21 Jul

independent thinking

Former big leaguer Bill Hall of Nettleton is back on the roster of the independent Long Island Ducks, the team he helped to an Atlantic League championship in 2013. Hall, 34, who can play the infield and outfield, was signed on Friday. He hit 16 homers and drove in 63 runs for the Ducks last year. Long Island is managed by former Jackson Mets shortstop Kevin Baez. … Also toiling in the Atlantic League is Stone County High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product Fred Lewis. Former big leaguer Lewis, 33, who played in Japan in 2013, is batting .233 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 40 games as an outfielder for the Lancaster Barnstormers.

20 Jul

from the top

Jarrod Dyson, the former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout from McComb, got a rare start in the leadoff spot for Kansas City on Saturday. He went 1-for-3 with a triple, a walk and the only run the team scored in a 2-1 loss to Boston. Just looking at his stats — .294 average, 18 stolen bases in 68 games, few of them starts — it would seem that Dyson should lead off more often for the Royals, who are chasing an elusive playoff berth. At any rate, it is interesting to note that seven different Mississippi-connected players have hit leadoff for their MLB club just over this weekend. Interesting, too, is that they don’t all have the same skill set. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati) and Itawamba CC product Desmond Jennings (Tampa Bay) have, like Dyson, sprinter’s speed. Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star, can run a little but what he does best is get on base and get home for Minnesota; he leads the American League in runs with 71. Meridian CC alumnus Corey Dickerson (Colorado) is a .332 hitter who has more pop (11 homers) than speed, similar to Ole Miss alum Seth Smith (San Diego), who is batting .278 with 11 bombs. Former UM star Chris Coghlan (Chicago Cubs), enjoying a resurgent season, has modest power and speed but is hitting .273 for a Cubs team that is searching for answers. P.S. Regardless what he does the rest of his career, Chasen Shreve should always remember what he did in his big-league debut for Atlanta on Saturday. The former Mississippi Braves closer — the 88th alum to make The Show — struck out Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard in a lefty-on-lefty matchup in a one-run game.

18 Jul

the first four

Blake Anderson, the first of the four Mississippi natives picked in the first two rounds of last month’s MLB draft, got his first professional hit on Thursday. Anderson, the former West Lauderdale catcher picked 36th overall by Miami, snapped an 0-for-21 start with a single for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Marlins. Jacob Lindgren, from the Kiln by way of Mississippi State, has put up a 1.29 ERA in six appearances at three levels for the New York Yankees, who drafted the left-hander 55th overall. Lindgren is currently at high Class A Tampa in the Florida State League. Ti’Quan Forbes, the star shortstop from Columbia who was taken 59th overall by Texas, is batting .242 with six RBIs and 15 runs in the rookie Arizona League. And ex-Madison Central High standout Spencer Turnbull, picked 63rd out of Alabama by Detroit, has a 6.75 ERA in three starts for Connecticut in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League.

17 Jul

making the jump

The Double-A hurdle, which has tripped up many a fine player, has not been a problem for Alex Yarbrough. The former Ole Miss standout, a 6-foot, 195-pound switch-hitting second baseman, is batting .288 with five home runs, 54 RBIs, 32 doubles and 45 runs in 94 games at Arkansas in the Los Angeles Angels system. (Yarbrough’s manager is former Mississippi Braves skipper Phillip Wellman.) Yarbrough, an All-American at UM, was a fourth-round pick in 2012. He established himself as a legit prospect in the high Class A California League in 2013, when he hit .313 with 11 homers and 80 RBIs. If Yarbrough has a problem, it’s that there is another second base prospect — Taylor Lindsey — ahead of him in the pipeline at Triple-A Salt Lake. And the second baseman in the big leagues is Howie Kendrick, who is 31 and having a solid season. But if Yarbrough keeps putting up numbers, a door will open somewhere. … Also in the Angels system now is catcher Wade Wass, the former Meridian Community College slugger who recently signed out of the Cape Cod League (see previous post). Wass, who was a redshirt junior at Alabama in 2014, is 1-for-12 in four games at rookie-level Orem in the Pioneer League.

15 Jul

trend spotting

In 1994, Buck Showalter won the American League manager of the year award with the New York Yankees. In 2004, the former Mississippi State standout won the award again with the Texas Rangers. So now it’s 2014, and at the All-Star break, Showalter has his Baltimore Orioles in first place in the AL East, defying preseason predictions that had the O’s finishing closer to the bottom in a strong division. Could another manager of the year award be in the offing? The Orioles have a nice array of hitters — Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Nick Markakis, Manny Machado, et al. — but could use some pitching help, especially if they hope to make any noise in October. What Showalter surely would like more than a managerial award is to make the postseason — and then make a playoff run. Despite a .517 winning percentage over 16 seasons as an MLB skipper, Showalter, 58, has made just three playoff appearances (1995 Yankees, ’99 Arizona Diamondbacks and ’12 Orioles) and never seen his club get past the division series. That’s a trend he’d like to buck. His best team might have been the ’94 Yankees, who were 70-43 when the season was halted by the players’ strike. The core of that team won the World Series in 1996, but Showalter had moved on by that time, fired after the ’95 season. He was also canned in Texas in 2005, one year after winning the managerial award there. Showalter is in his fifth season in Baltimore, which is longer than he stayed at any of his previous three stops. Maybe this is his team and this is his time. P.S. Zack Cozart isn’t hitting much for Cincinnati. The Ole Miss product is batting .233 with two homers, 22 RBIs and 30 runs in 90 games. But the reason the playoff-hungry Reds keep him in the lineup can be seen in another set of numbers. Cozart, in his third season as Cincy’s shortstop, has a .982 fielding percentage (seven errors in 393 chances) and leads all National League shortstops with a 2.2 Defensive Wins Above Replacement rating. Former Mississippi Braves star Andrelton Simmons, by comparison, has a 1.4 DWAR for Atlanta.

14 Jul


Brian Dozier tuned up for Monday night’s Home Run Derby with a pair of bombs at Coors Field today. The former Southern Miss standout hit homers No. 17 and 18 in Minnesota’s 13-5 win over Colorado. … Both Mississippi State alum Hunter Renfroe and current Mississippi Braves star Jose Peraza got hits in today’s All-Star Futures Game, which kicked off the MLB All-Star festivities at Target Field in Minnesota. … Former M-Braves ace Julio Teheran, who pitched and beat the Cubs in Chicago today, won’t be participating in the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday and has been replaced on the National League roster. … It’s unclear whether former M-Braves star Phil Gosselin, who was summoned to the big leagues today when Dan Uggla was suspended by Atlanta for one game, will play in the Triple-A All-Star Game slated for Wednesday at Durham, N.C. Gosselin is hitting .345 with five homers and 30 RBIs for Gwinnett. Juan Jaime, a former M-Braves pitcher who has been up and down twice with the big club this year, is also on the International League roster for the Triple-A showcase.

13 Jul

three stars

Former Mississippi State star Paul Maholm, in his first start in almost two months, pitched into the seventh inning, allowing two hits and no runs, for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night. The Dodgers, now in first place alone in the National League West, beat San Diego 1-0 on a sac fly in the ninth. … Ole Miss product Chris Coghlan went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs but couldn’t power the Chicago Cubs past homer-happy Atlanta, which won 11-6 at Wrigley Field. The hot-hitting Coghlan is up to .269. … Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier went 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI and threw out a runner at the plate to help Minnesota beat Colorado 9-3. P.S. MSU alum Hunter Renfroe and Mississippi Braves second baseman Jose Peraza are on the rosters for today’s All-Star Futures Game (4 p.m., MLB Network) in Minneapolis. Crystal Springs native Renfroe, who’ll play for the U.S. team, is batting .283 with 19 homers this year at two levels in the San Diego system. Venezuela native Peraza, with the International squad, is hitting .365 in 19 games with the M-Braves and .347 overall with 39 stolen bases in 2014.

12 Jul

watch for it

The TV ratings in and around Fulton ought to be pretty good for Monday night’s MLB Home Run Derby. Itawamba Agricultural High School alum Brian Dozier, now with the Minnesota Twins, will be participating at Target Field, and he’ll be taking his hacks at pitches thrown by his brother Clay, another Itawamba AHS grad who also played at Itawamba Community College. Both the high school and the juco are located in Fulton, population about 4,000. Brian Dozier, who has 16 home runs for the Twins, is one of 10 players in the derby – and possibly the least heralded of the lot (see previous posts). He was a star shortstop at Southern Miss, while Clay, a left-handed pitcher and outfielder, spent two years at ICC and then went on to Delta State. … In the big leagues tonight, Paul Maholm, the former Mississippi State standout from Greenwood, will make his first start since May 14 when his Los Angeles Dodgers host San Diego. Maholm, in his first season in LA, was 1-4 with a 5.50 ERA in seven starts before being bumped to the bullpen. An injury to Josh Beckett has opened a spot. Maholm’s overall ERA this year is 5.18; his career number is 4.31, with the great majority of his work coming as a starter. He told mlb.com he still feels like starting is more in “my comfort zone.” Maholm, a left-hander, might not get to face ex-Ole Miss star and Jackson native Seth Smith, who is batting .281 with 10 homers for the Padres. Smith, a lefty hitter, doesn’t often face lefties and doesn’t hit them much when he does (4-for-24, no homers in 2014).

11 Jul

whatever happened to …

Antoan Richardson, who had a couple of good years with the Mississippi Braves, is playing — and playing well — at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre in the New York Yankees system. The personable Richardson, a 5-foot-8 Bahamas native and Vanderbilt alum, is batting .262 with 17 RBIs, 27 runs and 20 stolen bases (in 20 attempts) over 62 games. The injury-ridden Yankees might yet have a need for the speedy, switch-hitting outfielder. Richardson, in his 10th pro season, played parts of the 2010 and ’11 seasons with the M-Braves, batting .279 with 24 bags in 2010 and .283 with 17 the next year. He also got a big league cup of coffee in 2011, going 2-for-4 (with a steal) in nine games for Atlanta. He was originally a 35th-round pick by San Francisco. P.S. Ex-Pillow Academy star Louis Coleman is back in the big leagues with Kansas City, and Ole Miss alum Phil Irwin is back in Triple-A, shipped out by Texas after his one start.

11 Jul

babe vs. willie

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s debut in the big leagues as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Know what Ruth did in his first at-bat? He struck out against Willie Mitchell, a left-hander from Pleasant Grove by way of Mississippi State. Mitchell won 83 games in an 11-year career. Ruth got the win on July 11, 1914, however, going seven innings as the Red Sox beat Mitchell’s Cleveland Naps 4-3 at Fenway Park.