Canadians in the Majors – June 19
By Kevin Glew
This is our weekly rundown of how Canadians are faring in the major leagues:
Jim Adduci, Burnaby, B.C., Detroit Tigers
Chris McCosky of The Detroit News reported that Adduci took batting practice on the field on Saturday for the first time since sustaining his oblique injury. On June 6, McCosky shared that the Canadian outfielder was hitting in an indoor batting cage and had been throwing, but not tracking fly balls in the outfield. Adduci, who has been sidelined since May 10, will eventually start a rehab assignment in triple-A Toledo, but there’s no set time table for this. The Canadian outfielder 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 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 May 20. After struggling in his first six appearances, he held opponents scoreless in five relief outings (5-1/3 innings) between June 3 and June 11. Last week, however, he allowed three earned runs in two appearances (two innings), which increased his ERA from 5.40 to 6.75. 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.
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Grant McAuley, of CBS radio affiliate 92.9 The Game, reported on Friday that the cast has been removed from Freeman’s wrist and that the Atlanta Braves slugger is now employing a “removable brace.” This is progress for the left-handed hitting first baseman, who after competing for Canada in this year’s World Baseball Classic as a tribute to his late mother, 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). Freeman is expected to be sidelined until late July or early August.
Russell Martin, Montreal Que., Toronto Blue Jays
The Canadian catcher belted two clutch home runs for the Blue Jays this past week. The first was a solo shot in the eighth-inning on Wednesday off Tampa Bay Rays reliever Jose Alvarado with the game deadlocked 6-6. His second home run was a two-run blast in the bottom of the sixth inning on Sunday off Chicago White Sox starter James Shields that tied the game 3-3. The Blue Jays went on to win 7-3. In all, the 34-year-old Canuck was 4-for-14 for the week and he’s now batting .225 with a .367 OBP and has seven home runs in 42 games on the season.
James Paxton, Ladner, B.C, Seattle Mariners
Paxton has been hit hard since returning from a 26-day tenure on the disabled list with a forearm strain on May 31. In three June starts, he boasts a 9.95 ERA. On Thursday, he allowed seven earned runs in 3-2/3 innings against the Texas Rangers. Through 10 big league starts this season, he now owns a 5-2 record with a 3.23 ERA and has registered 62 strikeouts in 55-2/3 innings.
Nick Pivetta, Victoria, B.C., Philadelphia Phillies
Pivetta tossed seven scoreless for the Phillies against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, holding them to four hits, while striking out nine. Unfortunately, the Phillies could not score in those seven innings, though they did eventually win the game 1-0. The 6-foot-5 right-hander’s stellar performance lowered his season ERA to 4.46 in seven starts and he has now fanned 36 batters in 36-1/3 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. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reported on Thursday that Pompey has yet to resume baseball activities, but the Blue Jays don’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 in 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
One year ago this past Saturday, Saunders became the fourth Canadian to club three home runs in a major league game when he walloped a trio of taters against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. The left-handed hitting outfielder would desperately love to have a game like that to get back on track with the Phillies this season. He’s 3-for-31 (.097 batting average) this June and his playing time has diminished. 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 61 games with the Phillies so far, Saunders is batting .205 with six home runs.
Jameson Taillon, Canadian Citizen, Pittsburgh Pirates
In his first big league start since undergoing surgery for testicular cancer on May 8, Taillon tossed five scoreless innings against the Colorado Rockies and picked up the win on June 12. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound hurler followed that up with a loss to the Chicago Cubs yesterday when he allowed four runs in five innings. Taillon, who was selected second overall in the 2010 MLB amateur draft and whose parents are Canadian, is 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 45-1/3 innings in eight starts with the Pirates this season.
Joey Votto, Etobicoke, Ont., Cincinnati Reds
Votto continued to hit well in five games this past week, registering six hits – including a home run and two doubles – in 20 at bats (.300 batting average). His slash line for the season is a healthy .304/.415/.599 and his 19 home runs put him on pace to surpass the career-high 37 he belted in 2010.