15 Aug

it’s a journey

Drafted by the Florida Marlins out of Ole Miss in 2006, Chris Coghlan has worn a lot of different unies and played in a lot of different towns over the years. “I am really grateful for the journey that I’ve had, honestly,” he told MLB Network earlier this year. He won a rookie of the year award in 2009 and a World Series ring last fall. He also endured injuries and demotions. Alas, his mercurial career took another downturn last week. Coghlan was on a rehab assignment for Toronto when the Blue Jays, needing to clear roster space, released the 32-year-old outfielder/infielder. He has been with four different teams since the start of 2016 and now finds himself looking for a fifth. He hit .200 in 36 games for the Blue Jays, making his biggest impression when he hurtled Yadier Molina at home plate back in April. A lefty hitter with versatility, Coghlan might be able to catch on with a contending team in need. Maybe his journey will continue, maybe not. Desmond Jennings has been without a team since mid-June. The former Itawamba Community College star, drafted the same year as Coghlan, has been released three times since last August, most recently by the New York Mets. He was batting .237 with eight homers for their Triple-A Las Vegas club. Beset by injuries in recent years, the 30-year-old outfielder’s once-promising career has veered way off course. Hopefully, he enjoyed the journey.

15 Aug

progress report

Brent Rooker, the first Mississippian picked in the 2017 draft (35th overall), has proven to be a quick study in pro ball. The ex-Mississippi State standout has already advanced a level in Minnesota’s system and is batting .314 with four home runs over his last 10 games, raising his average at high Class A Fort Myers to .237 with seven homers. But Rooker has a lot of company in the fast lane. Each of the top 10 Mississippi-connected players drafted and signed in June is off to a good start, some a great start. Tyreque Reed (Itawamba Community College) is batting .350 with five homers and 26 RBIs in the rookie Arizona League, though he hasn’t played in over a week for the AZL (Texas) Rangers. Dylan Burdeaux (Southern Miss) hit .319 in short-season A for Detroit and was quickly bumped up to low-A, where he is batting .265 in 23 games. Taylor Braley (USM), the second Mississippian picked (sixth round, Miami), is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA in four appearances in the short-season A New York-Penn League. It may feel like old home week at times in the NYPL. Other Mississippians in the league: Braley’s former teammate Kirk McCarty is with Cleveland’s affiliate and is 2-1, 2.05 in nine games; Ryan Gridley (MSU), an Oakland draftee, is batting .268 with 17 RBIs and five steals; and David Parkinson (Ole Miss) is 1-1, 2.84 for Philadelphia’s affiliate. Tate Blackman (UM), in rookie ball with the Chicago White Sox, is hitting .227 with two homers and 13 RBIs and is over .300 in his last 10 games. Bryce Brown (Jackson State) is batting .254 with 20 RBIs and 12 steals at the rookie level for Tampa Bay. Erstwhile East Mississippi CC quarterback Vijay Miller, a San Diego draftee who apparently has given up football, has a 4.00 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 18 innings in the rookie Arizona League.

14 Aug

numbers to crunch

10 – Strikeouts by Chris Stratton on Sunday. The ex-Mississippi State star threw 6 2/3 shutout innings for San Francisco against Washington, notching his first win as an MLB starter. The Tupelo native has made 13 appearances, three starts, over the last two seasons.
8 – Strikeouts by Kendall Graveman, matching a career-high. The former State standout got his third win – and first since May – for Oakland, going seven innings against Baltimore. Graveman was on the disabled list for all of June and July.
122 – Strikeouts, as a hitter, this season by Hunter Renfroe, who took a hat trick for San Diego against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The State alum ranks 16th on the MLB strikeout chart and first among Mississippians. Tim Anderson has 118, Corey Dickerson 115.
6 – Leadoff home runs this season by Brian Dozier. The Southern Miss product’s 23rd bomb of the year helped Minnesota beat Detroit.
3 – Hits by Alex Presley in his second game off the disabled list for Detroit. The ex-Ole Miss standout is batting .327 in 36 games.
3 – Hits for Corey Dickerson in his last 33 at-bats. The former Meridian Community College standout went 1-for-4 in Tampa Bay’s loss to Cleveland and saw his average dip to .289.
9 – Hitting streak for Jarrod Dyson, who went 2-for-4 for Seattle in a loss to the Los Angeles Angels. The ex-Southwest Miss CC star is 14-for-34 (.418) during his streak, boosting his average to .258.
15 – Hits for Tim Anderson in his last 48 at-bats, a .312 average. The East Central CC alum hit his 13th homer for the Chicago White Sox in a loss to Kansas City.
49 – Stolen bases by Billy Hamilton, who got one Sunday in Cincinnati’s loss to Milwaukee. The Taylorsville High product has topped 50 steals in each of the previous three seasons and has 233 career, the most by a Mississippi native.

13 Aug

role-playing

Spoiler. It’s not a role Zack Cozart, the ex-Ole Mis star, or any of his Cincinnati teammates want to be playing, but it’s where they are in mid-August. Buried in the cellar of the National League Central, the Reds (49-68) have a boatload of games left against the other four division teams, which are bunched within 3 games of each other in the division standings. Cozart in particular could be a major thorn in the side of those clubs. The starting shortstop for the NL All-Star team last month, he is having a career year and showing no signs of easing off on the gas. Since coming off a second stint on the disabled list last Sunday, Cozart is 9-for-26 with four home runs and seven RBIs. “I want to be playing and playing well the rest of the year,” he told mlb.com. “That’s the goal.” Overall, he is batting .316 with 16 homers (matching his career-best) and 46 RBIs. A pending free agent, Cozart has been the subject of trade rumors dating back to the off-season, but it doesn’t appear now that he’s going anywhere this season. That could be bad news for Milwaukee, which has seven games left with the Reds including today’s at Miller Park, the Chicago Cubs (10), St. Louis (six) and Pittsburgh (nine). … The Reds’ roster includes two other Mississippi-connected players, Taylorsville High alum Billy Hamilton and Ole Miss product Stuart Turner. Former Northwest Mississippi Community College star Cody Reed is pitching in Triple-A and could be added in September. P.S. Props to UM alum Drew Pomeranz, who notched his career-best 12th win – and fifth in a row – as Boston beat the New York Yankees 10-5 on Saturday. … Ex-Rebels star Chris Coghlan, who has been on Toronto’s DL for weeks, was designated for assignment, clouding the remainder of his year. … The Cardinals honored their 1987 pennant-winning team on Saturday (before beating hapless Atlanta) at Busch Stadium. Jackson native and Jackson State product Curtis Ford was a semi-regular outfielder on that club, which lost to Minnesota in the World Series.

12 Aug

reveal party

There’s only one way to celebrate National Baseball Card Day: Tear open a pack of Topps cards. The anticipation of the big reveal makes you feel like a kid again. Every time. You remember when you got that Richie Allen rookie card that nobody else had. So there you go, hoping for, say, a Cody Bellinger or an Aaron Judge or a Ronald Acuna. Instead you pull out a Miguel Rojas, a Kolten Wong and a Melvin Upton Jr. It happens. There’s also a card of James Loney in the uniform of the Texas Rangers, a team he never officially played for, and a reprint of a 1989 Bill Schroeder. Oh well, there will always be another pack — and the wonderful anticipation that comes with it. P.S. Watch for it: Boston-New York at Yankee Stadium, today. Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz (11-4, 3.36 ERA) will pitch for the Red Sox against Luis Severino in Game 2 of the latest huge series between these ancient rivals. The Yankees won an electric Game 1 on Friday night. … Perfect Game All-American Classic at San Diego’s Petco Park, Sunday. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray and Brandon’s J.T. Ginn will participate in this high school showcase to be televised by MLB Network at 3 p.m. (Both also played in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field.) Gray, an Ole Miss commit, is one of the six finalists for Perfect Game’s Jackie Robinson Award, which goes to the organization’s national player of the year. Gray batted .477 with seven homers and 19 steals for Hattiesburg this past season.

11 Aug

tool time

Braxton Lee’s work with the bat has been impossible to ignore this season. The Picayune native is hitting .316 — best in the Southern League – and has scored 69 runs – second in the SL — for Double-A Jacksonville. His work with the glove also has gotten some attention. Lee was rated the Best Defensive Outfielder in the league in Baseball America’s annual poll of managers. Lee, listed at 5 feet 10, 185 pounds, can really run, a skill he demonstrated at Picayune High, Pearl River Community College and Ole Miss. He was the leadoff batter and left fielder on the Rebels’ 2014 College World Series team, batting .281 with 56 runs and 30 steals in 69 games. He plays center field now and, from all indications, is playing it very well. A 12th-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2014, Lee seemed to have hit a wall when he reached Double-A in 2016. He batted .209 for Montgomery. This season has been an about-face. He has been among the league leaders in hitting all season and was named to the SL All-Star Game in June. “I wouldn’t say anything is better other than my mindset every single day,” Lee recently told the Biloxi Sun-Herald. He was batting .321 on June 26 when Tampa Bay traded him to Miami in the Adeiny Hechavarria deal. Lee was SL player of the week in his first week with Jacksonville. Not yet on the Marlins’ list of top prospects, that likely will change this off-season. … Former Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna, now at Triple-A Gwinnett, was ranked as the SL’s Best Batting Prospect and Most Exciting Player.

11 Aug

he’s no. 1

On this date in 1949, Luke Easter became the first black Mississippian to play in a major league game. A native of Jonestown, in Coahoma County, Easter made his debut as a pinch hitter for the Cleveland Indians at old Cleveland Stadium. This was two years and several months after Jackie Robinson broke the modern-era color line. Easter was 34 when he got his chance, having already played numerous years in various Negro Leagues. Easter did not homer in 45 at-bats for the Indians in 1949 but mashed 93 homers over the next four seasons, many of them tape-measure shots. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman produced two 100-RBI campaigns and had another of 97. Easter’s big league career was over after six games in 1954, but he played 10 more years in the minors. Despite his short time with the team, Easter was selected as one of the 100 Greatest Cleveland Indians in 2001, when the club celebrated its 100th anniversary. He died tragically in 1979 (see previous posts). P.S. In the majors on Thursday: Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College star, snapped an 0-for-21 skid with a game-changing three-run homer for Tampa Bay in a win over Cleveland. It was homer No. 22 for Dickerson, who joins Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier atop the leaderboard in the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby. Ex-Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe has 20. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn was hit in the head by a batted ball in the third inning but stayed in the game for St. Louis. He worked six innings all told, allowing two runs, and took a no-decision in the surging Cardinals’ 8-6 win vs. Kansas City.