Canadians in the Majors – June 26
By Kevin Glew
This is our weekly rundown of how Canadians are faring in the major leagues:
Jim Adduci, Burnaby, B.C., Detroit Tigers
Anthony Fenech of The Detroit Free Press reported on Tuesday that Adduci was taking regular batting practice and feeling significantly less pain in his oblique. The Burnaby, B.C., native is likely to begin a minor league rehab assignment this week, though it’s unclear if there will be a spot for him on the Tigers’ big league roster when he returns. Adduci was enjoying his finest stretch as a big leaguer, batting .318 with a .388 on-base percentage (OBP) and a .500 slugging percentage in 13 games with the Tigers, before he strained his right oblique during batting practice prior to a game on May 10. The left-handed hitting outfielder, who just turned 32, suited up for parts of two major league seasons with the Texas Rangers in 2013 and 2014 prior to starring for the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization in 2015 and 2016.
John Axford, Port Dover, Ont., Oakland A’s
After a rough previous week in which he allowed three earned runs in two appearances (two innings), the 34-year-old right-hander has had three consecutive scoreless appearances (three innings) and lowered his season ERA to 5.63. Axford, who has recorded 144 saves during his eight-year big league career, is in the second year of a two-year, $10-million contract with the A’s. Don’t be surprised if his name is mentioned in trade talks leading up to the July 31 deadline.
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Freeman had a CT scan on Friday and he told reporters that it revealed that his broken left wrist was 80 to 90 per cent healed and that he'll be back in action ahead of schedule. The left-handed hitting infielder has been cleared to swing a bat and he's expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment this weekend. The tentative plan is for him to return for the Braves' series against the Washington Nationals that begins on July 6. What makes his return even more interesting is that he has volunteered to play third base in order to allow the Braves to keep the bat of hot-hitting first baseman Matt Adams in the lineup. Freeman has not played third base since Rookie ball in 2007. After competing for Canada in this year’s World Baseball Classic as a tribute to his late mother, Freeman was enjoying an MVP-calibre season before he was hit by a pitch from Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Aaron Loup and fractured his wrist in the fifth inning of the Braves’ 8-4 win on May 17. Freeman’s mother, Rosemary, who was born in Toronto and grew up in Peterborough, Ont., eventually moved to Windsor, Ont., where she met Freeman’s father, Fred, and the couple moved to California. Freeman’s mother passed away after battling cancer in 2000 at age 47 when Freeman was 10. At the time of his injury, Freeman was leading the National League in home runs (14), slugging percentage (.748) and OPS (1.209) and was second in OBP (.461) and extra-base hits (26).
Russell Martin, Montreal Que., Toronto Blue Jays
While he’s not exactly tearing the cover off the ball at the plate (4-for-21 in six games this past week), the Canadian catcher is racking up walks at one of the best rates of his career. The 34-year-old vet, who has been moved up to the No. 2 spot in the Blue Jays lineup, walked eight more times last week and his season OBP now sits at .374, despite the fact that his batting average is .220.
James Paxton, Ladner, B.C, Seattle Mariners
Paxton’s struggles in June continued when he allowed three earned runs on nine hits in 5-2/3 innings in his start on Wednesday. The hard-throwing southpaw been hit hard since returning from a 26-day tenure on the disabled list with a forearm strain on May 31. In four June starts, he boasts an 8.50 ERA. Through 11 big league starts this season, he now owns a 5-2 record with a 3.39 ERA and has registered 70 strikeouts in 61-2/3 innings.
Nick Pivetta, Victoria, B.C., Philadelphia Phillies
Pivetta recorded his second straight quality start for the Phillies on Wednesday, when he held the St. Louis Cardinals to three runs on four hits in six innings, while striking out a career-high 10. He did not get a decision in the game that the Cards ultimately won 7-6 in 10 innings. After the 6-foot-5 right-hander’s strong performance on Wednesday, his ERA now sits at 4.46 in eight starts and he has anned 46 batters in 42-1/3 innings. Chosen in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB amateur draft by the Washington Nationals, he was dealt to the Phillies for closer Jonathan Papelbon on July 28, 2015.
Dalton Pompey, Mississauga, Ont., Toronto Blue Jays
After going 4-for-14 with four walks in four games with the class-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays, Pompey was promoted to the triple-A Buffalo Bisons on June 4. Unfortunately, the speedy outfielder injured his leg while stretching to make a catch in the first inning of his first game with the Bisons. He stayed in the contest until the fourth inning and had a single in two at bats before being taken out. He hasn’t played since. There has been no update on Pompey since Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reported on June 15 that Pompey had yet to resume baseball activities, but the Blue Jays didn’t expect him to be out long term. After being sidelined with a concussion after taking a knee to his head when sliding into second base in Canada’s second game of the World Baseball Classic, the 24-year-old Pompey did not suit up for a game in the Blue Jays organization until May 16 when he appeared in an extended spring training contest. Pompey had big league stints in each of the past three seasons and he began the 2015 campaign as the Blue Jays’ starting centre fielder.
Michael Saunders, Victoria, B.C., Philadelphia Phillies
The 2016 American League all-star struggled all season with the Phillies and was officially released by the club on Sunday. He's now free to sign with any major league team. In 50 games with the Phillies, Saunders batted .205 with a .257 OBP and lost his job as starting right fielder to Aaron Altherr. Following his career-best campaign with the Blue Jays last season, Saunders inked a guaranteed one-year, $9-million contract with the Phillies in January.
Jameson Taillon, Canadian Citizen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Taillon held the Cardinals to two runs on four hits in six innings in his start on Friday, but did not get a decision in his club’s 4-3, 10-inning win. This was the 6-foot-7, 230-pound hurler’s third start back since undergoing surgery for testicular cancer on May 8. Taillon, who was selected second overall in the 2010 MLB amateur draft and whose parents are Canadian, is now 3-2 with a 3.33 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 51-1/3 innings in nine starts with the Pirates this season.
Joey Votto, Etobicoke, Ont., Cincinnati Reds
Votto was 6-for-22 (.273 batting average) this past week and he collected four walks. This leaves him one behind Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker’s all-time record for most walks by a Canadian (913). The Reds first baseman’s slash line for the season is a healthy .301/.412/.584 and his 20 home runs put him on pace to surpass the career-high 37 he belted in 2010.