20 Jun

going deep

The Minnesota Twins don’t look to Brian Dozier to supply power, but all of a sudden he is doing just that. The former Southern Miss standout from Tupelo homered today in the Twins’ 8-4 win over the Chicago White Sox. That’s three in the last four games and six for the season from the 5-foot-11, 190-pound second baseman. (He’s got twice as many bombs as Justin Morneau.) Dozier’s average is still a disappointing .234 — which is what he hit last year during an aborted trial at shortstop — but perhaps the show of pop is a good sign. Dozier has hit leadoff the last two games for the slumbering Twins, who have won three straight and six of 10 to get to 33-36. That might be a good sign for former Jackson Mets infielder Ron Gardenhire, who is in the last year of his contract as Minnesota’s manager. Former Mississippi Braves ace Scott Diamond got the win today for the Twins and is now 5-6. P.S. Former Taylorsville High standout Billy Hamilton isn’t hitting much (.234) or getting on base a whole lot (.302 OBP) at Triple-A Louisville, but the Cincinnati Reds’ top prospect has 45 steals in 52 attempts and 45 runs in 68 games. He also has a surprising four homers. … Quietly having a productive year is Ed Easley, the ex-Mississippi State star who is playing at Triple-A Reno in the Arizona system. The 27-year-old catcher is batting .331 with four homers and 26 RBIs in 41 games. He hit a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam on Tuesday night. Easley, the Ferriss Trophy winner in 2007, has trudged through the minors since the Diamondbacks picked him 61st overall in 2007.

19 Jun

the philadelphia story

Don’t look now, but Philadelphia, with a 4-2 win on Tuesday, has caught Washington (again) in the National League East; they’re tied for second behind Atlanta. Former Meridian Community College star Cliff Lee notched his ninth win for the 35-37 Phillies — he won only six times in 2012 — by working eight innings and allowing just five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts. Wonder now if the trade rumors swirling about Lee will subside — or intensify? The left-hander, in the midst of a 5-year, $120 million contract, said Tuesday he wants to stay with Philly, which missed the postseason last year and struggled out of the gates in 2013. There has also been chatter about Jonathan Papelbon, the ex-Mississippi State standout who also has a fat contract, getting shipped out. Papelbon got his 14th save (in 15 opportunities) on Tuesday and has a 1.69 ERA. The Phillies are certainly better with those two, but management appears to have rebuilding in mind. P.S. Weir’s Roy Oswalt, who went 3-2 with a 2.16 ERA in a Double-A tuneup, is slated to start for Colorado on Thursday at Washington. The Rockies have to wonder if they’re getting the Oswalt with the career 3.28 ERA or the one who put up a 5.80 for Texas last summer. He’ll be 36 in August. Colorado, a contender in the wild, wild NL West, also has Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz at Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he is 7-1, 4.35. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Charlie Morton, with Pittsburgh, got his first win since coming back from Tommy John surgery, and fellow M-Braves alum Randall Delgado pitched seven strong innings in his first start this year for Arizona.

17 Jun

whole new ballgame

Overheard at a recent ballgame: “If State was ever going to win the College World Series, they’d have won it in 1985.” That’s a legitimate point. The ’85 Mississippi State club, the standard by which all Mississippi college baseball teams are judged, featured seven MLB draft picks, including the great Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Bobby Thigpen and Jeff Brantley. Yes, it is hard to believe that team didn’t win the national title. But that’s baseball, as Ron Polk likes to say. The ’85 Bulldogs won the SEC championship, won 50 games all told, including their first two in the CWS. But they ran into two other giants of that time, Texas and Miami (Fla.), and were bounced, settling for a third-place finish, their best showing in the eight trips to Omaha that preceded the current one. It’s easy to understand why State fans might feel a little frustrated (though not nearly as frustrated as Ole Miss fans, who haven’t had a team in the CWS since 1972, when wood bats were still the rule). But there is a lot to like about the 2013 Bulldogs, from the lightning of Adam Frazier and Alex Detz to the thunder of Hunter Renfroe and Wes Rea. And no team in Omaha has a better cast of relievers than Ross Mitchell, Chad Girodo and Jonathan Holder. This team isn’t as talented as the ’85 Bulldogs, but it doesn’t have to be. History doesn’t matter. There are only eight teams left. One will go home happy, and it doesn’t have to be the most talented team. Just the hottest. That’s baseball. P.S. The Mississippi Braves need a win tonight at Tennessee and some help from Pensacola, which is playing first-place Mobile, to claim the Southern League South first-half championship. Aaron Northcraft (2-4, 4.30 ERA) gets the start for the M-Braves, seeking their first playoff berth since 2008.

13 Jun

it’s come to this

The 2013 Mississippi Braves are nothing if not resilient. They’ve won 12 times in their final at-bat, including twice on Monday night at Trustmark Park. Their vaunted starting rotation has been gutted, yet they still lead the league in ERA. They’ve endured two six-game losing skids to stand just a half-game out of first place in the Southern League South with five games to play in the first half. This sets up as a crazy sprint to the finish. Mobile is in first place. Third-place Montgomery is 1.5 games out, fourth-place Jacksonville just 2 back. The M-Braves are at Tennessee starting tonight, while Mobile, which has won eight of its last 10, is at last-place Pensacola. Montgomery and Jacksonville are playing each other. The M-Braves have a winning record on the road and are 4-1 against the Smokies. True, they didn’t exactly leave home on Tuesday night with the best feeling in their collective gut. They blew a late lead and lost to Pensacola before a rather small (announced 2,400) and subdued crowd at the TeePee. But remember, these M-Braves are resilient. And maybe, just maybe, hungry for a championship that has eluded the club since 2008.

12 Jun

the order of things

Desmond Jennings, who went 3-for-5 with two home runs in his return to the leadoff spot for Tampa Bay, is back in the 6-hole today. The former Itawamba Community College two-sport star had been displaced from the top spot for 13 games before Tuesday, when the Rays faced Boston left-hander Jon Lester. The right-handed hitting Jennings helped the Rays to an 8-3 win, which improved their record to 35-29 and pulled them within 4 games of the first-place Red Sox in American League East. Boston is throwing right-hander Alfredo Aceves today, so Rays skipper Joe Maddon has lefty Matt Joyce leading off again. But one assumes, after Tuesday’s showing, that Jennings will get some more opps at the top, where his combination of speed and power can be a major weapon. Jennings hasn’t had a huge year to date — .254, eight homers, 26 RBIs, 40 runs, eight steals — but he’s on track to better his 2012 numbers in most categories. Keep an eye on him. P.S. See where four draftees from Mississippi already have signed: first-rounder Tim Anderson of East Central CC with the Chicago White Sox; Northwest CC lefty Cody Reed with Kansas City; Pearl River CC left-hander Brandon Fry with San Diego; and Belhaven University (and Southwest CC) product Kyle Wheeler, a catcher, with Oakland.

10 Jun

here and there

Tyler Moore has been sent down to Triple-A Syracuse by the Washington Nationals, who want the former Mississippi State standout to get more at-bats. Moore, in his second big league season, had only 95 ABs this year and was hitting .158 with two home runs. “He’ll be back soon,” Nats manager Davey Johnson, the former Jackson Mets skipper, told mlb.com. “He’s an outstanding player.” Moore said he understood the move. … The New York Mets, making several roster changes on Sunday, sent former Hattiesburg High star Robert Carson to Triple-A Las Vegas. Left-hander Carson had an 8.47 ERA. … Miami placed Ole Miss alumnus Chris Coghlan on the disabled list on Saturday with a calf injury. The resurgent Coghlan was batting .277. … Ex-Holmes Community College star Roy Oswalt is 2-2 with a 2.88 ERA in four tuneup starts for Double-A Tulsa. No word as to when Colorado might summon the veteran right-hander to The Show. … Southwest Mississippi CC product Jarrod Dyson, on the DL for Kansas City since mid-May with an ankle injury, is rehabbing at Triple-A Omaha. … Former Itawamba CC star Tim Dillard, re-signed by Milwaukee from an independent club last month, has a 2.31 ERA in 12 games at Triple-A Nashville.

09 Jun

mining the jucos

Major league scouts don’t sleep on the Mississippi junior colleges. Among the eight state juco products picked in the MLB draft were the 17th overall selection (shortstop Tim Anderson of East Central Community College by the Chicago White Sox) and three players from Northwest Mississippi CC (including second-rounder Cody Reed, a left-hander pegged by Kansas City). Farther down the list was Hinds CC’s Beau Wallace, a corner infielder from Vicksburg. The third Mississippi-connected player picked by Pittsburgh in the first 12 rounds, Wallace could be one to watch if he elects to go pro this summer. He was an NJCAA All-American in 2012, when he batted .387 with three homers and 37 RBIs for a state championship club. His numbers fell a bit in 2013 — as did the Eagles, who failed to make the postseason after being ranked in the top 10 to start the year — and he wound up at .321 with four homers, 33 RBIs and a .533 slugging percentage. … Also commanding attention is Silento Sayles, the national high school stolen base king from Port Gibson who was drafted 411th overall by Cleveland. Will he sign or go to Chipola (Fla.) Junior College? Signing deadline is July 12. Sayles figures to be a project in pro ball, but you can’t teach his kind of speed. Alcorn State doesn’t have many players drafted, so it was good to see shortstop Angel Rosa go to the Los Angeles Angels in the 13th round. He is reportedly a slick fielder with speed, and he hit .294 this season. P.S. The Mississippi Braves fell out of first place on Saturday when they lost to Pensacola and Mobile beat Tennessee. The M-Braves are a half-game back in the Southern League South with eight to play as they chase their first postseason berth in five years. Also still in the hunt are Jacksonville and Montgomery. It could be a crazy finish. … Former Alcorn star Cory Wimberly, who began this season in the Atlanta Braves’ system, now plays for Pensacola, a Cincinnati affiliate.

08 Jun

how was your day?

JaCoby Jones had a pretty fair day on Friday. The former Mississippi Mr. Baseball from Richton, now at LSU, was drafted in the third round (87th overall) by Pittsburgh, which means he’ll get some nice bonus money to sign. With thoughts of his pro career no doubt dancing somewhere in his head, Jones came up in the eighth inning of a scoreless Super Regional game in Baton Rouge and ripped a triple off Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray, who was drafted third overall on Thursday. Jones scored the first run in LSU’s 2-0 win in Game 1 of the best-of-3 series that sends the winner to the College World Series. … Interesting that the Pirates picked Jones, a shortstop at Richton and second baseman this year at LSU, as a center fielder. The Bucs already have a pretty good one, guy named Andrew McCutchen. … Jones was one of two players with Mississippi ties picked by Pittsburgh on Day 2 of the MLB draft. Mississippi State shortstop Adam Frazier went in the sixth round. … Toronto, which drafted D.J. Davis of Stone County High in the first round in 2012, took two Mississippians early this year: State pitchers Kendall Graveman (eighth round) and Chad Girodo (ninth). … St. Louis, which also seems to like Mississippi kids, took two on Friday, as well: Ole Miss’ Mike Mayers and Southern Miss’ Andrew Pierce, both pitchers. Both should be charged up; the Cardinals do a great job of developing arms. … Four Mississippi State players went in the first two days, led by Hunter Renfroe, 13th overall by San Diego. … Two Mississippi juco products were among the first 46 picks: Tim Anderson of East Central Community College to the Chicago White Sox as No. 17 overall and lefty Cody Reed of Northwest CC, 46th to Kansas City. … Biggest surprise of the draft so far might have been seeing Ole Miss’ Bobby Wahl slide to the fifth round, where he was picked by Oakland. Not so long ago, he was considered a first-round candidate.

06 Jun

commencing countdown

It might be Hunter Renfroe. Maybe Tim Anderson. Perhaps Bobby Wahl or even Stuart Turner. The top MLB draft pick from Mississippi will be revealed tonight. MLB Network has live coverage. Meanwhile, here’s a quick glance at the top picks from the Magnolia State in recent years: In 2008, Ole Miss’ Lance Lynn was a supplemental first round selection (39th overall) by St. Louis. He is currently a mainstay in the Cardinals’ rotation (8-1, 2.76 ERA), a potential All-Star next month. In 2009, Taylorsville High’s Billy Hamilton went to Cincinnati in the second round. After setting a pro record with 155 stolen bases last season, Hamilton is currently batting .250 with 32 steals at Triple-A Louisville. The top pick in 2010 was Drew Pomeranz of Ole Miss; he went fifth overall to Cleveland. The left-hander is currently pitching for Colorado’s Triple-A Colorado Springs club and is 6-1 with a 4.26 ERA. In 2011, the Florida (now Miami) Marlins took Connor Barron of Sumrall in the third round, but he didn’t sign. He just finished his sophomore campaign at Southern Miss. Last year’s top pick from the state was Stone County’s D.J. Davis, 17th overall by Toronto. He spent most of 2012 in the rookie Gulf Coast League (.233, four homers, 12 RBIs) but finished the campaign with Vancouver in the short season Northwest League. P.S. Mitch Moreland, the former Mississippi State star now with Texas, could be headed to the disabled list after leaving Wednesday’s game with a hamstring injury. He was to have an MRI today. Moreland is having a big year: .288, 12 home runs and 29 RBIs for the first-place Rangers.

04 Jun

numbers to crunch

2 — Games ahead in the Southern League South for the first-place Mississippi Braves, who won their third straight game Monday night behind rehabbing big leaguer Brandon Beachy. 7 — Number of players at Mississippi schools who are listed on Baseball America’s Top 200 draft prospects chart (June 11 issue). They are Mississippi State’s Hunter Renfroe and Adam Frazier, Ole Miss’ Bobby Wahl, Stuart Turner and Mike Mayers, East Central Community College’s Tim Anderson and Northwest CC’s Cody Reed. Also on the list are Richton’s JaCoby Jones (LSU) and Pascagoula’s Colin Bray (Faulkner, Ala., State JC). 8 — Wins by former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn of St. Louis, after beating Arizona on Monday. 10 — Complete games this season by Belhaven’s Chris Good, who earned second-team NAIA All-America laurels after a 14-3, 2.18 season. 12 — Times reached base by State’s Alex Detz in the Starkville Regional; he was the MVP as the Bulldogs advanced to play Virginia in a Super Regional. 1,000 — Hits in the big leagues by Brian McCann, the former M-Braves star who reached the milestone in Monday’s win against Pittsburgh. 61,433 — Total attendance at the Starkville Regional, including 8,662 on Monday, when the Bulldogs beat Central Arkansas for the championship.