Mickey Callaway, the former Ole Miss pitcher; Ron Gardenhire, the Jackson Mets shortstop from way back when; and ex-Jackson State slugger Dave Clark are among the candidates for the four managerial openings in the big leagues, according to various reports. Callaway, Cleveland’s pitching coach, is rumored to be the favorite in Philadelphia but is also said to be a good fit for the New York Mets. Gardenhire, currently bench coach for Arizona, is reportedly under consideration for the job in Boston and also Detroit, where Clark has been the third-base coach for four years. Gardenhire managed in Minnesota for 13 seasons, winning over 1,000 games and making six postseason trips. Clark was an interim skipper in Houston in 2009. … Charlie Morton, one of three former Mississippi Braves on Houston’s current roster, will start Game 3 of the American League Championship Series tonight at New York. CC Sabathia starts for the Yankees. Morton, a 14-game winner this season, yielded two runs in 4 1/3 innings in Game 4 of the ALDS at Boston, a game the Astros won 5-4 to claim the series. M-Braves alums Brian McCann and Evan Gattis also play for the Astros, whose hitting coach is onetime Jackson Generals coach Dave Hudgens. … Former M-Braves star Jason Heyward went 0-for-3 in the Chicago Cubs’ 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Sunday night’s NLCS Game 2. Heyward is just one of numerous Cubs slumping this postseason; he is 2-for-15 this year and is batting .155 in 35 career postseason games. … Ole Miss alum David Goforth, who pitched briefly for Milwaukee in 2017, is now working in the Mexican Pacific League, and Southern Miss product Scott Copeland, a Miami minor leaguer, is pitching in the Dominican Winter League. Those leagues started last week.
There are, most baseball aficionados agree, eight different ways to reach first base. In the crazy top of the fifth inning on Thursday night, the Chicago Cubs produced five of them – in a row — and went on to a 9-8 victory over Washington that sent them to the National League Championship Series. With two outs in the fifth, down 4-3, the Cubs did this: three straight hits (infield hit, single, double), intentional walk, dropped third strike (albeit controversial), catcher’s interference and hit batsman. All that was missing in the four-run inning was an error, a fielder’s choice and fielder’s obstruction. For the record, former Mississippi Braves Jason Heyward (the intentional walk) and Tommy LaStella (the catcher’s interference) were involved in the madness. P.S. Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star and Atlanta prospect, went 3-for-5 with a home run (off Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull) and four RBIs to pace Peoria to a 10-6 win against Mesa on Thursday in the Arizona Fall League. Turnbull, a Detroit prospect, worked 2 1/3 innings, yielding eight hits, a walk and seven runs (four earned) to take the loss.
Playing ball in Myrtle Beach, S.C., comes with certain built-in distractions, but Magnolia State products Justin Steele and Trent Giambrone have found their focus in the popular vacation destination. Steele, a left-hander out of George County High, and Giambrone, a second baseman/outfielder from Delta State, were key figures in the Pelicans’ first-half championship in the Class A Carolina League. The Chicago Cubs’ high-A affiliate went 43-27 to claim the South Division title in a walk last month. Steele, who took a loss against Buies Creek on Thursday night, is 6-5 with a league-best 2.40 ERA in 16 starts. He has a 1.93 ERA over his last 10 outings. A fifth-round pick in 2013 and currently rated the Cubs’ No. 22 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Steele, 21, has made mechanical adjustments this year that appear to be paying off. Giambrone, a 25th-round selection just last year, hit .292 in rookie ball in his debut season and was jumped to high-A to start 2017. The 5-foot-8 Giambrone, 23, is batting .262 with nine homers, 26 RBIs and 49 runs for the Pelicans. He is batting .385 over his last 10 games. The next stop for Steele and Giambrone, probably in 2018, would be a very different kind of vacation destination. Kodak, Tenn., up in the Great Smoky Mountains, is the home of the Tennessee Smokies, the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate in the Southern League.
Apparently, Brian Dozier’s bruised knee is just fine. After sitting out Saturday’s game, the former Southern Miss star smacked an inside-the-park home run on Sunday, producing the only run Minnesota would score in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. It was Dozier’s 119th career homer but first inside-the-parker. “I put it in a different gear,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Dozier’s recent power surge has overshadowed the fact that he can run a little bit. He has five steals already this season and has swiped 12 or more bags in each of the last four seasons. … Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland continues to deliver big hits for Boston, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs on Sunday. He had the go-ahead hit in the seventh inning of the Red Sox’s 7-5 win over Tampa Bay at Fenway Park. Moreland is hitting .356 with a homer, five RBIs and seven runs in his first season with Boston. “It’s been a smooth transition,” he told The Associated Press. … Jarrod Dyson, inserted as a pinch hitter, sparked a ninth-inning rally for Seattle with an infield hit and a stolen base, his fourth of the year. “We are down one (run), and I am on base with no outs? I am looking to go — and go early,” McComb native Dyson told the Bellingham (Wash.) Herald. He scored the tying run in the Mariners’ 8-7 win against Texas at Safeco Field. Dyson is batting just .200 with five runs in 12 games for his new club. … Ex-State star Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh’s super utility man, went 3-for-4 with homer – his first – and three RBIs as the Pirates completed a sweep of the Chicago Cubs with a 6-1 victory at Wrigley Field. Frazier is batting .343. … Ole Miss alum Chris Coghlan, who’s due a World Series ring from the Cubs, got his first hit and first RBI for Toronto, but the scuffling Blue Jays fell to Baltimore 11-4 at Rogers Centre. Coghlan was called up from Triple-A last week as a replacement for injured Josh Donaldson.
This season probably won’t be as much fun as 2016 was for Chris Coghlan. The former Ole Miss standout, who won a World Series ring with the Chicago Cubs, has signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia, which went 71-91 in 2016 and doesn’t figure to be any better this year. Coghlan, 31, who hit .252 for the Cubs (after a .146 start to the season in Oakland), reportedly has a chance to make the Phillies’ roster this spring as a utility player. A left-handed hitter, he started at five different positions last year, though he is primarily an outfielder. … The crowd of Mississippians in the Cincinnati fold got a little bigger with the addition of Desmond Jennings, the Itawamba Community College product. The 30-year-old outfielder, released last summer by Tampa Bay, has signed a minor league contract with a spring invite. He joins Zack Cozart, Billy Hamilton, Cody Reed, Stuart Turner and Louis Coleman on the Reds’ spring roster. Jennings, a .245 hitter in a career spent entirely with the Rays, has battled injuries the last couple of seasons and might have a hard time earning a spot in Cincy’s outfield.
Control issues that plagued Chris Ellis this past season at Triple-A Gwinnett cropped up in the Ole Miss product’s Arizona Fall League outing on Wednesday. Ellis, pitching for Salt River, allowed four walks, four hits and seven runs in 3 1/3 innings and watched his ERA soar to 8.25. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is a top 20 prospect in Atlanta’s system and was outstanding (8-2, 2.75) for the Double-A Mississippi Braves to begin 2016. Promoted to Gwinnett, he scuffled, going 4-7 with a 6.52. He walked almost as many batters (52) as he struck out (65). He did rebound with 13 scoreless innings in two starts in the International League playoffs but hasn’t carried that success over to the AFL. He has yielded 15 hits and 11 walks in 12 innings. Ellis figures to be among the gaggle of young pitchers vying for jobs in Atlanta in 2017, but he’ll have some things to prove in the spring. P.S. The day after becoming a World Series champion, Chris Coghlan became a free agent. The ex-Ole Miss standout is on the long list of players declaring their freedom. Coghlan, 31, went 0-for-7 in the postseason for the Chicago Cubs, making one start in the Series. He batted .188 with six homers between Oakland and the Cubs this season. … Also on the new MLB free agent list: Jeff Francoeur, Blaine Boyer, Gregor Blanco, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Charlie Morton, all former M-Braves stars.
Somewhere, Guy Bush – the Mississippi Mudcat who died in 1985 – and Claude Passeau, who passed in 2003, are smiling. The two Mississippi natives pitched in World Series games for the Chicago Cubs but never won a ring. Now that the Cubs have ended that 108-year championship drought – in one of the most unforgettable Game 7’s ever played – a legion of former Cubs are celebrating on some astral plane or another. Passeau pitched in the Cubs’ previous World Series appearance – in 1945. Former Ole Miss star Chris Coghlan played in Wednesday’s 8-7, 10-inning win against Cleveland – and may still be celebrating at this moment. In the 71 years between those Fall Classic visits, the Cubs’ roster has included Mississippi-connected players Donnie Kessinger, Billy Cowan, Cleo James, Steve Dillard, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Fassero, Roosevelt Brown, Paul Maholm and quite a few more. Surely, they all took some vicarious thrill in the events of Wednesday night. Also feeling that thrill, we assume, are Justin Steele, Wyatt Short and Delvin Zinn, Mississippians who are currently members of the Cubs’ farm system, the depth of which may signal sustained success for the once-cursed franchise. Yes, it’s a great day to be a Cub.