Glew's Canuck big league look: Axford, Saunders, Pivetta, Votto
Canadians in the Majors – July 3
By Kevin Glew
This is our weekly rundown of how Canadians are faring in the major leagues:
Jim Adduci, Burnaby, B.C., Detroit Tigers
Adduci has gone 4-for-22 (.182 batting average) since beginning his rehab assignment with the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens last Tuesday. The Burnaby, B.C., native 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. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has said he’d like the left-handed hitting outfielder to get approximately 30 at bats during his rehab stint. Adduci, who turned 32 in May, 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 right-hander allowed two runs in 2 2/3 innings in two appearances during the past week. His patriotism, however, was on full display on Canada Day. First he created an all-Canadian play list on Spotify that he shared on Twitter. “It's 450 songs of pure Canadian greatness ... 29 hours and 35 minutes to last you all through the long weekend! Enjoy!” Axford tweeted on Saturday. Later that day, he ordered a Canada Day cake to share with his A's teammates.
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Freeman had a strikeout and a walk and played third base in the first game of his rehab assignment with triple-A Gwinnett Braves on Saturday. This marked his return to game action after suffering a broken wrist on May 17. Freeman, who hasn't played third base professionally since 2007, has agreed to man the hot corner when he returns to the Braves in order to keep hot-hitting first baseman Matt Adams, who has 12 home runs in his last 39 games, in the lineup. The tentative plan is for Freeman to return for the Braves series against the Washington Nationals that begins on July 6. 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
It was a rough week for the Canadian catcher at the plate. He went 2-for-15 (.133 batting average) in five games, but both hits were doubles and he added two more walks. The 34-year-old vet, who has been moved up to the No. 2 spot in the Blue Jays lineup, owns a season OBP of .369, despite the fact that his batting average is .213.
James Paxton, Ladner, B.C., Seattle Mariners
After struggling in his first four starts in June, Paxton looked much better in his two starts this past week. On Tuesday, he held the Philadelphia Phillies to four hits and three runs in seven innings and tied a season-high with nine strikeouts, but still took the loss. Yesterday, he was even stronger, allowing just two hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings to the Los Angeles Angeles to earn his first win in nearly a month. Through 13 big league starts this season, he now owns a 6-3 record with a 3.27 ERA and has registered 82 strikeouts in 74-1/3 innings.
Nick Pivetta, Victoria, B.C., Philadelphia Phillies
Pivetta put together the best start of his big league career yesterday, allowing just one run on one hit in seven innings to the New York Mets at CitiField to register his second major league win and lead the Phillies to a 7-1 victory. After the 6-foot-5 right-hander’s strong performance yesterday, his ERA now sits at 4.85 in 10 starts and he has now fanned 53 batters in 52 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
Pompey is 3-for-13 (.231 batting average) in his latest rehab stint with the class-A Dunedin Blue Jays. The most recent injury that Pompey is coming back from is a leg injury he sustained with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons on June 4 while stretching to make a catch in the first inning of his first game with the Bisons. This occurred while he was on the road back from a concussion he suffered after taking a knee to his head when sliding into second base in Canada’s second game in the World Baseball Classic. The 24-year-old 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.
Michael Saunders, Victoria, B.C., Philadelphia Phillies
After being released by the Phillies on June 25, Saunders was signed to a minor league deal by the Blue Jays on Wednesday. He reported to triple-A Buffalo where he has gone 1-for-15 in four games. In 50 contests with the Phillies earlier this season, Saunders batted .205 with a .257 OBP and lost his starting job to Aaron Altherr. Following his career-best campaign with the Blue Jays last season that earned him a spot on the American League all-star team, Saunders inked a guaranteed one-year, $9-million contract with the Phillies in January.
Jameson Taillon, Canadian Citizen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Taillon tossed 6-1/3 innings to lead the Pirates to a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. It was the 6-foot-7, 230-pound hurler’s fourth win of the season and his fourth 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 4-2 with a 2.97 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 57-2/3 innings in nine starts with the Pirates this season.
Joey Votto, Etobicoke, Ont., Cincinnati Reds
It’s been a great week for the Etobicoke, Ont., native. Not only did he break Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker’s record for most career walks by a Canadian when he notched his 914th free pass in the third inning of Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, he also went 11-for-21 (.524 batting average) with three home runs in seven games. The Cincinnati Reds first baseman leads the National League in walks (56) and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) (1.050).