Grapefruit and Cactus League games start Friday, and Mississippians Corey Dickerson, Lance Lynn, Seth Smith and Tyler Moore, among others, don’t yet have a team to play for. Zack Cozart, Jarrod Dyson, Alex Presley and T.J. House are suiting up for new teams. Hunter Renfroe may soon be doing that, too. Brian Dozier is finally in camp after a detour to have a kidney stone removed. Austin Riley, Cody Carroll and Dakota Hudson are in big league camp as non-roster invitees for the first time. Mickey Callaway is now a manager, and Ron Gardenhire, the old Jackson Met and ex-Minnesota skipper, is back in the saddle. So, yeah, there’s a lot of interesting stuff to keep tabs on. Start with Renfroe, the former Mississippi State standout who hit 26 homers as a rookie for San Diego last year but may now be squeezed out of a roster spot. The Padres’ signing of Eric Hosmer and shifting of Wil Myers to right field has fueled rumors that Renfroe will be traded. “We’re all chess pieces in a huge game here – that’s the way you look at it,” Renfroe told mlb.com. … Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star, signed a two-year, $7.5M deal with Arizona earlier this week. A good defensive outfielder, Dyson, 33, had a strong offensive season with Seattle in 2017, batting. 251 with 56 runs and 28 steals in 111 games. He has 204 career steals over eight seasons. … Ole Miss product Presley signed a minor league deal with Baltimore, which had been seeking a lefty-hitting outfielder. Presley, 32, hit .314 in 71 games last year with Detroit, the fifth different MLB club he has played for over eight seasons. … Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout, reportedly won’t play in Minnesota’s games on Friday and Saturday as he eases into the spring routine. A pending free agent after this season, he batted .271 with 34 homers last year and says he wants to remain a Twin. Stay tuned. … UM alum Bobby Wahl is in Oakland’s camp as a non-roster pitcher this year, trying to bounce back from a shoulder injury that required surgery and cost him his spot on the A’s 40-man roster. Wahl, who pitched just 7 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2017, used to throw 100 mph. Can he get there again? “The way the ball’s coming out, it feels easy,” he said last week in an mlb.com article. “So far, this is the best I’ve felt throwing a baseball in a long time.” … Tim Anderson, the former East Central CC star who had a tough year with the Chicago White Sox in 2017, said he feels refreshed this spring. “Getting away from it definitely helped me and kind of gave me some breathing room,” he told mlb.com. “I’m hungry and excited about this season coming up.” Anderson lost a close friend to a shooting and scuffled at times on the field, batting .257 with 28 errors at shortstop. … This should be a fun spring for Marcus Thames, another former East Central CC standout. Thames, recently named hitting coach of the New York Yankees, gets to work with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, et al., an array of sluggers that some expect to threaten the MLB home run record. Once the games begin to count, there might be a little pressure there for Thames.
Congratulations to Marcus Thames, the former East Central Community College star from Louisville who was named hitting coach of the New York Yankees on Monday. Thames, 40, was the club’s assistant hitting coach the past two seasons. A 30th-round draft pick out of Texas State in 1996, Thames played 10 seasons in the big leagues and homered 115 times in 640 games with a batting average of .246. One of his career highlights came on the first AB of his career. On June 10, 2002, playing for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, he homered on the first pitch he saw from the great Randy Johnson, then with Arizona.
The sight of Tim Anderson coming to the plate likely doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of many major league pitchers. But Detroit’s Matt Boyd, one out away from a no-hitter, might rather have faced someone other than the former East Central Community College star. Anderson, a .262 hitter on the season, entered today’s game batting .429 in September and coming off his first career four-hit game for Chicago. What’s more, the right-handed hitting Anderson was 8-for-23 (.348) against left-hander Boyd over the last two seasons. He’s now 9-for-27. In the ninth, Boyd fell behind in the count 2-0, then threw a changeup, which Anderson was looking for. He sliced it into right-center field for a double, spoiling the no-no in what was otherwise an awful day for the White Sox, who lost 12-0 at Comerica Park.
It’s becoming clear what kind of hitter Tim Anderson is. In a word: streaky. The East Central Community College product, now the Chicago White Sox’s shortstop, went 2-for-4 on Tuesday to boost his September average to .405. Anderson batted .204 in April but rebounded to hit .319 in May. He hit a summer swoon in June and July, batting .206. He started hot in August, hitting safely in 14 of his first 16 games that month before cooling off. But he has cranked it back up in September. He has three three-hit games this month and is up to .252 for the year with 16 homers, 60 RBIs and nine steals. He hit .283 as a rookie. White Sox fans best get used to this streakiness: Anderson, drafted 17th overall out of ECCC in 2013, is signed for five more years. P.S. Some magic numbers from Tuesday: Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier hit his 30th homer, marking the second time he has reached that figure. He was a double shy of a cycle in Minnesota’s 16-0 drubbing of San Diego. … Ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart reached the 20-homer plateau for the first time, taking former Rebels teammate Lance Lynn deep. But Lynn, now 11-7, won the day as St. Louis whipped Cincinnati 13-4. … Former Mississippi Braves standout Ozzie Albies stretched his hitting streak to 10 games as Atlanta zapped Washington 8-0. Albies, the rookie second baseman, went 3-for-5 with his third homer and is hitting .293 with 18 RBIs in 39 games.
His team has the worst record in the American League, and he’s not having such a good year, either. So that first career walk-off hit on Wednesday night and the subsequent Gatorade shower had to feel pretty good to Tim Anderson. “I’m going to enjoy it and wear it until tomorrow,” the ex-East Central Community College star told csnchicago.com. Anderson’s ninth-inning single scored Avisail Garcia and the Chicago White Sox beat playoff-contender Minnesota 4-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Though his bat has perked up a bit this month, Anderson was in a 1-for-20 slump when he stepped to the plate in the ninth on Wednesday. He is hitting .239 on the year after batting .283 as a rookie in 2016. He has produced 14 homers, 42 RBIs and 49 runs but hasn’t been the base-stealing threat (six bags) he was projected to be as a first-round pick in 2013. At shortstop, Anderson has 25 errors and a .944 fielding percentage, well below league average. But for one night, at least, he soaked in some glory – and some Gatorade. P.S. Cincinnati’s Mississippi-flavored lineup did not produce an appetizing result on Wednesday. The Reds started Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton in center field, Ole Miss product Zack Cozart at short and UM alum Stuart Turner at catcher. Alas, they went 2-for-10 in a 9-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
In Baseball America’s recent rankings of the Best Tools in the major leagues, Aaron Hicks, Kevin Kiermaier and Alex Gordon were 1-2-3 in the American League’s Best Outfield Arm category. In the NL, it was Yoenis Cespedes, Mississippi’s own Hunter Renfroe and Yasiel Puig. The MLB leader in outfield assists is … none of the above. Jarrod Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star from McComb, tops that list with 11. The Seattle center fielder got one on Tuesday night, cutting down Baltimore’s Manny Machado at the plate in the Mariners’ 3-1 victory in a meeting of AL playoff contenders. Dyson has 47 assists in his eight-year career, and he hasn’t played regularly for much of that time. Dyson did show up in three of the Baseball America Best Tools rankings, which are based on a poll of managers, coaches and scouts. He was the AL’s Best Bunter – he put down a nice sacrifice on Tuesday – and ranked second in Best Baserunner and Fastest Baserunner. … It’s impressive that the names of four Mississippi natives show up in the rankings. In addition to Dyson and Crystal Springs’ Renfroe, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton was No. 1 in the NL’s Fastest Baserunner – duh – and Best Baserunner categories and No. 3 in Best Defensive Outfielder, and Amory’s Mitch Moreland was second in the AL’s Best Defensive First Baseman chart. P.S. East Central CC product Tim Anderson led off with a first-pitch home run against Alex Wood in Tuesday night’s Chicago White Sox-Los Angeles Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium. It was Anderson’s 14th homer and fifth in nine games. It was the only run former Mississippi Braves ace Wood would allow in seven innings, but he took a no-decision in the Dodgers’ 6-1 win. He is 14-1 for a team that is now a jaw-dropping 84-34. … Ole Miss alum Colby Bortles homered in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game in York, N.Y. Bortles has only one homer in 35 regular season games for Connecticut in the Detroit system. A 2017 draftee, he is batting .273 with 15 RBIs.
Rookie Stuart Turner took center stage Wednesday among Mississippians in the majors. Turner, the ex-Ole Miss star, struck his first big league home run, an upper deck shot in the Reds’ 8-3 win vs. San Diego. “It could’ve been a wall-scraper and I would’ve taken it,” Turner told The Associated Press. Turner, a catcher and a Rule 5 draftee from Minnesota, has played sparingly, with only 46 at-bats all season. He is hitting .174. Footnote: Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton got his 45th stolen base for the Reds. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier went 3-for-4 with his 22nd homer – and fifth in his last seven games – to spark Minnesota’s 4-0 win at Milwaukee. Dozier’s bomb came off ex-Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff, who took the loss in his second big league start. He went 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson homered – his 11th – doubled and drove in three runs to help the Chicago White Sox knock off Houston 7-1. It’s been a tough sophomore season for Anderson, who is batting .242, but he has warmed up lately (.346, two homers over his last seven games). … Ex-State star Tyler Moore also has been scuffling in limited playing time for Miami. He got a start at first base on Wednesday vs. Washington and went 2-for-3, but he is just 3-for-16 in August. He is batting .233 with six homers, the last of those on June 17. … Boston beat Tampa Bay 8-2 for its eighth straight win, but former MSU star Mitch Moreland of the Red Sox and Meridian CC alum Corey Dickerson of the Rays had a quiet night. They were a combined 0-for-8. All-Star Dickerson’s average has slipped to .293. … Ex-Mississippi Braves star Dansby Swanson went 0-for-4 in his return to Atlanta. Fellow M-Braves alum Sean Newcomb (1-7) took the loss against Philadelphia, which won 3-2 and improved to 11-2 against the Braves. The Phillies are 42-69 overall. … Former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn, 4-0 in his last six starts, goes to the bump for St. Louis tonight against Kansas City on MLB Network. Lynn is 10-6, 3.12 ERA for the Cardinals, who have won five straight. … UM product Chris Coghlan is 4-for-8 with two doubles in his rehab assignment at Class A Dunedin in Toronto’s system. He has been on the disabled list since June 16. … Former Rebel Bobby Wahl, on the DL with Oakland, reportedly will see a shoulder specialist in Dallas on Friday. Wahl has been out since May 24 and was shut down from a recent rehab assignment.