31 Aug

quick hits

On a terrific Tuesday in major league baseball: Former Richton High star JaCoby Jones made his MLB debut, with his parents in the Comerica Park stands, and went 2-for-4 with two RBIs to help Detroit beat the Chicago White Sox 8-4. … East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson had a hit for the ChiSox but also made two errors at shortstop and now has 11 on the year. … Southwest Mississippi CC product Jarrod Dyson went 3-for-5 with a run, an RBI, a triple and a steal, but Kansas City fell to the New York Yankees 5-4. Former Mississippi Braves standout Chasen Shreve got the last two outs with the bases loaded to secure the save for the Yanks … Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles beat ex-Jackson Mets star John Gibbons’ Toronto Blue Jays 5-3, snapping the first-place Jays’ four-game win streak. The third-place O’s are 3 games back in the American League East. … Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz yielded three runs and fanned eight over 6 2/3 innings but got a no-decision for Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay 4-3 and sits second in the AL East. … Former Southern Miss standout Brian Dozier hit his 31st homer of 2016, but Minnesota lost to Cleveland 5-4. … Ex-State star Kendall Graveman (10-9) took the loss for Oakland, allowing three runs over seven innings in a 3-1 defeat against Houston. Former M-Braves star Evan Gattis hit his 22nd homer for the Astros. … UM alum Seth Smith singled as a pinch hitter and scored the go-ahead run for Seattle in the eighth inning, but the Mariners fell to Texas 8-7 on Rougned Odor’s walk-off homer. … M-Braves alum Dansby Swanson had two hits and three RBIs to propel Atlanta (and Julio Teheran) past San Diego 7-3. … Jose Peraza, another former M-Braves star, went 4-for-4 but couldn’t help Cincinnati get past the Los Angeles Angels, who won 4-2. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton and Ole Miss’ Zack Cozart were a combined 0-for-9 for the Reds. … Down on the farm, Ozzie Albies and Joey Meneses sparked the M-Braves to a come-from-behind 6-3 win over Chattanooga that kept the scuffling Double-A club in first place (by a half-game) in the Southern League South. P.S. Tyler Moore, the ex-State star, is back on the field at Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves’ system. He is 5-for-20 with a homer and four RBIs in five games since his return. The onetime big leaguer is at .244 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 21 games with Gwinnett this season.

30 Aug

debut alert

JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High star, is in the Detroit Tigers’ lineup for tonight’s game against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Jones, 24, is playing third base and batting eighth. The Magnolia State’s best prep player in 2010 before going off to LSU, he was a third-round pick by Pittsburgh in 2013. Jones, who has also played shortstop and center field as a pro, was batting .257 with 20 doubles, seven triples, seven homers and 43 RBIs at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in the Tigers’ system. He is rated their No. 9 prospect by mlb.com.

30 Aug

tumble

There are slumps, and then there is tumbling into the abyss, which is what the Mississippi Braves seem to be doing. (Think Red Sox of 1978, Cubs of 1969 or Phillies of ’64.) On the morning of Aug. 13, the M-Braves were 30-16, sitting pretty with a 6-game lead in the Southern League South and counting magic numbers. Today, they are 34-28, clinging by their fingernails to a half-game lead in the second-half race over Pensacola, the first-half champ. Worse than that, the M-Braves have actually fallen a half-game behind Biloxi in the overall South standings, which will determine the wild card playoff team should Pensacola also win the second half. What the heck happened? Yes, hot prospect shortstop Dansby Swanson went to Atlanta on Aug. 17, but he wasn’t carrying the team by any means. Can’t blame the funk on that. It just appears the M-Braves’ lack of consistent offensive firepower is catching up to them. They’re ninth in the 10-team league in runs – ahead of only Biloxi, oddly enough – and ninth in on-base percentage. They don’t have a lot of power, nor do they steal many bases. Combine that with a pitching staff that, despite a league-best 3.16 ERA, ranks first in walks and second in hit batsmen and you begin to understand what a tightrope the M-Braves are walking. While dropping 12 of their last 16, the team has lost by such scores as 5-4, 5-1, 1-0, 2-1, 2-1, 6-3, 2-0, 5-0, 3-2 and 3-1. When Ozzie Albies got that desperately needed clutch triple on Sunday at Chattanooga to snap the seven-game losing streak, there might have been reason to think they’d broken their fall. But then the M-Braves got drilled 13-0 by the Lookouts on Monday. They’ll come tumbling home to Trustmark Park on Thursday. Waiting for them will be the Shuckers, who beat the M-Braves five straight in Biloxi last week. A playoff berth will be on the line. If Mississippi-Biloxi isn’t already a rivalry, it should feel like one by the end of that five-game series. P.S. Kade Scivicque, a former All-State catcher at Southwest Mississippi Community College, has been promoted to Mississippi from Class A Carolina. A fourth-round pick from LSU by Detroit in 2015, Scivicque was acquired by Atlanta in the Erick Aybar trade. He was 5-for-28 in eight games at Carolina after hitting .282 with six homers and 41 RBIs in high A-ball for the Tigers.

30 Aug

two for the show

One went to Ole Miss, the other to Mississippi State. One is a lefty, the other a right-hander. One has more than 130 games of big league experience, the other has 51. But Drew Pomeranz and Kendall Graveman do have a couple of things in common. Both have 10 wins this season, and both go to the mound tonight in meaningful games. Pomeranz, the big lefty out of UM, starts for Boston against Tampa Bay at Fenway Park. The Red Sox are 2 games out in the American League East and first in the wild card standings. Former State star Graveman, pitching for Oakland, will face Houston at Minute Maid Park. The A’s are an also-ran, but the Astros are a wild card contender still hanging on, if barely, in the AL West race. Pomeranz is 2-3 with a 4.06 ERA in his eight starts for the Red Sox, who gave up a highly touted pitching prospect to get him from San Diego, where he won eight games and made the All-Star team. He is still looking for his first win for the BoSox at Fenway, where he is 0-1 with a 5.02 in three starts. He’ll face a Tampa team – and possibly red-hot Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson – that beat him on Aug. 25, though Pomeranz allowed just two runs and fanned 11 in six innings. Graveman is 10-8, 3.97 with three wins in his last four starts, including a brilliant two-hit shutout against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 19. He is 2-1 against the Astros, including a victory at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park on July 9. P.S. There are a handful of Mississippians currently in Triple-A who are hoping to pitch in some meaningful MLB games down the stretch. Former Southern Miss standout Scott Copeland is 3-2, 3.47 for Buffalo in Toronto’s system, and ex-State star Chad Girodo has a 3.69 ERA for the same club. MSU alum Chris Stratton is 6-2, 2.37 in his last 10 appearances for San Francisco’s Sacramento team. UM product Mike Mayers is just 1-4 at Memphis since his one appearance for St. Louis in late July but has a 3.55 ERA in 15 Triple-A games overall. Picayune High product T.J. House has posted a 1.29 ERA in his last 10 appearances for Cleveland’s Columbus club. Former Pillow Academy star Louis Coleman, coming back from injury, has delivered three scoreless appearances at Oklahoma City and reportedly will be recalled by the Los Angeles Dodgers when rosters expand on Sept. 1.

29 Aug

channeling dozier?

Interesting story on mlb.com comparing Tim Tebow’s planned foray into pro baseball with what D.J. Dozier did 26 years ago. Old Jackson Mets fans might recall that Dozier, an NFL running back at the time, played for the Double-A OJMs in 1990 – and more than held his own. Dozier, who played in the NFL from 1987-91, hadn’t played baseball since high school, some six years, when the New York Mets signed him off of a tryout in 1990. He started the ’90 season in A-ball and finished it in the Texas League, batting .324 with seven triples, 23 RBIs and 20 runs in 29 games. Two years later, he made it to the big leagues for 25 games (.191) as an outfielder with the Mets. After brief flings in the St. Louis and San Diego systems, he was done with baseball after the ’93 season. As for Tebow, the erstwhile NFL quarterback who’ll hold a tryout for major league scouts on Tuesday, it’s hard to get past what Baltimore Orioles manager and Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter recently said: “I bet he was a good player in high school. I was, too.” Showalter was also a good player – All-America good – at State and in the minors but never played in the big leagues. So, yeah, Tebow’s got a chance, but not much.

29 Aug

campus notes

With college classes having begun, it’s time for those “what I did on my summer vacation” stories. Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington and Jake Mangum showed out in the Cape Cod League, earning recognition from Baseball America as top 30 prospects from the prestigious summer circuit. Pilkington, a left-hander from Hurley and East Central High, was 2-1 with a 1.37 ERA in seven games for Brewster. He also made the All-CCBL team, as chosen by the league. At State this past season, he was 3-1, 2.08 in 14 appearances. Mangum, a Jackson Prep product, hit .300 with nine RBIs and 11 steals in 35 games for Bourne. The Ferriss Trophy winner batted .408 for the Bulldogs as a freshman last spring. … Of the Ole Miss players who took part in summer league ball, none has more to boast about than Parker Ciracci, another Jackson Prep product who redshirted at UM last spring. Right-hander Ciracci posted an 0.78 ERA, five wins and seven saves in 21 games in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Fellow Rebel D.J. Miller had a fun time, too, batting .286 with 32 runs and 10 steals in the Cal Ripken League. UM’s Kyle Watson, a DeSoto Central alum, swiped 21 bags in the Alaska League. … Southern Miss’ Mason Irby, a transfer from juco national champ Jones County Junior College, played on the NJCAA National Team that went 3-1 in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan. Golden Eagles J.C. Keys and Matthew Guidry were Texas Collegiate League All-Star Game picks. Guidry finished at .331 with 14 RBIs and 24 runs in 40 games for Acadiana, and Keys put up a 4.13 ERA in 13 games for the same club. … Mississippi College’s Hunter Lacefield, a lefty transfer from Northwest CC, went 4-1 with a 0.76 ERA for the North Delta Dealers, the best team in the New Albany-based Cotton States League this summer. … Alcorn State has a new pitching coach, David Duncan, a former Florida A&M pitcher who has some pro experience. The Braves had a staff ERA of 8.03 in 2016, so Duncan has some work to do. … New head coaches are settling in at jucos Pearl River and Mississippi Delta. Michael Avalon left Delta to replace Josh Hoffpauir at PRCC, and longtime Hinds assistant Dan Rives filled the vacancy at Delta, where he played.

29 Aug

k-rations

Jonathan Holder was almost perfect on Sunday. The right-hander out of Mississippi State, pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, faced 13 batters and struck out 12 of them. He registered the save in a 3-1 win that clinched an International League playoff berth for SWB, a New York Yankees affiliate. Gulfport native Holder, a sixth-round pick by the Yankees in 2014, put up a 2.20 ERA at Double-A Trenton with 10 saves in 11 chances. He has been even better for SWB, going 6-for-6 in save opps with an 0.89 ERA, 35 strikeouts and no walks in 20 1/3 innings. Punchouts are not Holder’s forte, or so he says. “Getting swings and misses is a plus, but letting hitters get themselves out is my game plan,” he told milb.com. For the record, he has 225 K’s in 219 2/3 career innings. Holder is not on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, but he has positioned himself for a possible September call-up. P.S. Pittsburgh sent former State star Adam Frazier down to rookie-level Bristol on Sunday. Why Bristol? Because, according to mlb.com, Frazier can be recalled as soon as Bristol’s season ends, which is Thursday. The versatile Frazier is hitting .321 with a home run and seven RBIs in 39 games with Pittsburgh, which is still chasing a wild card in the National League.