Canadian MLB Roundup: Braves’ Mike Soroka pitching like an ace

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka works against the San Diego Padres. (John Bazemore/AP)

Some new Canadian pitchers came onto the scene while some familiar faces are struggling. In the second instalment of a monthly series, we check in on the Canadians across Major League Baseball, starting in Atlanta…

Mike Soroka, Calgary
Soroka has been dominant since joining the Braves rotation past the mid-way point in April.

The 21-year-old right-hander has made five starts for Atlanta, going 3-1 with a 1.21 earned-run average over 29.2 innings with 31 strikeouts.

His most dominant performance came against San Diego on April 29 when he went six innings while giving up one run on four hits and striking out eight.

Soroka has yet to allow a home run and carries an above-average 3.52 xFIP (fielding independent pitching).

James Paxton, Ladner, B.C.
Paxton really started finding his groove after the first instalment of this series came out, but has since been sidelined with a knee injury.

He pitched eight innings of shutout ball for the Yankees in an 8-0 win over the Boston Red Sox on April 16 and struck out 12.

Paxton recorded another 12 strikeouts in his next start — a no-decision against Kansas City.

He left a May 3 start against Minnesota with knee soreness which turned out to be inflammation and landed him on the 10-day injured list. Paxton resumed playing catch last week.

New York has won each of the last four games Paxton has started.

Tyler O’Neill, Maple Ridge, B.C.
An elbow injury combined with a lack of playing time has landed O’Neill back in the minors.

The outfielder landed on the injured list after a brutal throw from centre-field against the Milwaukee Brewers.

He returned to the Cardinals lineup on April 26 but made only one start over the next week where he struck out four times in four at-bats. St. Louis optioned him to triple-A Memphis two days later.

O’Neill is stuck behind Marcell Ozuna, Jose Martinez, Harrison Bader and Dexter Fowler in the Cardinals outfield. The 23-year-old has made the most of his demotion so far by hitting three home runs and driving in eight.

Joey Votto, Toronto
Votto told MLB.com he’s “annoyed” with his statistics so far this season.

The veteran first baseman entered Tuesday slashing a lowly .119/.260/.167 in May but hit a solo home run later in the day against the Cubs. His month started with an 0-for-14 slump which included an 0-for-7 day against San Francisco.

Manager David Bell has tinkered with his lineup by batting Votto second in the order although it hasn’t fully generated results of yet.

Since our first instalment, Votto has record his 900th career RBI and also had an interesting stat.

Russell Martin, Montreal
Lower-back inflammation kept Martin on the injured list for the first half of this month’s segment, but he’s beginning to find his groove.

Martin has a pair of 2-for-4 days over the past week which brought his average up to .256 for the season.

He’ll slot behind Dodgers No. 1 catcher Austin Barnes on the depth chart for the first-place Blue Crew.

Cal Quantrill, Port Hope, Ont.
Quantrill is the second new addition to this month’s segment and made his MLB debut on April 30 for the Padres against Atlanta.

The son of former Blue Jays pitcher Paul Quantrill was the eighth Canadian to play in the majors this season and did respectable in his first game. He went 5.2 innings allowing two runs on six hits, walking one and striking out three while taking the loss.

Quantrill, 24, made one more start for San Diego — a no-decision against the Mets — before being sent back to triple-A El Paso.

His performances over two starts should get him more looks with the Padres throughout the summer.

Nick Pivetta, Victoria
Pivetta’s early-season struggles were documented in last month’s roundup and the situation didn’t improve.

The right-hander picked up the win in an April 16 start against the New York Mets, going five innings but gave up two home runs, three earned runs, seven hits and three walks.

Philadelphia’s patience ran thin and Pivetta was optioned to triple-A Lehigh Valley the next day.

He’s pitched well in the minors and the possibility of him re-joining the Phillies in a non-starter role is on the table.

IN THE MINORS

R.J. Freure, Burlington, Ont.
The sample size is small, but Freure has decent numbers since making the jump to class-A for the Astros organization.

He signed out of the University of Pittsburgh last summer and had a 0.49 ERA entering this week’s games with the Quad Cities River Bandits. Freure has primarily been used as a reliever and is 2-for-2 on save opportunities. But he got roughed up in a start on Monday against Cedar Rapids, giving up nine runs — eight earned — on seven hits in 3.1 innings.

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