Canadian MLB playoff news and notes - October 9

North Delta Blue Jays alum James Paxton (Ladner, BC) will likely be the Game 1 starter for the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Photo: USA Today Sports

North Delta Blue Jays alum James Paxton (Ladner, BC) will likely be the Game 1 starter for the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Photo: USA Today Sports

October 9, 2019

By Kevin Glew

Canadian Baseball Network

Some news and notes about Canadians in this year’s major league post-season:

- North Delta Blue Jays alum James Paxton (Ladner, BC) will likely be the Game 1 starter for the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The Yankees became the first team to advance to the ALCS when they completed their sweep of the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series on Monday. Earlier this month, Bob Klapisch of the New York Times wrote an article about how Paxton turned his season around after a meeting with Yankees executives at the end of July. With his record having fallen under .500, the Canadian lefty was summoned to a meeting with Brian Cashman (GM), Tim Naehring (Executive VP) and Randy Levine (team president). In that get-together, the executives shared data with Paxton that showed he was using his fastball too much. From that point on, Paxton began using his curveball more regularly and proceeded to reel off wins in 10 consecutive starts. You can read the article here.

- You may have seen New Westminster, BC, native Justin Morneau sitting in the first row behind the plate in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Target Field on Monday cheering on his former team. The next day Baseball Canada announced that Morneau will come out of the stands and back on to the field to compete for the national team in the 2019 WBSC Premier12® that will take place from November 2-17. The 12-nation event will see Canada compete in Group C at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea. They will play opening round games against Cuba, South Korea and Australia. The top two teams in the group will then advance to Japan to compete in the Super Round from November 11-16. Two spots in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be awarded at Premier12 with one going to the highest-placed finisher from the Americas and one to the highest finisher in the Super Round/Finals from the Asia/Oceania region. For the complete Canadian national team roster, follow this link.

- Given Montreal native Russell Martin’s home run and double in Game 3 of the National League Division Series and the fact that he didn’t start Game 4, I thought perhaps the Canadian catcher might get the nod in Game 5 when the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Washington Nationals in the fifth and deciding game of the National League Division Series today. But after a review of Martin’s stats when catching Dodgers Game 5 starter Walker Buehler, it doesn’t seem likely. In a limited sample size, Buehler owns a 9.00 ERA in the two games that Martin has caught him this season. Buehler’s ERA with the Dodgers’ other catcher Will Smith is 3.24 in 12 games.

- Yesterday, I wrote that the Washington Nationals coaching staff was making me feel nostalgic for the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays. Well, the Tampa Bays Rays staff is beginning to have the same effect. This staff, which led their club to a 4-1 win over the Houston Astros last night to knot their American League Division Series at two games apiece, includes manager Kevin Cash, who caught 101 games for the Blue Jays between 2002 and 2004 and hitting coach Chad Mottola, who had two stints with the Blue Jays (2000 and 2006) as a player and then another as the club’s hitting coach in 2013. Also, the Rays’ infield coordinator is Hector Torres, who not only played 83 games for the Montreal Expos in 1972, but was the Blue Jays’ starting shortstop in their first game, on that snowy day at Exhibition Stadium on April 7, 1977.

- The Rays also employ Toronto native Jonathan Erlichman as their process and analytics coach. The Princeton math major worked five-plus years in the Rays’ front office, including 2017 and 2018 as the club’s director of analytics, before being promoted to his current role. The former Blue Jays intern wears a uniform as part of manager Cash’s coaching staff and goes over every statistical detail to help the financially challenged Rays find an edge.

- Three years ago, the Blue Jays beat the Texas Rangers 7-6 in 10 innings to sweep the ALDS when Josh Donaldson scampered home from second base on an errant throw by Rougned Odor while attempting to complete a double play. You can watch the video below.