The 2014 Major League Baseball season kicked off this past weekend with 10 Canadians suiting up on Opening Day rosters.
While the number of Canucks in MLB has decreased over the past few seasons, there are still some big-name players from the true north to keep an eye on this season:
Joey Votto (Etobicoke, ON) – Cincinnati Reds, First Baseman
In his first 7+ seasons with the Reds, Joey Votto has a career Batting Average of .314 and has hit more than 20 home runs on five separate occasions. Votto was voted the National League’s MVP and Hank Aaron Award winner (which is given to the top hitter in each league, as voted by fans and the media) in 2010 when he hit 37 HRs and drove in 113 RBIs. The Toronto native has led the National League in On-Base Percentage for the past four seasons, and has represented the Reds in each of the last four All-Star Games; a streak that he will look to continue in 2014. In addition to powering Cincinnati’s offence, Votto has been known to make amazing plays on the defensive side of the ball as well, having won the Gold Glove Award as the league’s best defensive First Baseman in 2011.
Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) – Toronto Blue Jays, Third Baseman
Ever since his spectacular debut with the Blue Jays at the end of the 2011 season, Brett Lawrie (who also played for Team Canada at the 2008 Summer Olympics as an 18 year-old) has become a topical figure in Canada’s Baseball capital. His spectacular defensive plays keep the Blue Jay fans cheering, but his often over-aggressive demeanour on the field and his many antics off the field have gotten Lawrie into some trouble. No matter which Lawrie shows up in 2014 (let’s hope it’s the Brett who hit .293 with 9 HRs and 25 RBIs over 43 games as a rookie in 2011), he will certainly be fun to watch.
John Axford (Port Dover, ON) – Cleveland Indians, Closing Pitcher
After losing his role as the Brewers’ Closer and being shipped from Milwaukee to St Louis at the deadline last season, John Axford signed a new contract this offseason to close games for the Cleveland Indians. With Axford’s hometown of Port Dover, Ontario only a 5 or 6 hour drive from Cleveland, he should see a lot more support from friends and family in the stands. The Ax Man, as he is jokingly referred to, has had a strong start to the 2014 campaign, completing both of his first 2 save opportunities while allowing no hits, three strikeouts and two walks over his two innings of work.
Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC) – Colorado Rockies, First Baseman
Justin Morneau, the 2006 American League MVP, spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the Minnesota Twins. Morneau’s big bat quickly made him a fan-favourite in the Twin Cities, as he hit 30 HRs on 3 different occasions, en route to 4 All-Star appearances. At last year’s trade deadline, the Twins traded Morneau to Pittsburgh, where he had only 3 RBIs over 25 regular season and 6 playoff games. The New Westminste, BC native signed a two-yer deal with Colorado this past offseason, and has started 2014 well, batting .385 with 1 RBI over his first 3 games with the Rockies.
Russell Martin (Montreal, QC) – Pittsburgh Pirates, Catcher
Russell Martin struggled in his first season with the Pirates last season, amassing only 15 HRs and 55 RBIs over 127 regular season games. However, he did pick up his performance in the postseason, collecting 2 HRs and 6 RBIs in only 6 playoff games. Martin will be looking to return to the form that saw him attend 3 All-Star games as well as winning the 2007 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards as the MLB’s best defensive and offensive catcher, respectively.
The other 5 Canadians that appeared on Opening Day Rosters this season were:
- Jim Adduci (Burnaby, BC) – Texas Rangers, Outfielder
- Jesse Crain (Toronto, ON) - Houston Astros, Relief Pitcher
- Jim Henderson (Calgary, AB) – Milwaukee Brewers, Relief Pitcher
- James Paxton (Ladner, BC) – Seattle Mariners, Starting Pitcher
- Michael Saunders (Victoria, BC) - Seattle Mariners, Outfielder
All images via the Canadian Press.