The 2021 Major League Baseball season is now well underway and with 11 Canadians having seen game action thus far. Here are some storylines for fans North of the Border to keep their eyes on throughout the year:
Joey Votto chasing career milestones
It’s crazy to think that Etobicoke, Ontario’s Joey Votto is currently in his 15th big league campaign that’s included six All-Star Games and the 2010 National League Most Valuable Player Award. The veteran has swatted three home runs to this point in the season and was the focal point of this rare triple play over the weekend.
Votto currently sits at 298 home runs leaving him just two shy of the 300 mark, a place that has been reached by just one other Canadian in Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Walker who finished with 383 for his storied career.
Votto is also zeroing in on his 2000th career hit as right now he is sitting at 1924. For reference, Walker finished with 2160 career hits.
Josh Naylor slides into full time role
The 12th overall pick by the Miami Marlins in the 2015 MLB Draft, Mississauga’s Josh Naylor was acquired by Cleveland last season from the San Diego Padres prior to the trade deadline. The former Junior National Team MVP has started in Cleveland’s 14 of 16 games played thus far and has five doubles to go along with a .255 batting average. The power numbers are surely to follow with regular playing time.
Another thing to keep an eye on will be Naylor’s defensive position. So far, the 23-year-old has started in right field on 13 occasions but got his first taste of first base, a position he played as an amatuer, last week.
Don't let Naylor's youth fool you, his maturity was on display during the 2020 postseason and it looks as though he's showing those qualities again in 2021.
Canadian pitchers staying healthy
When squads left their spring training homes in late March two Canadian hurlers were left behind with Calgary’s Mike Soroka of the Atlanta Braves still recovering from a torn achilles suffered early in the 2020 season while Chicago Cubs’ reliever Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, BC) entered spring training with an intercostal injury.
Just last week it was announced the southpaw James Paxton (Ladner, BC) of the Seattle Mariners underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery while Markham’s Jordan Romano landed on the Toronto Blue Jays’ 10-day injured list with an elbow issue.
Romano should be able to return to the Jays’ bullpen once his time on the IL expires while Soroka’s return to the big leagues has been set back due to shoulder inflammation.
Here’s hoping the injury woes stop for our Canadian arms!
Umpire Stu Scheurwater suiting up for his fourth MLB season
Regina’s Stu Scheurwater is currently working his fourth big league season as a full time MLB umpire.
In 2005 Scheurwater worked the Baseball Canada Cup in Medicine Hat and in the following year he umpired at the 21U National Championship in Guelph before he kicked off his journey into professional baseball that saw him break into the big leagues in 2014 at Dodger Stadium.
Scheurwater hasn’t forgotten his roots as he’s been involved as a guest instructor with Baseball Ontraio’s Umpire Super Clinics during the offseason.
Nick Pivetta off to a hot start
Some good news on the Canadian pitching front as Victoria, BC’s Nick Pivetta has enjoyed a solid start to the 2021 season with the Boston Red Sox compiling a 2-0 record with a 3.68 ERA over his first three starts.
Acquired by the Red Sox from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020, Pivetta was victorious in his first four starts in a Red Sox uniform as he looks to solidify himself in their starting rotation.