10 Jul

there and here

San Francisco has placed Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High star, on the injured list for what was described only as “medical purposes.” Hamilton is in the Giants’ camp on a minor league deal but was expected to make the active roster before the season begins. Reports were unclear on when he might be able to come off the IL. The 29-year-old outfielder is a .242 career hitter with 299 steals over seven big league seasons. … Milwaukee has added former Mississippi State star Ethan Small and Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard, both 2019 draft picks, to its 60-man pool of eligible players for summer camp. Small, a left-hander picked in the first round, is the Brewers’ No. 2 prospect; he made seven appearances in the low minors last summer. Dillard, a catcher and a fifth-rounder, batted .249 with seven homers in his first pro season. … Adam Moncure is among the hottest hitters in the Cotton States League, batting .400 (.581 on-base) with two homers and a league-best 12 RBIs in nine games for the Black Prairie Mudcats. Moncure, from Clinton, hit .341 as a freshman at Meridian Community College in 2020. Blue Mountain native Sam McMillin, a left-hander at Union University, is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 19 innings for the CSL’s DeSoto Xplorers. … Luther Woullard, a former Jones (Junior) College star from d’Iberville, is playing for the Macon Bacon of the Coastal Plain League, a high-level college summer circuit. As a senior at New Orleans in 2020, Woullard batted .381 with 14 RBIs before the season was halted. He’ll have a year of eligibility left at UNO. Woullard was an All-MACJC outfielder who put up big numbers on some outstanding Jones teams in 2017-18. … Aiden Moffett of Taylorsville High has committed to LSU, per the Laurel Leader-Call. Though he was not highly recruited during his abbreviated sophomore year, Moffett has turned heads with his summer team. Playing for the Louisiana Knights, a travel team based in Mandeville, right-hander Moffett reportedly received offers from Southern Miss, Texas A&M and LSU over the course of just one weekend. … Former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker, who’ll be deploying a DH in every game as Atlanta’s skipper this season, told espn.com that he once asked Bobby Cox about managing with the DH. “Get a bag of balls and sit on it, watch the game,” Cox told him.

08 Jul

a certain symmetry

In the Texas Rangers’ final game at their former stadium, Globe Life Park, Lance Lynn beat the New York Yankees with a fairly dominating performance. It seems appropriate that the former Ole Miss standout would be picked for the first start at the Rangers’ new stadium, Globe Life Field, when their 2020 season begins on July 24. In a rehearsal for that plum assignment on Tuesday, Lynn worked six shutout innings in an intrasquad game, recording eight strikeouts and no walks while yielding just two hits. “It gets me ready for what I want to do to be ready for Opening Day and be full-go with no restrictions,” he said in an mlb.com piece. “I am right where I want to be.” In his first year with Texas in 2019, the right-hander went 16-11 with a 3.67 ERA and finished fifth in the American League Cy Young voting. At 6 feet 5, 250 pounds, he is a hard-throwing horse. He worked over 200 innings for the Rangers last year and finished fourth in the AL with 246 punchouts. A first-round supplemental draft pick by St. Louis in 2008, he left Ole Miss as the school’s all-time strikeout leader. In an eight-season MLB career – during which he has won a World Series ring and made an All-Star Game – the 33-year-old Lynn is 98-68 with a 3.59 ERA. Lynn is expected to get a couple more intrasquad starts before the July 24 main event against Colorado. “He’s in a great spot to let him hit the ground running and let him go,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward told the Dallas Morning News.

08 Jul

whatever happened to …

T.J. House, the former Picayune High star and MLB veteran, is pitching for the Eastern Reyes del Tigre, one of the four clubs in the newly formed Constellation Energy League in Texas. The league was created by the Sugar Land Skeeters, a member of the independent Atlantic League, which is shut down for 2020. House, 30, pitched in 29 big league games from 2014-17. The left-hander held a spot in Cleveland’s rotation for part of 2014, going 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA. He spent last season in the independent American Association. The Constellation Energy League will be based at Sugar Land’s Constellation Energy Field and starts its 28-game season on Friday. … There are several former big leaguers on the CEL rosters, including Cameron Rupp, David Huff, Tommy Joseph and former Mississippi Braves star Dustin Peterson. P.S. With Baltimore having agreed to a $950,000 signing bonus for third-round draft selection Anthony Servideo of Ole Miss, all seven players picked from in-state schools in last month’s draft have now signed or agreed to terms. (Former DeSoto Central star Blaze Jordan’s reported deal with Boston has not yet been made official.) … Henri Lartigue, an Ole Miss product from Southaven, was added to Philadelphia’s 60-man roster at catcher over the July 4 weekend. That makes seven non 40-man roster members with Mississippi ties in MLB summer camps, the others being Billy Hamilton, Tyler Keenan, Jack Kruger, Brent Rooker, Nick Sandlin and Ryan Rolison. Hamilton, the only one of this group with big league time, is expected to be added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster before the season begins. … Tanner Propst, an MRA alum who pitched at Delta State in 2020, signed as a non-drafted free agent with Colorado.

07 Jul

a new look

The Los Angeles Dodgers will open their season on July 23 at home against longtime rival San Francisco. There will be a national TV (ESPN) audience but – unfortunately — no people in the seats. Right fielder Mookie Betts isn’t the only thing new at Dodger Stadium for 2020. The old ballpark, which opened in 1958, has undergone a $100 million renovation under the direction of Jackson native Janet Marie Smith, the club’s Senior Vice President of Planning and Development. “It’s less of a renovation in an architectural sense,” she recently told lamag.com, “than it is a reimagining of how these buildings come together.” A new plaza beyond center field makes it a more fan-friendly, fan-accessible facility. All it needs now is some fans. The MLB All-Star Game was originally scheduled for Dodger Stadium this summer but will now be played at Chavez Ravine in 2022. Smith, a Mississippi State alumna elected to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame this year, also has worked directly on stadium projects at Camden Yards, Fenway Park and Turner Field and consulted on many others. Her work at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, which opened in 1992, spearheaded a new era in stadium design. The Boston Globe has described Smith as “the architect credited with saving Fenway Park.” P.S. MLB’s only new stadium, Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, will be formally unveiled on July 24 when the Rangers face Colorado. Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn is slated to start the game for Texas. … Atlanta’s newly named Truist Park (formerly Sun Trust Park) will host its first official game on July 29.

06 Jul

summer sessions

Hunter Renfroe took some batting practice cuts Sunday in his new home park, Tropicana Field, and put on a show of power, according to an mlb.com account. Former Mississippi State star Renfroe, acquired by Tampa Bay from San Diego in the off-season, hit a pair of balls off the indoor stadium’s catwalks, considered quite a poke. “Renfroe was playing pepper with the back wall,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “That’s not something you see a lot of guys do.” Renfroe averaged 28 homers over the past three seasons with the Padres. … Spencer Turnbull, the Madison Central High alumnus now with Detroit, spent time during MLB’s shutdown back in Mississippi throwing to dad Jim, who, per an mlb.com report, wore full catcher’s gear as his son worked on his complete arsenal of pitches. “He’s caught me my whole life,” Spencer said. “Anytime I go home in the off-season, I’ll throw to him. He’s not usually in full gear, but I’m throwing flat grounds to him all the time.” … Ex-State star Mitch Moreland drew praise from Boston manager Ron Roenicke following his BP session at Fenway Park on Sunday. “When we have him out there on the field, hopefully he can start like he did last year,” Roenicke told mlb.com. “We know how important starting well is this year. Today is about as good a day as you can have for him.” Moreland, typically a fast starter, hit 13 homers in his first 46 games in 2019 and 10 homers in his first 44 games in 2018. … MSU product Dakota Hudson threw live BP in St. Louis’ camp on Saturday and said afterward he is pleased with how efforts to smooth out his delivery have gone. “I feel comfortable with what I’m doing,” Hudson said in an mlb.com article. “I was trying to mess with some stuff at the end of last year, and going into spring this year, I was able to show it off a little bit.” Hudson, 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 2019, is seeking to cut down on walks this season; he led the majors with 86 a year ago. … On the local front, there was some actual baseball in Vicksburg over the holiday weekend, with the Hattiesburg Black Sox semi-pro team taking on the US Military Baseball Team in a three-game series at Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi. The US Military team, a touring independent club, is not affiliated with the Department of Defense but plays in honor of the U.S. Armed Forces.

04 Jul

fireworks at fenway

With, sadly, no big league games to watch on this Fourth of July, we can only look back at some of the many great moments that have happened on this day of national celebration. Here’s one with a Mississippi flavor: Take a trip in your mind to Fenway Park, 1977. With Greenville native George Scott leading the way, the Boston Red Sox hit a record-tying eight home runs in a 9-6 win over Toronto. Scott hit two of the homers — “taters,” he called them — and was joined on this bomb squad by Fred Lynn (who also hit two), Butch Hobson, Bernie Carbo, Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski. Must have been quite a day for the Fenway faithful. Scott, a 12-year veteran in 1977, was on his way to a 33-homer season. He made the All-Star Game that year for the third and final time of his career. It was his first year back in Boston, his original club, after five seasons with Milwaukee. The ’77 season was also the last truly productive year of his 14-year career. One of the best players the Magnolia State has ever produced, “Boomer” finished with 271 home runs and eight Gold Gloves. He died in Greenville on July 28, 2013.

02 Jul

eye on …

Cody Carroll might prove to be a key figure in Baltimore’s bullpen, which was generally awful in 2019. The ex-Southern Miss star, now 27, missed most of last season with a back injury but was impressive in spring training before the lockdown. As mlb.com reports, “The O’s think the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Carroll has back-end stuff, pointing to his high-90s fastball and strong slider.” With a 60-game season, bullpens may play an even larger role than in normal years. (That might also be good news for other Mississippi college products such as Jonathan Holder, Mike Mayers, Cody Reed and Bobby Wahl.) Tennessee native Carroll was drafted out of USM by the New York Yankees in 2015 and traded to Baltimore in July 2018; he made his big league debut shortly thereafter, posting a 9.00 ERA in 15 appearances. He was hurt by walks and home runs. In six 2020 spring innings, he yielded no walks or homers and fanned eight. Carroll has a 2.71 career minor league ERA and made All-Star Games at three levels on the way up. P.S. The Orioles have signed or agreed to terms with each of their six 2020 draftees except for third-rounder Anthony Servideo, the shortstop out of Ole Miss. Former Mississippi State shortstop Jordan Westburg, a competitive balance pick after Round 1, signed last week. The MLB slot value for Servideo’s draft position (74th) is $844,200. The Orioles reportedly have more than that remaining in their allotted pool.

01 Jul

minor matters

For the first time in 19 years – and just the second time over a 44-year span — there will be no minor league baseball played in Mississippi. The minor league season was officially cancelled on Tuesday, meaning no games at Trustmark Park in Pearl or MGM Stadium in Biloxi, where the Double-A Braves and Shuckers reside. We have to go back to 2001 to find a year here without pro ball. (And, no, semi-pro ball doesn’t count.) When Jackson’s Texas League franchise left Smith-Wills Stadium in 1999 after a 25-year run, the independent Jackson DiamondKats moved in for the 2000 season. The club folded after its first year. Smith-Wills hosted a college summer league in 2001 but no pro ball. The independent Senators arrived in 2002 and played through 2005, when Trustmark Park opened and the Southern League M-Braves began play. … Though no players will suit up as M-Braves this year, there are 13 players from the 2019 Mississippi club on Atlanta’s 60-man roster for summer camp, which starts today at Truist Park (nee Sun Trust Park). Among that group is Braden Shewmake, Atlanta’s No. 7 prospect and the M-Braves’ shortstop at the end of last season. Shortstop at the TeePee is practically a portal to the big leagues. From Luis Hernandez, the M-Braves’ opening day shortstop in 2005, to Dylan Moore, who held the job most of 2017, there have been 13 M-Braves shortstops who have made it to the majors. The list includes Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Andrelton Simmons, Yunel Escobar, Brent Lillibridge and Brandon Hicks. Though he isn’t expected to make Atlanta’s active roster this season, Shewmake figures to join that group someday soon. A 2019 first-round pick out of Texas A&M, the 6-foot-4, lefty-hitting Shewmake got 14 games worth of experience with the M-Braves last summer. He didn’t hit much in his Double-A debut, but his resume suggests he’ll adapt. He hit .318 at low Class A Rome before skipping a level to join the M-Braves. In his three years at Texas A&M, in the fiercely competitive SEC, Shewmake batted .322 with 22 homers and 39 doubles in 187 games. He was the SEC’s freshman of the year in 2017 after batting .328 with 11 homers for a College World Series club. Shewmake was an athlete for all seasons in high school in Wylie, Texas, competing in football, soccer, basketball and track when not on the diamond. Apparently, his best sport was never in doubt. “I always loved baseball, and every kid’s dream is to be a professional baseball player,” he told milb.com last summer. Presuming there is a 2021 season in Pearl, we might be fortunate enough to see Shewmake out there again at shortstop before he follows the well-worn path to The Show.

30 Jun

the gamble

J.T. Ginn rolled the dice in 2018, turning down a reported $2.4 million signing bonus to pitch at Mississippi State and gamble that that kind of money would be available again after his college career. The gamble paid off for the former Brandon High star on Monday, when he signed for a reported $2.9M with the New York Mets. It’s the Mets who are rolling the dice now. Ginn, 21, had Tommy John surgery in February, so he won’t see the mound again until next spring. Many pitchers come back stronger from that surgery. Some don’t. That’s the gamble the Mets have taken by paying Ginn roughly twice the slot value of the 52nd pick. He was a first-rounder in 2018, going 30th overall to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ginn, who posted a 3.22 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 89 1/3 innings at State, is a pure power pitcher. The 6-foot-2 right-hander throws an upper 90s fastball, a nasty sinker and a hard slider. The Mets are understandably excited about his potential. Old cranks might recall the excitement the Mets had about another right-hander from Mississippi whom they picked eighth overall back in 1993. That would be Kirk Presley, the prep phenom from Tupelo who chose pro ball – and a $900,000 bonus – over Mississippi State, where he planned to play baseball and football. The Mets heralded Presley as one of their young guns, along with fellow prospects Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson. Alas, Presley developed shoulder problems, had a couple of surgeries and ultimately retired in his fifth pro season, never pitching above A-ball. When it comes to pitchers and their arms, you just never know how it’s gonna play out.

29 Jun

roster watch

Perusing the 60-man rosters released by most MLB teams on Sunday, there are a couple of surprises. One, Brian Dozier is NOT on San Diego’s list. Two, Tyler Keenan, drafted just this month, IS on Seattle’s. Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star, signed a minor league deal with the Padres and was vying for the second base job in spring training, batting .227 in eight games. But the eight-year veteran is not currently in the pool of eligible players, though he reportedly could be added later. Ole Miss product Keenan, a fourth-round pick who signed late last week for $500,000, is among three 2020 draftees Seattle put on its list, which is replete with prospect types. Keenan is a lefty-hitting third baseman with big power. … USM alum Nick Sandlin, Mississippi State product Jack Kruger and ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison are among the non 40-man roster players appearing in the 60-man pools. Sandlin, a reliever, is with Cleveland; Kruger, a catcher, with the Los Angeles Angels; and Rolison, a lefty starter, with Colorado. Rolison, a 2018 draftee, is the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect, per mlb.com. Minnesota did not release its list on Sunday, but speculation is former State standout Brent Rooker and possibly USM alum Matt Wallner could be on it. Teams start summer camp on July 1, though not all of the 60-man roster members will report to the big league stadium. The others will go to an alternate facility. P.S. It hasn’t been officially announced as a signing, but Blaze Jordan reportedly has agreed to a $1.7 million bonus with Boston, well above the slot value for the third-round pick. The DeSoto Central High product, a longtime MSU commit, was the 89th overall selection. … MSU alum Jordan Westburg has formally signed with Baltimore ($2.4M as a competitive balance pick after the first round), leaving only State’s J.T. Ginn and UM’s Anthony Servideo unsigned among the seven in-state players drafted June 10-11.