Votto not missing a beat

CHRIS TOMAN, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 2:36 PM ET

NEW YORK -- Just one week into the 2011 season and Canadians are already making their presence felt in the majors. With 16 players from north of the border on Opening Day big league rosters, 2011 looks to be a promising one for Canadian MLBers.

Here's a quick look at how some of them fared over the first week of the season:

JOEY VOTTO, CINCINNATI REDS

The 2010 National League MVP has wasted little time in continuing what he started last year. The first baseman went deep in his first game of the season and has struck out just twice through his first 29 plate appearances. Batting .391 and hitting safely in each of his first six games, Votto has helped fuel the Cincinnati Reds' hot 5-1 start.

The Reds must take advantage of key injuries to Milwaukee and St. Louis early in the season in what is now a much tougher Central Division. Look for Votto's production to continue all season long, while his numbers should rival the best in the game.

JUSTIN MORNEAU, MINNESOTA TWINS

Like Votto, Morneau is a former MVP and accustomed to carrying the load offensively. He plays first base, swings left-handed and hails from a tiny baseball hotspot called Canada. And last year, he was also one of the hottest hitters in the game - when he played, that is.

Before sustaining a concussion in July that cost him the remainder of the 2010 season, Morneau was batting .345 with 18 home runs and 56 runs batted in. It was a long and scary road to recovery for the 29-year old, and one with plenty of uncertainty. Minnesota should be relieved to have the slugger back and if he can produce like he's been known too, bonus. And there is no reason to think, providing Morneau doesn't experience anymore bouts with post-concussion syndrome, that he won't.

Prior to his injury-shortened 2010, Morneau drove in at least 100 runs in four consecutive seasons, while hitting 30-plus home runs in three of them. He was well on his way to that same type of season last year and, by the time 2011 wraps up, should be right in line with those numbers again. It will just take a little bit of patience to get there. The Twins star has amassed just four hits in his first 19 at bats (.211), and may have a tough time finding his groove with three left-handers due to take the mound over the Twins' next four games.

RUSSELL MARTIN, NEW YORK YANKEES

After coming off an injury riddled 2010 season - the worst of his career - Martin swapped the Dodger blue for Yankee pinstripes, and was rewarded as the everyday catcher in New York. Albeit a small sample size, Martin is off to a good start in 2011. And, hitting in a potent Yankee lineup is a good way to continue the trend.

Through five games, Martin is batting .300 with a home run, four RBI and two stolen bases. Prior to last year, Martin was the only catcher in the majors to have four consecutive seasons with double-digit totals in steals (leading the majors over that span with 60), and is the only catcher since Jason Kendall in 2000 to steal 20-plus bases in a season (21 in 2007). By the looks of it, the Yankees recognize the exceptional speed Martin offers from behind the plate, and already being one-fifth of the way there, Martin should swipe double-digit numbers in steals again. Martin is a good candidate to bounce-back this season.

RYAN DEMPSTER, CHICAGO CUBS

With injuries plaguing most of Canada's arms and given his consistency and durability, Dempster has emerged as the top arm from his native homeland. Over his past three seasons, the right-hander is 43-27 with a 3.49 ERA, averaging 189 strikeouts, while logging at least 200 innings in each campaign.

The starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter was rewarded with his first opening day start as a Cub after displaying a true model of consistency over that stretch.

He's not off to the right start this season, however.

Dempster has lost both of his starts, allowing 10 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings of work (6.59 ERA), while opposing hitters are batting .291 off him. The one plus is that he's notching a strikeout for every inning pitched with 13 on the season.

JEFF FRANCIS, KANSAS CITY ROYALS

The lefty is, so far, off to a great start in Kansas City.

Despite having no wins to show for, Francis has pitched two quality starts in his first appearances of the season. He's struck out eight in 13 2/3 innings, allowing just three runs combined against the White Sox and Angels, good enough for a 1.98 ERA.

Francis will struggle at times this year, but is looking to bounce-back after a couple of forgettable seasons with the Rockies.

INJURY NOTES

JASON BAY, NEW YORK METS

Like another fellow Canadian, Bay missed significant time last season due to a concussion. In his first season with the Mets, Bay was concussed after experiencing a power outage over the first four months of the season. But as much as the slugger would like to put last season's miseries behind him, he will need to first play in order to do so.

A week before opening day, Bay suffered a ribcage injury that forced him to the DL and to miss the start of the season. Although he's eligible to be activated Saturday, reports suggest the slugger isn't quite ready.

RICH HARDEN, OAKLAND ATHLETICS

The oft-injured hurler started the season on the disabled list and, as of now, there is still no timetable for his return. A talent when he's on the mound, Harden's been plagued by injuries throughout his career. The Athletics' rotation could be overcrowded by the time he's ready to return, and Harden could find himself working out of the bullpen.


Videos

Photos