Eight players who wore Canadian uniform on Opening Day rosters

Photo: Baseball Canada

Photo: Baseball Canada

March 28, 2019

OTTAWA- Canadians Russell Martin, Tyler O’Neill, James Paxton, Nick Pivetta, Dalton Pompey and Joey Votto make-up the six Canadians on Major League Baseball (MLB) Opening Day rosters with the 2019 season set to begin today.

All six players have represented Canada at international baseball competitions in the past. Two other players who wore the Canadian uniform in World Baseball Classic events — Jameson Taillon and Freddie Freeman — are also on Opening Day rosters.

Five Canadians appeared on active opening day rosters in 2018 while 10 Canucks in total appeared in at least one big league game during the regular season. A modern-day record 26 Canadians appeared in the big leagues in 2011.

Montréal’s Russell Martin is entering his 14th MLB campaign and is back to where it all started after an offseason trade saw the four-time All-Star head back to the Los Angeles Dodgers after four seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. Martin was drafted by the Dodgers in 2002 and spent five seasons with the club including three trips to the postseason. The 36-year-old is 15 home runs shy of the 200 mark and 30 hits short of 1400 for his career. Martin last reached the 15 home runs during the 2016 season and has done so six times in his career.

Maple Ridge, BC’s Tyler O’Neill made his big league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018 and proceeded to slug nine home runs in limited action while belting 26 long balls in just 62 games with triple-A Memphis to earn Cardinals’ Minor League Player of the Year. The 23-year-old cracked the Cards’ 25-player active roster out of spring training and will partake in his first MLB Opening Day when his club visits the Milwaukee Brewers.

Ladner, BC’s James Paxton made headlines across baseball in 2018, and in particular north of the border in May when he tossed a no-hitter for the Seattle Mariners against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The “Big Maple” was dealt by the Mariners to the New York Yankees in November where Canadian baseball fans will get an opportunity to watch even more of the southpaw when he pitches in the American League East against the Blue Jays. The 30-year-old is entering his seventh big league season and is nine wins short of reach 50 for his career.

Victoria, BC’s Nick Pivetta established himself in the Philadelphia Phillies’ starting rotation in 2018 and many analysts are expecting big things from the 25-year-old right-hander in 2019. Registering over a strikeout per inning over his first two big league seasons, the Junior National Team alumnus is penciled in as the Phillies third starter behind Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta.

Mississauga’s Dalton Pompey has suffered his share of injury woes since being the Blue Jays’ opening day centerfielder back in 2015 and that string of bad luck continued this spring, as a concussion will see the 26-year-old begin the season on the 7-day concussion Injured List. Before the injury, Pompey was enjoying a solid spring with the Jays hitting .282 with a home run, seven RBI and two stolen bases in 14 games.

Arguably the best hitter of the past decade, Etobicoke’s Joey Votto is set to begin his 13th major league season, all of which have been in a Cincinnati Reds’ uniform. By his standards, Votto’s production declined in 2018 although he still led the National League in On-Base Percentage while hitting .284 and played in his sixth All-Star Game. If the former National League Most Valuable Player can regain his 2017 form, he can take a serious run at 300 career home runs (currently at 269) and 1000 RBI (currently at 897).

Taillon, who was born in Lakeland, Fla., but has Canadian parents and dual citizenship, is heading into his fourth major league campaign. Last season, the 6-foot-5 right-hander established himself as the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates staff, going 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 191 innings across 32 starts. He will be making the first Opening Day start of his big league career today for the Pirates against the Reds.

Freeman, who was born in Fountain Valley, Calif., but both of his parents are also Canadian, is headed into his 10th major league season with the Atlanta Braves. The towering first baseman set career highs and led the National League in hits (191) and doubles (44) in 2018, while batting .309 with 23 home runs. He’ll be at first base and batting third when the Braves take on the Phillies this afternoon.

2019 MLB Canadians

AL East

Toronto Blue Jays – OF Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, ON)*
New York Yankees – LHP James Paxton (Ladner, BC)

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers – C Russell Martin (Montréal, QC)

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies – RHP Nick Pivetta (Victoria, BC)

NL Central

Cincinnati Reds - 1B Joey Votto (Etobicoke, ON)
St. Louis Cardinals – OF Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, BC)

*On Injured List