08 Jan

new face in crowd

With its recent trade for ex-Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl, Milwaukee has added an intriguing piece to what was one of the best bullpens in baseball in 2018. Wahl, 26, was one of three players the Brewers obtained from the New York Mets for Keon Broxton. Wahl was a fifth-round pick by Oakland back in 2013 whose advancement has been stalled by injuries. The right-hander, who once threw 100 mph, has worked just 13 innings (6.92 ERA) in the big leagues the last two seasons. He had a good 2018 campaign in the minors – making the Pacific Coast League All-Star Game before the A’s sent him to New York – and he’ll go to spring camp with the Brewers bidding for a job with a club that went to the NLCS last fall. “(W)e certainly anticipate he’s a person who will contribute for us at the major league level this year,” Milwaukee GM David Stearns told mlb.com. A writer from brewcrewball.com recently offered this assessment: “Wahl’s pure ‘stuff’ screams dominant relief ace, but his middling command … may cause the kind of frustrating inconsistency that holds him back from locking down a late-inning relief role.” Wahl aims to join a Milwaukee staff that includes ex-Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff and several Biloxi Shuckers alumni.

17 Dec

around the horn

And now for something completely different: After 17 years in the Milwaukee Brewers’ system, Tim Dillard has been signed by Texas. The minor league deal with the Rangers includes a spring training invite for the former Saltillo High and Itawamba Community College star, now 35. Right-hander Dillard had a 9.70 ERA in 25 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2018 but has a 4.07 career minor league ERA. He also has 73 MLB appearances on his resume, the last in 2012. Dillard has become something of a social media star (see previous posts) in recent years. … In the span of a few minutes last week, ex-Ole Miss star Chris Ellis went from being the property of the St. Louis Cardinals to the Texas Rangers to the Kansas City Royals. He was picked in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft by the Rangers out of the Cardinals’ system, then traded to the Royals. If he doesn’t make the Royals’ big league roster in the spring, he’ll likely return to the Cardinals, for whom he pitched very well at Double-A and Triple-A in 2018. Ellis, originally drafted out of Oxford by the Los Angeles Angels, also has pitched in Atlanta’s system. … Former Ole Miss and Pearl River Community College standout Braxton Lee was picked up by the New York Mets from Miami’s system in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Lee, an outfielder, got into a handful of big league games with the Marlins last April but spent the rest of the season in the minors before being removed from the 40-man roster in November. … PRCC product Zach Clark, a 2016 draftee by Milwaukee, is playing in the Australian Baseball League, hitting .216 in 15 games for Auckland. Clark hit .246 with eight homers and 19 steals for Wisconsin in the Class A Midwest League this past season. … Ole Miss product Dallas Woolfolk, a 13th-round pick by Oakland in June, was suspended for 50 games next season after testing positive for Amphetamine, MLB announced on Friday. Woolfolk had a 7.31 ERA in 11 appearances in the rookie-level Arizona League this summer.

17 Nov

so what’s next?

Having left his original MLB organization in 2017, David Goforth got a second chance with Washington last season. The former Ole Miss star from Meridian is now looking for a third shot. Goforth, who spent all of the past season in Triple-A, became a minor league free agent earlier this month while playing winter ball. The 30-year-old right-hander went 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA and a save in 14 games for Culiacan in the Mexican Pacific League; he is currently on the team’s reserve list. Goforth spent seven years in the Milwaukee system – he was a seventh-round pick out of UM in 2011 – and appeared in 31 big league games (with a 3.91 ERA) over three different seasons. He was designated for assignment by the Brewers in April of 2017 and was sent to the minors for the rest of that season. He signed with Washington as a free agent last fall. P.S. Also on the minor league market is former Rebels star and erstwhile big leaguer Chris Coghlan, who spent most of 2018 in Triple-A with the Chicago Cubs. Coghlan, 33, last played in the majors in 2017 with Toronto. … Another ex-UM standout, J.B. Woodman, is also a free agent, having been released out of A-ball by St. Louis in August. Woodman was a second-round pick by Toronto in 2016 and was traded last year for major league infielder Aledmys Diaz.

19 Oct

eye on …

Daniel Brown, a left-hander out of Mississippi State, is making a strong impression in the Arizona Fall League. The third-year pro, not a highly rated prospect in Milwaukee’s system, has pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings in three appearances in the prospect-packed AFL. He worked 2 1/3 innings for Peoria on Thursday, yielding two hits with three strikeouts. The 5-foot-10 Brown put up a 4.20 ERA, seven wins and two saves in 39 relief stints for Carolina in the Class A Carolina League in 2018. The Brewers picked Brown in the seventh round in 2016, when he was on an MSU staff that included Dakota Hudson, Konnor Pilkington, Zac Houston, Reid Humphreys and Jacob Billingsley. Brown was the NJCAA Division III pitcher of the year at Tyler (Texas) JC in 2014. … George County High product Justin Steele threw three hitless innings for Mesa in the AFL on Thursday, bouncing back from a rough first start last week. Steele, rated the Chicago Cubs’ No. 8 prospect by MLB Pipeline, had an abbreviated 2018 campaign – his fifth in pro ball — as he returned from arm surgery. P.S. Jackson native and ex-big leaguer Stan Cliburn has been named manager of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League. Cliburn managed that team to a division title in 2015. The longtime minor league and indy league skipper worked as a coach in another independent league in 2018.

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.

17 Oct

atta boy

Quite a few atta boys to pass out to the Mississippi connections after Tuesday’s league championship games. Who better to start with than:
Brian Dozier. The Southern Miss product from Fulton, making his first postseason start for the Los Angeles Dodgers, went 1-for-4 with a walk and an HBP and drove in the Dodgers’ first run with a two-out single in the first inning in the National League Championship Series. “For him to spark us, and get a point early, I thought that was huge,” LA manager Dave Roberts told The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif. After the 2-1, 13-inning, series-squaring win over Milwaukee, it’ll be interesting to see if Dozier gets another start in Game 5 today at Dodger Stadium.
Alex Wood. The ex-Mississippi Braves star threw a clean 11th inning with one strikeout for the Dodgers.
Orlando Arcia. The Biloxi Shuckers alum went 1-for-5 and scored Milwaukee’s lone run. After an uneven regular season, Arcia is batting .280 with three homers, seven RBIs and six runs in the postseason.
Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader. The former Shuckers chuckers worked a combined six scoreless innings in relief duty and punched out 11 for the Brewers.
Mitch Moreland. The ex-Mississippi State star from Amory picked up his second RBI for Boston in the American League Championship Series when he was hit by a Roberto Osuna pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning. That run extended the visiting Red Sox’s lead to 4-2, and Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with his game-breaking grand slam as Boston rolled to an 8-2 win and a 2-1 series lead over Houston.
Tony Sipp. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product from Moss Point closed out the sixth inning for the Astros after Joe Smith yielded Steve Pearce’s go-ahead homer. Sipp, making just his second postseason appearance, walked the first batter he faced but got a strikeout and a ground out to end the inning.
Charlie Morton. The M-Braves product will get the ball for his first postseason start of 2018 for Houston in tonight’s Game 4, a virtual must-win for the Astros. Morton, 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA this season, was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of both the World Series and the ALCS in 2017.

16 Oct

not this time

The table was set. Bases loaded. Two outs. Bottom of the ninth. Down four runs. On the 30th anniversary of one of the greatest moments in Los Angeles Dodgers history – Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series home run — there was no magic in the moonlight for Brian Dozier. The former Southern Miss standout, up as a pinch hitter, took a called third strike on a 1-2 fastball from Milwaukee’s Jeremy Jeffress, closing out the Brewers’ 4-0 victory at Dodger Stadium on Monday night. Milwaukee leads the National League Championship Series 2 games to 1. It was a frustrating game for the Dodgers, who went a collective 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and for Dozier in particular. Judging from his reaction to the final pitch, he thought it was off the plate (and he may have been right). He is now 0-for-3 in the series, all the at-bats as a pinch hitter. For the record, Dozier did hit a grand slam this season, a dramatic game-winner for Minnesota back on July 15, and was 3-for-7 with the bases loaded in 2018. But he finished the season in a dreadful slump — .133 over his last 30 games — and has gotten just five at-bats this postseason. Perhaps Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will shake up the lineup for tonight’s Game 4 against Brewers lefty Gio Gonzalez. Kiki Hernandez, who has been starting at second base, is 2-for-18 in the postseason. Dozier hits lefties fairly well. And you know he’d love another shot at a shining moment.

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.

10 Oct

connect four

There are four Mississippi natives still playing in this MLB season, one with each of the four teams still standing in the playoffs. Amory’s Mitch Moreland plays first base for Boston, which faces Houston and Moss Point product Tony Sipp, a relief specialist, in the American League Championship Series. Fulton’s Brian Dozier is a second baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are taking on Milwaukee and Wheeler product Brandon Woodruff, a pitcher, in the National League Championship Series. Sipp, 35, is the senior member of the group and has followed the most serpentine route to this point. He signed with Cleveland as a 45th-round pick out of Clemson in 2004. He had been drafted twice previously (in higher rounds) – at Moss Point High in 2001 and a Florida juco in 2002. He was a two-way star at Mississippi Gulf Coast CC in 2003 but went undrafted. It took the lithe left-hander five years in the minors to reach the big leagues but once he did, he stuck. This is his fifth year with the Astros and was one of his best, as a 1.86 ERA will attest. He and Moreland have a little history. Moreland is 3-for-11 with two doubles vs. Sipp, who has fanned the lefty hitter six times. Moreland was a 17th-rounder out of Mississippi State in 2007 by Texas, made the big leagues three years later and has made a habit of showing up in the postseason. Moreland is in his second year with Boston, having re-signed with the Red Sox as a free agent in the off-season. He made his first All-Star Game in 2018 and finished with a .245 average and 15 homers. He and Dozier have a little history. They played American Legion ball together back in Tupelo. Dozier went to Southern Miss and was an eighth-round selection in 2009 by Minnesota. He reached the big leagues in 2012, took a brief detour back to the minors, then returned to stay in 2013. An All-Star with the Twins in 2015, the pending free agent was traded to the Dodgers in July. He slumped at season’s end, finishing with a .215 average and 21 homers. He and Woodruff have a little history – but only a little. Dozier is 1-for-2 with a homer off the right-hander, who is in just his second MLB campaign. Woodruff was drafted in the fifth round out of Wheeler High in 2011 but went to Mississippi State instead. After an unspectacular career with the Bulldogs, Milwaukee picked him in the 11th round in 2014. He blossomed quickly, becoming the Brewers’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2016 and making his big league debut the next summer. He put up a 3.61 ERA this season, working primarily in relief down the stretch.

09 Oct

cue the anthem

Opening Day is here – for the Arizona Fall League. Several Mississippians are on the rosters, including one labeled as a “top prospect” and two as “sleeper prospects” by mlb.com. Brent Rooker, the Mississippi State product, is regarded as the best of Minnesota’s AFL group. The first baseman/outfielder, in his second pro season, hit 22 homers and drove in 79 runs in Double-A this past season. He’ll play for Salt River. Left-hander Justin Steele, a former George County High star, is a “sleeper prospect” out of the Chicago Cubs’ system. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, he started just 11 games over three levels, finishing in Double-A. He had a 2.89 ERA. He is on the Mesa club, along with Delta State alum and fellow Cubs farmhand Trent Giambrone. Petal’s Demarcus Evans is the “sleeper” to watch from Texas’ organization. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound right-hander, who’ll pitch for Surprise, had a 1.77 ERA as a reliever in low A-ball this season. He might not be a sleeper for long. Ex-Ole Miss standout Errol Robinson, a shortstop from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system, is on the Glendale roster. … Atlanta and Milwaukee are among the feeder clubs for Peoria, and there are a handful of Mississippi Braves and Biloxi Shuckers alums on that team, including Cristian Pache, Ray-Patrick Didder, Kyle Muller and Keston Hiura.