It was an attention-grabber as the words crawled along the bottom of the TV screen on Wednesday night. “The Los Angeles Angels have selected the contract of Jo-Jo Reyes from Triple-A Salt Lake … .” Jo-Jo Reyes? Where’s he been? Left-hander Reyes, Mississippi Braves fans may recall, was an ace for the M-Braves in 2007, going 8-1 with a 3.56 ERA as the team won the first-half championship in the Southern League South. He made his MLB debut with Atlanta that same year and rattled around the big leagues for much of the next four years without great success (12-26, 6.05 ERA in 70 games). He spent all of 2012 in the minors, went to Korea for a time in 2013 and ’14 and began this year in Mexico. The Angels signed him in June and, still only 30 years old, he went 4-5, 4.76 at Salt Lake. Then came Wednesday’s call from the big league club, which is embroiled in a battle to make the postseason. “We need arms,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the Los Angeles Times. P.S. Reyes did not pitch on Wednesday, but seven other former M-Braves did, with Williams Perez getting a win and Arodys Vizcaino a save for Atlanta and Randall Delgado a win (his eighth) for Arizona. Charlie Morton, who was on that ’07 M-Braves club with Reyes, started for Pittsburgh in Game 2 of a twinbill and got knocked around by St. Louis in its National League Central Division-clinching victory.
With the spotlight on the American League West on Monday night, a couple of Mississippians took star turns. At Arlington, Texas, former Mississippi State standout Mitch Moreland hit his 20th home run to help Texas beat Houston 5-3 and move within a half-game of the first-place Astros. The Rangers also kept their grip on the second AL wild card. In Seattle, ex-Ole Miss star Seth Smith hit his 11th homer and drove in three runs as the Mariners routed the Los Angeles Angels 10-1 and knocked L.A. 4.5 games behind Houston and 4 games back of Texas in the wild card race. (Minnesota, of the AL Central, also won and remained a game back of Texas for the second wild card.) P.S. State alum Jonathan Papelbon returned to Philadelphia, made a few controversial pregame comments about his time there — “I was one of the few (Phillies) to actually want to win” — and blew a save for the first time this season. He did get to win, however, as Washington prevailed 8-7 in extras. The Nationals are 20-24 since trading for Papelbon.
The Toronto Blue Jays surely like what they’re seeing from Anthony Alford, who is 6-for-22 in his first five games in the high Class A Florida State League. The former Mr. Baseball from Petal began his first full pro season in the Midwest League, hitting .293 with 14 doubles, 16 RBIs, 12 steals and 49 runs in 50 games at Lansing. The righty-hitting outfielder, a third-round pick in 2012, already has two doubles, a triple, a homer, three RBIs and four runs for Dunedin. … The Los Angeles Angels surely like most of what they’ve seen from Alex Yarbrough in his last five games. The switch-hitting second baseman out of Ole Miss is 9-for-19 (.473), lifting his average at Triple-A Salt Lake to .247. He has 19 doubles, 29 RBIs and 36 runs in 73 games. However, Yarbrough has struck out six times in his last five games, giving him 81 in 299 at-bats. That’s an area where the 2014 Texas League player of the year needs to improve. P.S. Jacob Taylor, the Pearl River Community College alum from Picayune, pitched two scoreless innings (no hits, three walks, two strikeouts) in his pro debut today. Taylor, a fourth-round pick by Pittsburgh and the second Mississippian drafted this year, is with the Gulf Coast League Pirates.
Chris Ellis, one of the stars on Ole Miss’ 2014 College World Series team, is now glowing brightly in the Los Angeles Angels’ system. Promoted to Double-A in early June, he is 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts at Arkansas of the Texas League. He goes again today against Springfield. Ellis was drafted in the 50th round by the Dodgers out of an Alabama high school in 2011. After three years in Oxford, he came out last summer as a third-round pick by the Angels. He already is rated their No. 9 prospect by mlb.com and Athlon. The 6-foot-4 right-hander, 22, started 4-5 with a 3.88 ERA this year at Class A Inland Empire, where he had 70 K’s in 62 2/3 innings. He pitched only 15 2/3 innings in his first pro season.
Kyle Kubitza, who had a most impressive year for the Mississippi Braves in 2014 and then was traded in the off-season, made his big league debut tonight for the Los Angeles Angels. Kubitza is the seventh M-Braves product to debut this season, joining Brandon Cunniff, Cody Martin, J.R. Graham (Twins), Sean Gilmartin (Mets), John Cornely and Williams Perez. Kubitza was named Atlanta’s Double-A player of the year after hitting .295 with eight homers, 55 RBIs, 11 triples, 31 doubles and 21 steals. He is easily the best third baseman to play for the M-Braves in their 10-plus years. P.S. Randy Bell, the Hinds Community College right-hander, was named the NJCAA Division II pitcher of the year, adding to the first-team All-America honors he had already received.
After a big year in Double-A in 2014, Alex Yarbrough appears to be finding a groove at the Triple-A level with roughly a quarter of the season in the books. The ex-Ole Miss standout has hit .270 with six runs and two RBIs over his last 10 games for Salt Lake in the Los Angeles Angels’ system. His season numbers are up to .256, 19 runs and 14 RBIs in 38 games. Yarbrough, a switch-hitting second baseman, hit .285 with five homers, 77 RBIs, 66 runs and 38 doubles for Arkansas in 2014, winning Texas League player of the year honors. He went to big league spring training this year as a darkhorse candidate for the second base job left vacant by the trade of Howie Kendrick. Yarbrough was 4-for-19 in the spring before he was sent out. Johnny Giavotella, picked up in a trade with Kansas City, emerged as the Angels’ second baseman and has played well this season, batting .274 to date. Yarbrough, 23, rated the team’s No. 14 prospect by mlb.com entering his fourth pro season, figures to get an opportunity at the big league level, if not this summer then surely next spring.
Ryan Bolden was drafted 40th overall, ahead of the likes of Taijuan Walker, Nick Castellanos, Jedd Gyorko, Drew Smyly, Andrelton Simmons and Derek Dietrich, all picked inside the first two rounds of the 2010 MLB draft. The Los Angeles Angels apparently loved the power/speed potential of the strapping 6-foot-3, 190-pound Bolden, an outfielder who starred for Madison Central’s 2010 state championship team. The pro game was a big step for Bolden, and he spent three years in the rookie Arizona League, never batting above .200. Injuries crept in. He played just seven games in 2013 and none this past season but had not yet given up the game. Bolden’s life ended shockingly and tragically on Wednesday when he was shot in Atlanta. He was only 23. “He was just a really good young man and came from a really good family. It’s heartbreaking; it really is,” Angels scouting director Ric Wilson told mlb.com.