23 Oct

expectations

We should not expect much from the two Mississippi products in the 2018 World Series, according to one espn.com writer, who has offered a guide to each of the players on the Boston and Los Angeles rosters. The 50-player list was “loosely organized by how prominently each player should figure into his team’s hopes and plans.” Former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland hit .245 with 16 homers and 58 RBIs for the Red Sox this season and is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman. He was hindered by a hamstring injury early in the postseason. Brian Dozier, a Southern Miss alumnus, has played sparingly for the Dodgers in recent weeks, perhaps also bothered by the lingering effects of a knee injury. On the espn.com chart, Moreland was ranked No. 21, just ahead of Yasiel Puig and Nathan Eovaldi. And yet, the 33-year-old Moreland, an All-Star this summer, was described as “an old, slow first baseman with a low batting average and only moderate power, who costs enough money for it to count and offers little upside beyond what’s there.” Uh, OK. The writer’s assessment of Dozier was far less complimentary. He was ranked No. 50, making him, by extrapolation, the least impactful player in the World Series. An LA newspaper’s description of Dozier in July as a streaky hitter, the espn.com scribe writes, “looks darkly prescient, as Dozier had the worst month of his career in September (he hit .087/.189/.229) and has been demoted to the bench for all but one postseason game so far.” All that is true — but it’s also true that Dozier, 31, is a career .324 on-base guy with 172 homers and owns a Gold Glove at second base. Maybe Moreland and Dozier don’t exactly blow your hair back, but it seems foolish to underestimate either of these battle-tested veterans on baseball’s grandest stage. P.S. Moreland isn’t likely to start Game 1 tonight against Clayton Kershaw, one of many lefties the Dodgers can run out. Dozier very well could start against Chris Sale; he’s 12-for-47 career with three homers vs. the Red Sox left-hander.

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.

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.

09 Sep

eye on …

Brian Dozier made a splashy debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 1, homering in his first game after being acquired in a trade with Minnesota. Then the former Southern Miss star went deep again in his second game. Through eight games with his new club Dozier was batting .307 with three homers. Alas, the hot start has given way to a bitter cold snap. After taking an 0-for-3 in a loss to Colorado on Saturday – before being lifted for a pinch hitter — Dozier is in an 0-for-21 slump. Over his last 15 games, he is 6-for-51. In 33 games with the Dodgers, Dozier is batting just .191 with four homers and 16 RBIs. The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that Dozier has been dealing since April with a knee injury that has affected his swing. He said he has declined to take any time on the disabled list, which would be a first in his career. “That’s not me,” he told the Times. “I’m still trying to find ways to be productive.” Dozier is a gamer. The Dodgers are in the thick of a battle royale in the National League West. They trail first-place Colorado by a 1.5 games heading into today’s rubber game of a three-game set. The Rockies are starting left-hander Tyler Anderson, meaning the right-handed Dozier will probably start. Don’t bet against him finding ways to be productive, if not today then surely down the stretch. The Dodgers may yet get a Dozier bump.

15 Aug

full speed ahead

Brian Dozier took an 0-for-4 on Tuesday night, but the more significant news was that the ex-Southern Miss star was in the lineup for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dozier declared himself “healthy like an ox” to reporters a day after he left a game early with dizziness. An EKG on Monday night showed an irregular heartbeat, but Dozier said he has always had that. He was given a clean bill of health prior to Tuesday’s game. He told mlb.com the dizziness might have resulted from medication he took for sinus issues. Dozier is the ultimate gamer, never having been on the disabled list in a big league career that goes back to 2012. And the Dodgers, who have lost five straight and fallen to third place in the National League West, certainly need a healthy Dozier. He is batting .256 with three homers, 11 RBIs and five runs in 13 games since coming to L.A. from Minnesota. For the year, he is at .230 with 19 homers. P.S. With JaCoby Jones (hamstring) going on the DL Monday for Detroit, the list of Mississippians on the shelf grew to three. Zack Cozart (shoulder surgery) is out for the year, while Jarrod Dyson (groin) has been out since July 5 with no announced timetable for a return. Kendall Graveman (elbow), who went to the DL while in the minors, is also out for the year. Drew Pomeranz and Hunter Renfroe spent extended time on the DL this year but are active now.

31 Jul

moving day

It’ll take a little getting used to. Brian Dozier is not a Minnesota Twin anymore. The former Southern Miss star has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. And as much as Dozier professed his love for the Twins organization over the years, this move gives him a realistic chance at making it to the World Series this fall. Dozier, who had been in the Minnesota system for all 10 of his pro seasons, isn’t having a huge year by his standards — .224, 16 homers – but he’s a definite upgrade at second base for the Dodgers. And if he isn’t happy there, hey, he’ll be a free agent at season’s end. … In a (much) less-heralded deal, former Ole Miss pitcher Jacob Waguespack, who was in Triple-A with Philadelphia, was dealt to Toronto for Aaron Loup. Waguespack is 4-6 with a 4.68 ERA this season between Double-A and Triple-A.

11 Jul

trade chatter

Will it be the Dodgers? Red Sox? How ’bout the Brewers? There are many teams rumored to be interested in trading for Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star currently playing second base for Minnesota. And why not? He’s a Gold Glover-caliber defender with power and, from all indications, a great clubhouse presence. He’s also a free agent after this season. While the conventional wisdom is that the Twins’ season has gone off the rails, Dozier, not surprisingly, begs to differ. “Everyone keeps talking about trade deadlines and trades and selling and all this; this game can turn in a minute,” he told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press on Tuesday. “And I have a feeling it’s turning now.” Alas, despite Dozier’s 14th homer, the Twins’ five-game win streak ended Tuesday night with a 9-4 loss at home to Kansas City, which had lost 10 straight. The Twins are 40-49, 8 1/2 games behind first-place Cleveland in the American League Central. Yes, they made an improbable rally last year to earn a wild card berth. Doing that again, considering the other contenders, would seem even more improbable. It’s much more likely they’ll trade Dozier for prospects. The Dodgers, if they don’t get Manny Machado, would seem to be a very nice fit.

11 May

breaking out?

You still have to scroll down quite a ways to find Billy Hamilton’s name on the MLB batting average list. But a recent hot streak has carried the former Taylorsville High star above the proverbial Mendoza Line and could be a good sign for a Cincinnati club that needs some. Hamilton, batting .346 in May, went 2-for-4 for the Reds on Thursday with a triple and an RBI in a 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The switch-hitting center fielder is now at .212 for the year with a .314 on-base average. He has two homers, 11 RBIs and 21 runs hitting mostly at the bottom of the order. As recently as April 29, he was hitting .169. “It’s been a grind but I have more confidence than I’ve had all year,” he told mlb.com a few days ago. Jim Riggleman, who took over as Reds manager for the fired Bryan Price on April 19, has kept Hamilton in the lineup, citing the value of his defense. Oddly enough, Hamilton has only five stolen bases, the most recent on April 23. The Reds, even after a season-best three-game win streak, are 11-27, worst record in the National League. … Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss standout from Fulton, has not been hot of late but may have had a breakout Thursday, going 4-for-4 with a homer in Minnesota’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Dozier is batting just .190 over his last 15 games and is at .246 with six homers, 14 RBIs and 20 runs for the season. Production from Dozier, who typically hits first or second in the lineup, is essential for Minnesota (15-18) as it battles to stay in the American League Central race. P.S. Scott Copeland, the former Southern Miss ace, is off to Las Vegas; that is, he has been promoted to the Triple-A 51s by the New York Mets. Copeland was 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in two starts for Double-A Binghamton. Copeland, in his ninth year of pro ball, had signed with a team in the independent Atlantic League this spring but was purchased by the Mets a short time thereafter. He has five MLB appearances on his resume, all with Toronto in 2015. At age 30, Copeland was a bit old for Double-A, though one of his teammates was another 30-year-old name of Tim Tebow.

23 Apr

meritorious work

The longest current hitting streak in the majors belongs to Brian Dozier, who went 2-for-5 on Sunday to extend his run to 16 games. That also happens to be a Minnesota Twins record to begin a season. Former Southern Miss star Dozier just keeps doing these things, steadily establishing himself as one of the game’s premier players. In what might be his last tour with the Twins – he’s a free agent at season’s end – Dozier is batting .310 with four homers and nine RBIs. Over the past four years, he has been an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner, set a record for homers by a second baseman (with 42 in 2016) and earned two team MVP and Heart and Hustle awards. He drove in more than 90 runs each of the previous two years, hit at least 20 homers and scored more than 100 runs each of the last four and topped 30 doubles and 10 steals each of the last five. He batted a career-high .271 with 34 homers last season and helped the Twins reach the postseason for the first time in seven years, then homered to lead off the wild card game at New York’s Yankee Stadium. Dozier and the Twins will be back on that stage today, opening a four-game series against the Yanks and their array of stars. Dozier will hold his own. P.S. Also on the MLB hot list: Mitch Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State standout who is batting .438 with two homers and nine RBIs in his last five games for Boston, and JaCoby Jones, the Richton High product who is hitting .375 with two homers and five RBIs in his last seven games for Detroit.

27 Nov

the envelope please …

This was a close call. Drew Pomeranz went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA last season and was a key player in Boston’s drive to a division title. But Brian Dozier, who also had sparkling numbers, was arguably THE key player in unheralded Minnesota’s drive to a wild card berth. On that basis, the former Southern Miss star is a repeat winner of the Cool Papa Bell Award, given here for the best performance by a Mississippian in the majors. Dozier, who also won the 2016 award, batted a career-high .271 (.359 on-base) with 34 homers, 93 RBIs, 106 runs and 16 steals in his fifth full season with the Twins. He was a regular on the highlight shows for his defense at second base. What’s more, he led off the American League wild card game against New York with a home run, though the Twins couldn’t hold the lead. No disrespect to Pomeranz — or for that matter Zack Cozart, Corey Dickerson, Jarrod Dyson, Lance Lynn and Adam Frazier, each of whom had a very good season – but Dozier was simply a cut above. … The award honors Negro Leagues legend Cool Papa Bell, the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Previous honorees include Mitch Moreland, Corey Dickerson, Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan.