27 Feb

throwing an ace

Keep an eye this season on Derek Thompson, a senior right-hander at William Carey. Thompson beat Tougaloo today with a three-hit shutout, fanning seven over his seven innings of work. Thompson, from Mendenhall, is 5-0 in five starts for a Crusaders team that has won 11 games. Now that’s an ace. He also reduced his ERA to 1.57.
P.S. Back to the big leagues: Former Southern Miss star Jarrett Hoffpauir had a couple of hits for the St. Louis Cardinals today in a spring game that was televised on the MLB Network. Considering the Cardinals’ unsettled situation at second base, Hoffpauir may have a real shot at making the big club. He had a solid year at Triple-A Memphis in 2008, hitting .273.

25 Feb

a few atta-boys

Former Ole Miss standout Stephen Head, who apparently received a late invitation to the Cleveland Indians’ spring camp, homered in his first and only at-bat Wednesday. The Indians lost to San Francisco 10-7, and former Mississippi State pitcher Brandon Medders got the win for the Giants with 2 scoreless innings. … Meridian CC alumnus Jason Smith. a non-roster invitee with Houston, had a hit and an RBI while playing shortstop for the Astros in their win over Washington. … Jackson native Donald Veal, a Rule 5 draftee now on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster, got the win for the Pirates against Philadelphia. … And former (probably) Mississippi Brave Jordan Schafer homered for Atlanta in its loss to Detroit.

25 Feb

at long last

Baseball fans are in heaven today. The desolate weeks of winter are officially over: Spring training games have begun. The Braves are playing the Tigers on XM radio at this very moment. They have two on with two out in the top of the first. Former Mississippi Brave Jeff Francoeur is up – and he bounces out to end the inning. Hope that’s not an omen, Braves fans. A big issue in Atlanta camp after the signing of free agent Garret Anderson is what happens to former M-Braves Brandon Jones and Gregor Blanco in a crowded outfield. Jones had a tough year in 2008, split between Triple-A and Atlanta. He has such a sweet left-handed swing, yet he needs to hit for more power as a left fielder. That may come as he matures. Atlanta should not give up on him. Speed is Blanco’s main skill; the enduring image of Blanco from his days at Trustmark Park is of him hitting a ball to one of those deep gaps and scooting around the bases for a triple. He can fly. He hit .251 in 144 big league games as a rookie in 2008. But he is primarily a center fielder, and the Braves have Josh Anderson and Jordan Schafer (not to mention rising star Gorkys Hernandez) lined up to bid for that job, as well. That doesn’t bode well for Blanco’s future in the organization. … Meanwhile, back on XM, the Braves have fallen behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first. Yeesh.

23 Feb

opening acts

Just a quick review, complete with grades, of how Mississippi’s Big 3 Division I schools fared in their openers over the weekend.
Southern Miss: A+. They pitched, they hit, they fielded. You can’t do much better than what the Golden Eagles did in their 3-game sweep of Lehigh. Granted, USM was at home. Perhaps the competition wasn’t great. But still, USM won 18-1, 13-0 and 12-2. That’s pretty darned impressive.
Mississippi State: B. The Bulldogs went 3-1, beating North Florida twice and splitting with Northern Illinois, all at Dudy Noble Field. They won new coach John Cohen’s debut, which was very important. And they capped the weekend with Jet Butler’s walk-off homer. But they gave up 11 runs in one game and seven in another. That’s an indication that Cohen has some work to do in building a pitching staff.
Ole Miss: C. And that’s a generous C. The nationally ranked Rebels went 1-2 in a tournament at Mobile. They lost 3-2 to South Alabama and 13-11 to Mercer. In the one win, Ole Miss blew an early 4-0 lead and a 5-4 lead before beating Liberty 6-5. Yes, it’s a marathon not a sprint, but that’s not the kind of start the Rebels wanted.
P.S. Give Jackson State a B for winning two of three at Florida A&M.; It’s just so hard to gauge JSU baseball; the Tigers program would be better served in many ways if it played more early season games outside the ranks of historically black schools.

22 Feb

all kidding aside

It would have made a great April Fool’s Day story. Alas, it’s only February. In case you missed it, David Dellucci, the former Ole Miss standout now with the Cleveland Indians, is going to be stalled for a brief while because of a cut on his left thumb. Dellucci told some enraptured reporters on Saturday that he was injured while saving a small boy from an attacking alligator. He was kidding. The truth, he would admit, was that he hurt his thumb slamming the tailgate on a trailer as he packed for spring training last week. The wound required stitches, and Dellucci reportedly will miss the Indians’ first three spring games. No big deal. Maybe. The 35-year-old Dellucci is no lock to make the Indians’ 25-man club. He is entering the last year of an $11.5 million contract and coming off a season in which he hit just .238 as the semi-regular left fielder. He missed most of 2007 with an injury. The Indians have some young players bidding for spots this spring. Dellucci, who is with his sixth team since breaking into the big leagues in 1997, could wind up looking for a seventh. No fooling.

19 Feb

great game, take 1

A nomination for College Game of the Year, Mississippi Division: Delta State 7, William Carey 6, Wednesday, at WCU’s Milton Wheeler Field in Hattiesburg. The stars: For DSU, Devin Goodwin (game-tying homer in the seventh); Will McGinnis (go-ahead pinch homer in the ninth); and Levi Bishop (3 strikeouts in the ninth for the save). For Carey, Jason Terrell (4 RBIs). The plot: Carey leads early 4-1. DSU goes up 5-4. Carey recaptures the lead 6-5 and takes it into the seventh. Enter the tragic figure: Carey’s Matt Carter, who surrenders the homers to Goodwin and McGinnis, the only runs he allowed in five innings of work. Best supporting actor: DSU’s Nathan Hardy, who throws three scoreless innings before allowing two baserunners in the ninth. The compelling closing scene: Bishop, a senior by way of Saltillo and Itawamba CC, fans the top of the Carey order. Curtain falls. Wish you’d been there? Of course.
P.S. The junior college season is young but already two no-hitters have been posted. Copiah-Lincoln’s Joseph Evans threw one (a five-inning game) against East Mississippi on Feb. 11, and last Sunday, East Central’s Timothy Maloney (5 innings), Scott Lowrey (1) and Quin Stokes (1) teamed up for one, also against EMCC.

13 Feb

a stumbling start

Spring training hasn’t even begun yet and already another Mississippian in the big leagues has gone down with an injury. Nettleton native Bill Hall will be sidelined 4-6 weeks because of a calf injury, the Milwaukee Brewers announced today. Hall, expected to be Milwaukee’s regular third baseman, apparently was injured while working out on his own. He got a fat contract after blasting 35 home runs for the Brewers in 2006 but has struggled ever since. He hit just .254 with 14 homers in 2007 and .225 with 15 last year. This is not the kind of start he wanted to his 2009 campaign.

13 Feb

a goodbye

Minnie Jane Burns died on Sunday at the age of 95. Her passing should not go unmarked by the Mississippi baseball community. The Carthage native, a sweet and multi-talented woman, was the widely acknowledged No. 1 fan of the Jackson Mets/Generals/Senators. She attended the first game at Smith-Wills Stadium in 1975 and missed very few during professional baseball’s 30-year run at the old ballpark on Lakeland Drive. Funeral services are Saturday at Madison Methodist Church Chapel.

12 Feb

boys of spring

Drumroll, please. Without further ado, here is The List of players with Mississippi ties who’ll be in major league camps this spring. This includes non-roster invitees as well as 40-man roster members. Others may appear in big league spring games from time to time but technically aren’t “in” the major league camp.

Position players
Julio Borbon (Starkville), Texas; Chris Coghlan (Ole Miss), Florida; David Dellucci (Ole Miss), Cleveland; Joey Gathright (Hattiesburg), Chicago Cubs; Bill Hall (Nettleton), Milwaukee; Jarrett Hoffpauir (Southern Miss), St. Louis; Bobby Kielty (Ole Miss), New York Mets; Fred Lewis (Gulf Coast CC), San Francisco; John Lindsey (Hattiesburg), Florida; Edwin Maysonet (Delta State), Houston; Paul Phillips (Meridian CC), Colorado; Jason Smith (Meridian CC), Houston; Seth Smith (Ole Miss), Colorado; Craig Tatum (Mississippi State), Cincinnati; Marcus Thames (East Central CC), Detroit; Matt Tolbert (Ole Miss), Minnesota; Jonathan Van Every (Itawamba CC), Boston; Corey Wimberly (Alcorn State), Oakland; Dmitri Young (Vicksburg), Washington.
Pitchers
John Bale (USM), Kansas City; T.J. Beam (Ole Miss), Toronto; Chad Bradford (USM), Tampa Bay (on disabled list); Roy Corcoran, (Gulf Coast CC), Seattle; Dewon Day (Jackson State), Tampa Bay; Tim Dillard (Itawamba CC), Milwaukee; Brent Leach (Delta State), Los Angeles Dodgers; Cliff Lee (Meridian CC), Cleveland; Paul Maholm (MSU), Pittsburgh; Matt Maloney (Ole Miss), Cincinnati; Bob McCrory (USM), Baltimore; Roy Oswalt (Holmes CC), Houston; Jonathan Papelbon (MSU), Boston; Tony Sipp (Gulf Coast CC), Cleveland; Taylor Tankersley (Vicksburg), Florida; Donald Veal (Jackson), Pittsburgh; Terrell Young (Grenada), Washington.

Pitchers and catchers report — officially — on Saturday, though many are already in camp, as are some of the other position players, who aren’t required to report until next week.
A note on Julio Borbon: He played at Tennessee but was indeed born in Starkville, when his father was in school at Mississippi State.

11 Feb

hitting close to home

Adam Piatt’s name was back in the news the past couple days. The former Mississippi State standout and ex-big leaguer was the player who provided Miguel Tejada with banned performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 when they were teammates in Oakland. Tejada, now with the Houston Astros, pleaded guilty today in federal court to misleading Congress about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Piatt, whose big league career consisted of 521 at-bats and 16 home runs before retirement in 2004, came clean on his involvement with steroids — and with Tejada — in the 2007 Mitchell Report. Others should have followed Piatt’s lead. And they still can. Baseball would be better for it. The Mitchell Report hit close to home when the names of players found to be connected with steroids were revealed. It was disturbing to see several with Mississippi ties on the list, including former Jackson Mets Mark Carreon, Chris Donnels, Lenny Dykstra and Todd Hundley, ex-Southern Miss star Kevin Young, Copiah-Lincoln alumnus Nook Logan and, of course, former MSU standout Rafael Palmeiro, who had failed a drug test in 2005. Only Logan was still playing from among that group in 2007; he was in an independent league last year. Baseball will survive this mess. It has survived all manner of things, from the Black Sox to artificial turf to free agency to the cocaine scandal of the 1980s. But that doesn’t make this any easier to digest.