Glew's Canuck big-league look: Axford, Pivetta, Martin, Votto

LHP James Paxton (Ladner, BC) had a successful bullpen, will make a rehhab start at double-A Arkansas on Friday, and if all goes well, will return to the Mariners’ rotation May 31.

LHP James Paxton (Ladner, BC) had a successful bullpen, will make a rehhab start at double-A Arkansas on Friday, and if all goes well, will return to the Mariners’ rotation May 31.

Canadians in the Majors – May 22
By Kevin Glew
Canadian Baseball Network

This is our weekly rundown of how Canadians are faring in the major leagues:

Jim Adduci, Burnaby, B.C., Detroit Tigers
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 Detroit Tigers, before he strained his right oblique during batting practice prior to a game on May 10. The left-handed hitting outfielder, who was called up by the Tigers on April 23, told reporters he felt a “grab” in his abdomen after he took his final batting practice swing that day. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list and was eligible to be activated on Saturday, but oblique injuries often take a month or longer to heal, so there’s no set timetable for his return. Adduci, 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
The 34-year-old reliever, who had been sidelined since the beginning of the season with a shoulder strain, was activated by the Oakland A’s on Saturday and allowed one run in one inning in his season debut on Sunday. Axford, who has recorded 144 saves during his eight-year big league career, held opponents scoreless in three minor league rehab outings with the triple-A Nashville Sounds in the week leading up to his big league return. Axford is in the second year of a two-year, $10-million contract with the A’s.

Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
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 Atlanta Braves’ 8-4 win last Wednesday. 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 just 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). He’s expected to be out eight-to-10 weeks.

Russell Martin, Montreal Que., Toronto Blue Jays
After a 12-day tenure on the disabled list due to a nerve issue in his shoulder, Martin has gone 2-for-8 in two games since being reactivated on Saturday. Martin was behind the plate for his first game back, but he started at third base on Sunday. The 34-year-old Canuck is now batting .202 with three home runs in 25 games on the season.

James Paxton, Ladner, B.C, Seattle Mariners
Paxton was off to the best start of his career when he was placed on the 10-day disabled list by the Seattle Mariners on May 5 with a forearm strain. The Canadian lefty first experienced the discomfort after pitching seven shutout innings in his start against the Detroit Tigers on April 26. The pain lingered into his start against the Los Angeles Angels on May 2 in which he allowed one earned run in 5-2/3 innings. Through six starts this season, the 6-foot-4 southpaw owns a 3-0 record with a 1.43 ERA and has registered 45 strikeouts in 37-2/3 innings. Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times reported that Paxton had thrown 25 pitches – all fastballs – in a pain-free bullpen session on Thursday. Yesterday, MLB.com’s Greg Johns shared that Paxton enjoyed another successful bullpen session on Sunday in which the lefty tossed 37 pitches. Paxton is now slated to make a rehab start with double-A Arkansas on Friday, and if all goes as planned, he’ll likely return to the Mariners’ rotation on May 31.

Nick Pivetta, Victoria, B.C., Philadelphia Phillies
With the return of right-hander Aaron Nola from the disabled list, the Phillies sent Pivetta back down to triple-A after his start on Thursday. In all, in four starts with the Phils this season, the 24-year-old right-hander posted a 0-2 record and a 5.12 ERA in 19-1/3 innings. In his final start on Thursday, he allowed just one earned run and struck out five, but also walked four in 4-2/3 innings against the red-hot Texas Rangers. Prior to his major league debut on April 30, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander, who toed the rubber for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, had won all three of his starts with the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs this season. In those starts, he had a 0.95 ERA and struck out 24 batters in 19 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 being sidelined with a concussion since taking a knee to his head when sliding into second base in Canada’s second game in the World Baseball Classic, Pompey suited up for his first game at extended spring training in Dunedin, Fla., on Tuesday. Following the contest, Pompey tweeted out that it has “never felt so good to be back out there.” Pompey, who’s on the 60-day disabled list, continues to work his way back at extended spring training. The speedy outfielder had big league stints in each of the past three seasons and he began the 2015 campaign as the Blue Jays’ starting centre fielder. The 24-year-old Canadian spent the bulk of 2016 in triple-A Buffalo, finishing with a .270/.349/.353 slash line and 18 stolen bases in 93 games.

Michael Saunders, Victoria, B.C., Philadelphia Phillies
Saunders left Thursday’s game against the Texas Rangers with a groin injury, but he returned to the Phillies lineup on Friday. The left-handed hitting outfielder has since gone 0-for-10 in his last three games after belting his fourth home run of the season on Wednesday. Following an all-star campaign with the Blue Jays last season, Saunders inked a guaranteed one-year, $9-million contract with the Phillies in January. In 40 games with the Phillies so far, Saunders is batting .232 with four home runs, primarily out of the fifth spot in the order. While he played almost exclusively left field for the Blue Jays, Saunders has manned right field for the Phillies this season.

Jameson Taillon, Canadian Citizen, Pittsburgh Pirates
On May 8, Taillon, whose mother is from Toronto while his father grew up near Cornwall, Ont., underwent surgery for testicular cancer. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound right-hander, who pitched for Canada in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, has since been cleared to resume light baseball activities. Selected second overall in the 2010 MLB amateur draft, Taillon was 2-1 with a 3.31 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 35-1/3 innings in six starts with the Pirates prior to the surgery. There’s no set timetable for his return, but Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last Wednesday that the young righty had rejoined his Pirates teammates at PNC Park and is set for another examination this week. It is hoped that after this examination that Taillon will be cleared to continue rehab and travel with the team.

Joey Votto, Etobicoke, Ont., Cincinnati Reds
With a home run and a single on Sunday, Votto has now reached base in 24 consecutive games. In 19 contests this month, he’s batting .349 with a .512 OBP and has recorded 21 walks and 19 RBI. The left-handed hitting slugger’s 12 home runs this season puts him on a pace to surpass the career high 37 that he belted in 2010.

Kevin Glew

Regaled with stories about Mickey Mantle by his father, Ralph, when he was growing up, Kevin Glew developed a keen interest in baseball at a young age in Dorchester, Ont. playing against teams from Vienna, Straffordville, St. Thomas, Stratford, Harrietsville, Belmont, London and Sarnia. His interest blossomed into a full-blown fascination after enduring a bone-chilling wind on the bench seats down the right-field line at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto on Oct. 5, 1985 to witness the Blue Jays secure their first division title. Though Dale Murphy was his favourite player, the teenage Glew played more like a poor man's Spike Owen - another of his childhood heroes whom he later had the opportunity to interview. When he realized he had no shot at a big league career, Glew focussed his efforts on becoming a sportswriter. During his tenure in the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa from 1992 to 1996, he watched the Triple-A Ottawa Lynx in their glory years and vividly recalls a young Matt Stairs suiting up for the Lynx.With few jobs in sports journalism available upon graduation, Glew entered the financial services industry. But after eight years of writing about RRSPs, Glew decided it was time to write about RBIs again. Since leaving his position in the financial sector, he has had freelance articles published in Baseball Digest, Baseball America and the London Free Press. He has also contributed to CBC Sports, SLAM! Sports, Rogers Sportsnet and MLB.com. In June 2010, he started a Canadian baseball history blog called Cooperstowners in Canada. You can read his blog here. Glew is also a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada. He is available for paid writing gigs and can be reached at kevin.glew@sympatico.ca