15 May

pair of aces

And the National League leader in wins is – drumroll, please — former Wheeler High and Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff, who notched his sixth on Tuesday. Not what anyone would have predicted for mid-May. The big right-hander threw six innings of one-hit ball as Milwaukee beat Philadelphia 6-1 in a matchup of two of the NL’s best clubs. Woodruff walked five but fanned five in winning his fourth straight start. “The fastball is really overpowering at times, it feels like,” Craig Counsell told mlb.com. “He’s using it well, he’s throwing his off-speed for strikes; it’s a good recipe for success.” Woodruff is 6-1 with a 3.72 ERA in nine starts this season, his third in the big leagues. He also got a hit in three at-bats Tuesday and is at .350 for the year. … Though he doesn’t have the win total to show for it, ex-Madison Central star Spencer Turnbull actually has pitched better than Woodruff to date. The Detroit Tigers rookie right-hander is 2-2 with a 2.42 ERA, fourth-best in the American League, in eight outings. Over his last five starts, Turnbull is 2-0 with a 1.21. He last pitched on Sunday vs. Minnesota, allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings and departing with a lead. He got a no-decision after the sub-.500 Tigers’ bullpen blew the save. P.S. Miguel Sano, who was at Trustmark Park in Pearl last week on a rehab assignment with Double-A Pensacola, has been activated by the Twins. Accompanying Sano on the rehab assignment was Sam Perlozzo, a Twins senior advisor who managed the Jackson Mets to back-to-back Texas League championships in 1984-85.

17 Apr

big league chew

Forget Yelich, Grandal and Cain. The hottest hitter for Milwaukee is Brandon Woodruff, the former Wheeler High and Mississippi State standout who is raking at a .714 clip and had a big two-run double in an 8-4 win against St. Louis on Tuesday. According to his baseball card, Woodruff is a pitcher, and he’s been pretty good in that role, too. He went 5 2/3 innings vs. the Cardinals, yielding two runs and fanning six. He is 2-1 with a 5.23 ERA in four starts for the 12-6 Brewers, who lead the National League Central. It is said that Woodruff, who bats lefty and throws righty, puts on quite a show when he takes batting practice. And who can forget the bomb he hit off Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs last year. … East Central Community College alumnus Tim Anderson went hitless for the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday but still leads the American League in batting with a .421 average. He slipped behind Cody Bellinger (.433) for the MLB lead. … After a good start with Kansas City, Billy Hamilton has skidded to .205 through 14 games. The Taylorsville High product has just three steals and six runs. … In the Ugly Numbers category, we find ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier (.152, one RBI in 46 at-bats for Washington) and Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (.091, two RBIs in 44 ABs for the Los Angeles Angels). … Ugly also would describe the outing by the New York Mets’ Steven Matz, who gave up eight runs and failed to retire a batter vs. Philadelphia on Tuesday. He became just the fifth starter ever to do that. One of the others is McComb native Blake Stein, who suffered that indignity on Aug. 31, 1998, pitching for Oakland against Cleveland. To his credit, Stein (21-28, 5.41 ERA over five MLB seasons) struck out eight batters in a row in a 2001 game, also a remarkable feat. … Jacob Webb became the fourth Mississippi Braves alum to debut in the majors this season when he appeared in relief for Atlanta on Tuesday.

18 Oct

job evaluation

Eat up some innings. That was Job 1 for Brandon Woodruff on Wednesday, and in that he succeeded. History will show that Woodruff, the former Wheeler High and Mississippi State standout, took the loss in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. But he pitched well and, most important for Milwaukee, he pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving some needed rest to other members of the bullpen that carries the Brewers’ hopes. The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the series 3-2 after Wednesday’s 5-2 victory at Dodger Stadium. Woodruff, who had thrown two hitless innings in Game 1, came on – as part of a master plan – one batter into Game 5 and pitched into the sixth, battling Clayton Kershaw blow for blow. “I was just trying to get deep in the game,” Woodruff said in a TV interview. He allowed five hits – all singles — and a walk, hit two batters and was charged with three runs, one of them unearned. He struck out eight of the 22 batters he faced. He was lifted after allowing an opposite-field hit to Max Muncy that delivered a runner from second base and put LA ahead 2-1. Though Woodruff’s longest stint in an MLB game this year was five innings back in May, he threw five or more in 10 of his 17 Triple-A starts. Length was what the Brewers needed Wednesday, and that’s what Woodruff gave them, along with a chance to win. Manager Craig Counsell praised his effort. And now the vaunted Brewers pen is locked and loaded for Game 6 on Friday in Milwaukee.

13 Oct

a star is born?

In two appearances in his first major league postseason, Brandon Woodruff has shown an impressive ability to rise to the occasion for the Milwaukee Brewers. The Mississippi State alum from Wheeler threw three hitless innings to start Game 1 of the National League Division Series last week, propelling the Brewers to a three-game sweep of Colorado. The big right-hander topped that performance on Friday night in the opener of the National League Championship Series. Called from the bullpen in the third inning, he tossed two perfect frames with four strikeouts and in between blasted a 400-foot, game-tying home run off Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. The Brewers bench and the Miller Park crowd went bonkers over the homer. It was one of those postseason moments that will live forever. Woodruff called it “crazy” in a postgame interview. “I knew he could swing the bat a little bit,” Kershaw said in a TV interview. “I didn’t know he could do that.” Throwing what TV broadcaster John Smoltz called “easy gas,” Woodruff went out for the fourth with a 2-1 lead and fanned Max Muncy, Manny Machado and Matt Kemp in succession. Again, the place went nuts. Milwaukee surged to a big lead and its bullpen brigade managed to hold on for a 6-5 victory. What a night. There have been a couple of other defining moments in Woodruff’s relatively brief pro career. In June of 2017, he was slated to make his big league debut but injured himself warming up before the game. He went on the disabled list and then back to the minors, finally getting his second chance about two months later. He was ready, pitching shutout ball into the seventh inning to beat Tampa Bay. Perhaps more telling about Woodruff’s heart and tenacity was his performance on July 24, 2016, for the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers. Six days after burying his brother Blake, who died in a four-wheeler accident back home in Wheeler, Woodruff tossed six shutout innings and hit his first pro home run to win a game at Pensacola. P.S. Mitch Moreland, the ex-State star from Amory, had a good workout Friday and expects to be on Boston’s roster for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, which starts tonight at Fenway Park. Moreland injured a hamstring in the ALDS.

04 Oct

power of pen

Brandon Woodruff found a niche in Milwaukee this season, his second in the majors. The Mississippi State alum from Wheeler became one of the many bullpen pieces Brewers manager Craig Counsell relied on as the club churned toward the National League Central championship. There’s a good chance Woodruff will pitch today in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against Colorado. Much as Oakland did – without great success – in Wednesday’s American League Wild Card Game, Milwaukee is expected to throw a bevy of relievers at the Rockies. And brace for plenty of pitching changes as the series rolls on. That’s the Brewers’ M.O. — and the key to their chances in this postseason. As Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci writes: “This is the game today: a proliferation of relievers with powerful stuff, and managers armed with specific data on how best to deploy them. … And this October, nobody can play this game better than Milwaukee.” Woodruff made 19 appearances for the club, 15 out of the pen. He has a 3.61 ERA, a 3-0 record and one save. Over his last seven appearances, the 25-year-old right-hander had a 0.73 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 12 1/3 innings. Woodruff is one of a bunch of former Biloxi Shuckers pitchers — Corbin Burnes, Jacob Barnes, Freddy Peralta, Taylor Williams, Josh Hader – now populating the Milwaukee bullpen. P.S. Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star from Fulton, has played in one postseason game in his seven years in the big leagues. He has to be champing at the bit for his next opportunity, which could come tonight. Dozier isn’t expected to start for Los Angeles in the NLDS opener against Atlanta, but, despite his late-season offensive struggles, he’ll play at some point in the series. Dozier, possibly dealing with a sore knee, batted .182 with five home runs for the Dodgers after being acquired from Minnesota in July. He did homer on the last day of the regular season. And in that one postseason game, last year against the New York Yankees, he went 2-for-4 with a bomb.

01 Mar

battle-tested

Once he finally got his chance in the big leagues, former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff did not disappoint. His numbers weren’t eye-popping – 2-3, 4.81 ERA in eight games last summer – but the touted prospect displayed some mettle for a Milwaukee team that was in a playoff race. “He made eight starts last year, and all of them were what we would all consider really big starts in big moments,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said in a recent mlb.com article. “I think he handled himself well.” Woodruff is currently battling as many as five other pitchers for two jobs on the Brewers’ opening day roster. He has made two Cactus League appearances, allowing two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. The Brewers are aiming to be a contender again in 2018. P.S. Tyler Moore, the former Northwest Rankin High, Meridian Community College and MSU standout, has been in the Florida camp for MLB free agents and played in Tuesday’s exhibition game against a Japanese amateur team. First baseman/outfielder Moore, 31, hit .230 with six homers in 101 games for Miami last season. He has spent parts of five seasons in the majors. … A scoring change erased a two-run single by Petal High product Anthony Alford in Toronto’s Wednesday exhibition game (see previous post). Alford is 4-for-11 in five games this spring.

13 Jun

debut delayed

Brandon Woodruff was slated to make his big league debut today for Milwaukee, but cbssports.com has reported that the former Mississippi State star was scratched with right hamstring tightness. Ouch. Woodruff, a highly rated prospect in his fourth pro season, was 6-4 with a 4.12 ERA at Triple-A Colorado Springs. The Wheeler High product pitched for the Biloxi Shuckers last year, going 10-8, 3.01 and earning minor league pitcher of the year honors in the Brewers’ system (see previous posts).

11 May

ready for launch

Whenever the Milwaukee Brewers feel the need for a new arm in their rotation, Brandon Woodruff looks more than ready. Woodruff, the former Mississippi State standout from Wheeler, is 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Colorado Springs, 4-0, 1.54 at home, which is not a pitcher-friendly place. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound right-hander, who relies primarily on a mid-90s fastball, has 30 strikeouts and seven walks in 34 1/3 innings. “(Y)ou talk about mound presence, his is way up there,” Sky Sox manager Rick Sweet, a former Jackson Generals skipper, told The Gazette of Colorado Springs. “When he gets on the mound he’s got control of the game.” Woodruff, 24, was an 11th-round pick by the Brewers in 2014. He emerged as a top prospect last season, when he went 4-1, 1.83 at Class A Brevard County and 10-8, 3.01 at Double-A Biloxi, earning the organization’s pitcher of the year honors. Woodruff got a brief look with the big club in spring training this year. His next opportunity can’t be far off.

13 Dec

coming attraction

Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State star from Wheeler, made a trip to Milwaukee’s Miller Park in September to be honored as the Brewers’ minor league pitcher of the year. “This wouldn’t be a bad job to come to every day,” Woodruff said in an mlb.com story. It’ll be his office soon enough. Woodruff, also named the Brewers’ minor league pitcher of the year by MLBPipeline, likely will go to spring training with a chance at winning a job in Milwaukee’s rotation. The right-hander, who’ll turn 24 in February, is currently rated the Brewers’ No. 25 prospect by mlb.com – and he should be rising on that chart. Woodruff started 2016 at high Class A Brevard County and finished it with Double-A Biloxi, going 14-9 with a 2.68 ERA and leading all of the minors with 173 strikeouts. He also overcame the emotional toll of his brother Blake’s death in a four-wheeler accident in late July. In his first start after the funeral, Woodruff threw six near-perfect innings and hit a home run for the Shuckers. Woodruff had an uneven career at State, dogged by injuries and command issues. Milwaukee took him in the 11th round in 2014, and his pro career took off this season at Brevard County. He was 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA before earning a promotion to Biloxi, where he was almost as good. Woodruff beat the Mississippi Braves twice in big games down the stretch as both clubs battled for a Southern League postseason berth. P.S. Itawamba Community College alum Tim Dillard has re-signed with Milwaukee on a minor league contract. The 2017 season will be Dillard’s 15th in pro ball, including parts of four years in the majors. He spent some time with the Brewers last September as part of the club’s social media team (see previous post). Dillard had a 5.13 ERA at Triple-A Colorado Springs in the Brewers’ system in 2016 but reportedly is throwing harder than ever.