in the Bronx before completing his career with the Baltimore Orioles in 1997 and 1998.
_ Just one of the rewarding bits of trivia I’ve uncovered as a Canadian baseball history junkie: Ex-big league pitcher Steve Green, who turned 39 on Thursday, was fittingly born in Greenfield, Que. Green recorded the save in Canada’s 8-6 win over Team USA in the 2006 WBC. Before the next game someone at Chase Field pushed the front page of the New York Times -- mounted to card board -- across the dugout roof asking “could you find Steve Green and get him to sign please.” Green signed the paper and returned it.
_ Former Blue Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday. Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports that Morrow will be paid at a $1.25-million annual rate for any time he spends in the big leagues. The Dodgers will reportedly give the injury-prone right-hander a crack at a bullpen job. After five seasons as a starter with the Blue Jays (2010 to 2014) and five starts with the San Diego Padres in 2015, Morrow returned from a shoulder injury to post a 1.69 ERA in 18 relief appearances for the Padres at the end of last season.
_ Today is the 59th anniversary of the tragic car accident that ended Roy Campanella’s Hall of Fame playing career. The Brooklyn Dodgers all-star catcher was in an early morning, single-car accident on Long Island that broke his neck and left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. Thanks to significant physical therapy, however, Campanella was able to regain use of his arms and hands. Prior to the accident, Campanella had been an all-star in eight of his 10 big league seasons and had been named the National League MVP three times (1951, 1953, 1955). Before suiting up for the Dodgers, he hit .273 with 13 home runs in 135 games for the triple-A Montreal Royals in 1947. Campanella was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969. He passed away on June 26, 1993 at the age of 71.
_ A nice gesture by the Chicago White Sox at SoxFest yesterday: they were offering their fans the opportunity to sign a giant poster that they will send to Tim Raines to congratulate him on his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. After spending parts of 12 seasons with the Montreal Expos to begin his career, Raines was traded to the White Sox on Dec. 23, 1990 for outfielder Ivan Calderon and pitcher Barry Jones. Raines would suit up for the White Sox for five seasons and post a .375 on-base percentage and swipe 143 bases for the club.