The Rode Show: Team Canada Unfazed By Loss To Blue Jays
March 16, 2015
By Nathan Rode
It would be excusable for a 17-year-old pitcher to have some nerves going up against established big league hitters, but RHP Mike Soroka (Manning HS, AB) seemed unfazed by the challenge and result. A 6-foot-4, 195-pound righty, Soroka is Canada’s top draft prospect for 2015 and committed to California. Pitching for Canada’s Junior National Team against the Toronto Blue Jays, he made his 2015 debut and allowed seven runs (one earned) on six hits and one walk while striking out two in two innings.
“I felt good,” Soroka said. “It’s nice to get back in the warm weather. It’s pretty nice in Calgary, but not quite this nice. First outing of the year against the Blue Jays, I went at them with all I had and left it all out on the table.
Soroka started out strong, sitting 93-94 mph on the first several fastballs and was 91-92 out of the stretch while showing some life. His delivery is loose and easy and he comes through a 3/4 arm slot. After the first, Soroka settled into the 88-90 range. His breaking ball seemingly morphed between a slider and curveball, but routinely sat 79-81. At times, it showed bigger break and depth, but also flattened out with more later action at times. His changeup flashed fade in the low 80s and has a chance to be a solid pitch as he continues to develop feel for it.
“Second inning, beginning of the inning was good,” Soroka said. “I felt everything was still pretty sharp. Yea, fatigue set in a little bit. Again, I’ve gotta keep throwing through it. It’s my job to get outs for my fields and get groundballs for them to throw over.”
The box score may not have been a welcoming site, but Soroka was candid and confident after his appearance, knowing it was his first of the season and against professionals.
“You’ve got nothing to lose,” he said. “There’s no one that’s going to say that even if I gave up eight home runs and a bunch of doubles, I didn’t have anything to lose. They’re big league hitters, they should…I can go at them with everything I have and see what happens.”
Soroka looks forward to continuing to represent Canada throughout the year. The draft may alter things, but if he opts out of signing and goes to California, the Bears have agreed to let him pitch in the World Cup at the end of the summer.
As tough as a task pitching against big league hitters is, Team Canada’s own hitters may have faced a tougher one in going against a major league knuckleballer in RHP R.A. Dickey. However, they didn’t look overmatched and managed to frequently make contact. Dickey pitched five innings and Team Canada scratched out two runs on four hits and a walk. Only one Canadian stuck out against Dickey.
“It’s awesome,” first baseman Josh Naylor (St. Joan of Arc HS, ON) said. “It betters us as a team and gets us one step closer to our goal. Facing MLB caliber pitching is pretty impressive. Even R.A. Dickey, that knuckleball you don’t see every day, it’s pretty awesome to face. If you do bad, you do bad and you can’t really do anything about it because he’s a very experienced pitcher.”
Naylor had his usual aggressive approach, taking big hacks with his electric bat speed and finished the day 1-for-4 with a run scored. His lone hit was a hard single through the right side off of Dickey.
Team Canada only managed one extra-base hit, a double by C Andrew Yerzy (York Mills Collegiate HS, ON), who hits from the left side. Yerzy has a big, strong frame at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and stayed back on a knuckle ball away, driving to the left-center gap. OF Demi Orimoloye (St. Matthew HS, ON) went 0-for-4, but put the ball in play in every at-bat and even drove a long fly ball to the warning track in left. He also played well defensively and showed arm strength on a sacrifice fly, hitting his cutoff man and getting an assist as a runner was cut down trying to take third base.
OF Miles Gordon (St. Ignatius of Loyola Collegiate HS, ON) didn’t collect a hit either, but certainly catches attention with his lean frame at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and speed. He grounded out to shortstop in his first at-bat and got down the line in 4.26 seconds after pulling up.
The highlight of the game may have been the first batter in the bottom of the first inning. OF Dalton Pompey enjoyed a breakout 2014 campaign and was a late call-up to the big leagues. He led off for the Blue Jays and flew out to left field, where his younger brother Tristan Pompey (Jean Vanier Catholic SS, ON) was patrolling. The older Pompey gave a friendly wave to his brother after the catch. The younger Pompey was 0-for-4 with an RBI. He has quick-twitch athleticism and speed, though his overall game is raw. He’s skinny now at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, but has a couple inches on his brother and could be a physical specimen if he fills out similarly.
Orimoloye, Naylor, Gordon and Pompey are all ranked in the top five of Ontario’s 2015 class.
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