It is a three-team scrap, at the moment, in the American League East. Boston clings to a 1-game lead over the New York Yankees with Tampa Bay hanging 2.5 back. The Rays are visiting Yankee Stadium for a four-game series that starts tonight. Boston hosts surging Kansas City, an AL Central and wild card contender, for three starting on Friday. It’s not a good time to be in a slump, but both Corey Dickerson of the Rays and Mitch Moreland of the Red Sox are in one. Former Meridian Community College star Dickerson, a first-time All-Star this year, is batting .209 with one homer and four RBIs over his last 23 games. His average has plunged to .303. Yankee Stadium is a great hitter’s park for lefties, and Dickerson is batting .343 with three bombs against Yankees pitching this season. So … a breakout might be coming. The Rays would love to see it. Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State standout, is hitting .124 without a homer in his last 24 games and went 2-for-17 on the club’s recent road trip. His average is down to .239, and he’s been dropped in the BoSox’s order. He suffered a broken toe in mid-June but played through it and says it’s fine now. If there is a positive for Moreland entering the weekend, he is a better hitter at Fenway Park: .253 with six of his 12 homers and a .341 on-base percentage. He doesn’t have a hit in seven at-bats against Royals pitchers this year, so … perhaps he is due. The Red Sox surely hope that’s true.
American League All-Star DH Corey Dickerson, in an interview on MLB Network on Monday, didn’t offer up a very complex analysis of his resurgent 2017 season. “I gotta be me,” he said. “Be the hitter I am.” Dickerson, the McComb native and Brookhaven Academy and Meridian Community College alumnus, is batting .312 (.355 on-base percentage) with 17 homers in 85 games in his second season with Tampa Bay. He hit 24 bombs in 2016 but batted just .245 (.293 OBP). A .299 hitter in three years in Colorado and a .321 hitter in the minors, Dickerson said it was the first time in his career that he had struggled at the plate: “I was searching, didn’t know who I was.” He got fitter in the off-season and made subtle changes to his free-swinging approach. He appears to be Corey Dickerson again – and that’s a good thing. He’ll bat seventh for the AL tonight at Marlins Park in Miami. Ole Miss product Zack Cozart bats ninth and plays shortstop for the NL. … Putting the best players in the game on the field at one time won’t necessarily produce a great game. Baseball doesn’t work that way. But the All-Star Game has produced its share of drama. This year marks the 10th anniversary of one such game, and a couple of Mississippians were involved. Flash to 2007 and San Francisco’s AT&T Park. The National League scored two runs in the ninth to make it a 5-4 game and had the bases loaded when Aaron Rowand popped out against Francisco Rodriguez to end it. Vicksburg native Dmitri Young got a one-out hit for the NL in that final inning and scored on Alfonso Soriano’s home run. Mississippi State alum Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless eighth for the American League, preserving the 5-2 lead, but yielded to J.J. Putz (who was followed by Rodriguez) in the ninth. Holmes Community College alum Roy Oswalt of Weir was on the NL roster but didn’t get in the game. … Other All-Star anniversaries of note: Forty years ago, at Yankee Stadium, Mississippi native Dave Parker, batting third for the NL, singled and scored as part of a four-run first inning against Jim Palmer that carried the Senior Circuit to a 7-5 win. That was one of Parker’s seven All-Star game appearances. … Seventy years ago, Pascagoula’s Harry “The Hat” Walker, then with Philadelphia, batted leadoff for the NL and went 0-for-2 in a 2-1 loss at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Walker made two All-Star Games during an 11-year career. … Eighty years ago, in Griffith Stadium in Washington, adopted Mississippian Dizzy Dean suffered a broken toe when struck by a line drive off the bat of Earl Averill. After the All-Star Game (in which he took the loss), Dean tried to pitch through the injury, hurt his arm and hastened the end of his brilliant career. Ellisville’s Buddy Myer was on the NL team that year but didn’t play, and Gulfport native Gee Walker, selected as a starter for the NL, couldn’t play because of injury.
Much can and will happen between now and the time the All-Star Game rosters are finalized in mid-July. But barring some calamity, Corey Dickerson will be in Miami for the Midsummer Classic on July 11. The McComb native and ex-Meridian Community College star is batting .345 with 12 homers, 25 RBIs and 38 runs in 50 games for Tampa Bay. The lefty-hitting outfielder/DH leads the American League in hits with 70. After a lackluster first season with the Rays, he has erupted in Year 2. “Hitting to all fields has probably been as important as anything,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Dickerson in a Tampa Bay Times story. If Dickerson makes the All-Star Game, he would be just the second Mississippi native to do so in the last 10 years. Brian Dozier (Tupelo/Fulton) got in as an injury replacement pick – a deserving one — in 2015. For the record, Mississippi hasn’t produced an abundance of All-Stars in recent times, though there have been a few of note. Roy Oswalt (Kosciusko/Weir) made three straight appearances in the game from 2005-07. Ellis Burks (Vicksburg) appeared in two, 1990 and 1996. Dave Parker (Calhoun City/Grenada) made seven, the last in 1990. Greenville native Frank White was a five-time All-Star, making his last appearance in 1986. George Scott, also from Greenville, made three Classics, his final one coming in 1977, and Chet Lemon (Jackson) got the call three times, as well, the last in 1984.
A week ago, Corey Dickerson was penciled in as Tampa Bay’s starting left fielder. Today, the former Meridian Community College star from McComb may not be so sure where he stands. With spring training camps opening in about a month, the Rays appear overrun with outfielders. Mallex Smith, the ex-Mississippi Braves star who arrived in a Wednesday trade, and reported free agent signee Colby Rasmus join a crowd that includes Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr., Mikie Mahtook and Nick Franklin. Kiermaier is the likely starter in center. Otherwise, who knows? The Rays may be planning to move someone, though it would be a surprise if they dealt Dickerson, who is only 27 and entering just his fifth MLB season. He delivered power (24 home runs, 36 doubles) in his first year in Tampa after coming over in a trade from Colorado. Though he hit just .245, that could at least partly be attributed to changing home parks and leagues. Dickerson, a .279 career hitter, has always drawn raves for his abilities with the bat, and he has said that he wants to win a batting title. Because defense is not his strong suit, Dickerson figures to get a lot of at-bats at DH, as he did in 2016. Then again, he does have trade value. It’s a situation that bears watching in the coming weeks.
Corey Dickerson wasted no time showing his new Tampa Bay teammates what he brings to the table. In his second at-bat of the spring on Thursday, the former Meridian Community College standout launched a jaw-dropping homer at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. On a 3-2 pitch from Baltimore’s Miguel Gonzalez, the lefty-hitting Dickerson drove the ball over the wall in right-center. It bounced on a rooftop beyond the park and stopped 569 feet from home plate, according to a report. While the homer generated much buzz during and after the game, Dickerson seemed to take it in stride. “I felt like I got a good pitch to hit. I tried to be short to the ball, and it worked out,” he told mlb.com. Dickerson had an injury-curtailed season with Colorado last year – batting .304 with 10 homers in 65 games – and was traded to Tampa Bay for pitcher Jake McGee in January. Part of Dickerson’s mission in 2016 is to show that his power plays outside of Coors Field. He’s off to a good start. … Brian Dozier made his spring debut on Thursday, as well, and went 3-for-3 with two doubles for Minnesota. The Southern Miss product is aiming to build on a 2015 campaign that saw him hit a career-high 28 homers with 77 RBIs and become an All-Star for the first time.
For a major league hitter, there’s no place like Coors Field. Corey Dickerson certainly seemed to enjoy playing there, batting .355 with 24 home runs in 122 games at Coors for the Colorado Rockies. Traded by the Rockies to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, the former Brookhaven Academy and Meridian Community College star is now entering a brave new world. His new home, Tropicana Field, is a much more pitcher-friendly park. The left-handed hitting left fielder is a .249 hitter with 15 homers (in 143 games) away from Coors Field. But the Rays, who gave up reliever Jake McGee to get Dickerson, don’t seem overly concerned. As Matt Silverman, Rays president of baseball operations, told mlb.com: “We believe in the skill set that Corey has and that it will translate to our ballpark and will really play to any ballpark in the league.” The trade also gives Tampa Bay a glut of outfielders, including three others that have played primarily in left: ex-Itawamba CC star Desmond Jennings, Brandon Guyer and Steve Pearce. There has been chatter for weeks that Jennings, coming off two injury-plagued seasons, might be moved. He is a career .249 hitter with 48 homers and 93 steals. P.S. Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton, who had surgery on a torn labrum last fall, recently told mlb.com: “I’m not 100 percent yet, but close to it. We had a schedule to be ready right around spring training. As of right now, we’re on track to make that happen.” Hamilton, perhaps the fastest player in the game, stole 57 bases for Cincinnati but hit just .226 and lost his leadoff role last year. Injuries limited him to 114 games. … There have been reports that Miami is interested in 37-year-old left-hander Cliff Lee, the former Meridian CC standout who missed all of last season with an arm problem.
His team is buried in last place and has been out of playoff contention for months, but the remaining games on the Colorado schedule are certainly meaningful for Corey Dickerson. The former Meridian Community College and Brookhaven Academy star has missed 95 of the Rockies’ 140 games because of injury. On Thursday night, in his third game back from his third stint on the disabled list, Dickerson hit his first home run since April 23. In 150 at-bats, he is batting .305 with 19 RBIs. He told the Denver Post his goals for the rest of the way are “finishing the season healthy and looking to get better.” When he plays, the left-handed hitting outfielder has been pretty good. He hit .312 last year with 24 homers and 76 RBIs and is at .298 with 35 and 112 for his three-year big league career. The Rockies appear to be due for a rebuild, so who knows what the future holds for Dickerson or any other regular on their roster? P.S. Ole Miss alum Alex Presley had two more hits – he is 6-for-9 in the series – to help Fresno beat El Paso 5-4 and go up 2-0 in their Pacific Coast League best-of-5 conference series. Ex-Mississippi State standout Hunter Renfroe homered for El Paso. … Stone County High product D.J. Davis was 3-for-4 in Lansing’s 5-4, series-clinching win over Great Lakes in the Class A Midwest League playoffs. Vancleave’s Tyler Bray notched a hold in Peoria’s 3-2, series-clincher against Kane County and his brother Colin Bray. Colin was 1-for-4 but didn’t face Tyler. And former Southwest Mississippi CC star Kade Scivicque went 2-for-3 with an RBI as West Michigan eliminated Fort Wayne 2-1.