The Los Angeles Angels left the Winter Meetings having added an impact hitter, Anthony Rendon, but failing to address what most pundits say is a bigger need: pitchers. But don’t forget what the Angels did earlier this off-season to impact their pitching: They hired Mickey Callaway as pitching coach on new manager Joe Maddon’s staff. Former Ole Miss star Callaway’s two-year stint as manager of the New York Mets was a little rocky, but he did some outstanding work as the pitching coach in Cleveland from 2013-17. The Indians ranked among the American League leaders in ERA and strikeouts while Callaway was there and made it to the World Series in 2016. He can be a difference-maker for an Angels staff that ranked 12th in AL ERA in 2019. The Angels, linked to several free agent pitchers, also may be seeking some new arms via trade and reportedly have checked on the availability of Indians Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, both of whom Callaway worked with in Cleveland. P.S. Congratulations to Jackson native Stan Cliburn, who was rehired as manager of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the independent Atlantic League. It’ll be the 29th season as a pro manager for the one-time big league catcher, who has more than 2,000 wins.
Kirk McCarty’s work is complete in the Arizona Fall League, and it was a job well done. The ex-Southern Miss standout, in his third year in Cleveland’s system, finished 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA over 24 innings for Mesa in the prospect-filled AFL. The little left-hander struck out 19 and walked just six. In his final start on Monday, McCarty threw five shutout innings, reportedly displaying command of four pitches. “It’s good to build a lot of confidence back up going into the off-season,” he told mlb.com. “It’s absolutely vital to end on a good note.” McCarty got a late start on his 2019 season because of a minor injury and wound up 3-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 13 starts for high Class A Lynchburg. A seventh-round pick in 2017, the Oak Grove High product – a state champion as a senior in baseball and football (as a quarterback) – is 10-20 with a 4.12 ERA in his pro career. There are 12 pitchers – including USM product Nick Sandlin – currently listed among the Indians’ Top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline and McCarty is not among them. At age 24, he needs to build on his AFL success with a strong 2020 season to stay on Cleveland’s radar.
Spencer Turnbull did not get the gift of a win for his 27th birthday on Wednesday — but he didn’t get a loss, either. And that was significant. The Madison Central High product pitched five strong innings for Detroit against Cleveland, a playoff-contending team that had beaten Turnbull five times this season. Turnbull allowed just one run on six hits and struck out eight. It was a 1-1 game when he departed. The Tigers – the worst team in baseball – ultimately lost 2-1 in extra innings, their 17th loss to the Indians in 2019. For Turnbull, who has had a rough time of late (8.28 ERA over his last seven games), it was an encouraging effort. “He was a lot more confident on the mound tonight,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire told mlb.com. A win on his birthday would’ve been a nice reward. His last one came on May 31. He is 3-15 with a 4.66 ERA for a team that is 45-106 with a collective 5.23.
Coming through with big hits in the postseason is a good way to impress the brass in the minor leagues. Tyreque Reed came through on Thursday night. The ex-Itawamba Community College star from Houlka went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs to help Hickory stave off elimination in the South Atlantic League Championship Series. “What I was thinking and doing tonight, it worked,” Reed said in an milb.com story. The Crawdads’ cleanup batter was 1-for-7 in the first two games as Lexington took both. Reed, drafted in 2017 by Texas, hit .282 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs for the Crawdads in his second stint with the low Class A club after scuffling at the high-A level to start 2019. … Bobby Bradley, the Harrison Central High product, celebrated an International League pennant on Thursday night when Columbus finished off a sweep of Durham for the Governors’ Cup. He went 0-for-3 with a walk in Game 3 but was 6-for-20 with two homers and eight RBIs during the Clippers’ postseason run. Columbus will play the Pacific Coast League champ in the Triple-A title game on Sept. 17 at Memphis. Bradley is surely anticipating a recall to Cleveland. P.S. Mississippi State alum Hunter Renfroe and East Central CC’s Tim Anderson are among the 30 nominees, one per MLB team, for the Roberto Clemente Award. The award is “the annual recognition of a major league player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” As part of the selection process, fans can vote through Sept. 29 for the overall winner via this link: mlb.com/clemente21.
Former Mississippi high school stars Bobby Bradley (Harrison Central) and Austin Riley (DeSoto Central) faced off, sorta, in the International League playoffs on Wednesday when Columbus and Gwinnett tangled in the semifinals. Riley homered for the Gwinnett Stripers (Atlanta’s Triple-A club), but Columbus (Cleveland) won Game 1 5-4 as Bradley went 2-for-5 with two RBIs, a run and a stolen base. Riley, currently on a big league rehab assignment, hit 15 homers for the Stripers this season before moving up to the majors, where he hit 17 more for the Braves. Bradley, who also got a look in MLB this summer, led the IL with 33 homers. … Biloxi won its Southern League South playoff opener 11-10 on a Dillon Thomas walk-off homer in the 10th inning at MGM Park. In the North opener, Delta State product Dalton Moats threw a scoreless inning in Montgomery’s 4-0 win against Jackson. … Ex-DSU star Zack Shannon hit a home run for Kane County in a loss to Clinton in the Class A Midwest League playoffs. Shannon hit 12 homers during the season. Also in the MWL, Ole Miss product Grae Kessinger and former Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner, both 2019 draftees, are on opposing sides in the Quad Cities-Cedar Rapids series. Kessinger had a hit and a run QC’s Game 1 win, while Wallner went 0-for-4. … Former Itawamba Community College star Tyreque Reed belted a homer for Hickory as the Crawdads beat Delmarva in the Class A South Atlantic League playoffs. Reed hit .282 with 13 homers for Hickory this season. … Walker Robbins, the George County High alum, notched a hold for Johnson City as the Cardinals beat Burlington to claim the rookie Appalachian League championship. Robbins, in his fourth pro season but first as a fulltime pitcher, posted a 2.52 ERA in 17 games for Johnson City.
Act II of his big league career should be starting soon for Bobby Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star who made his MLB debut with Cleveland back in June. With rosters expanding on Sunday, the Indians’ No. 7 prospect likely will be recalled then or shortly thereafter. The lefty-hitting first baseman, who has been scuffling of late at Triple-A Columbus, made some noise on Thursday when he went 4-for-5 with two home runs, bringing his season total to 33, 34 if you count the one he hit for the Indians during his 15-game call-up. Recently named an International League All-Star, Bradley is batting .263 with 72 RBIs, 62 runs, 44 walks and 151 strikeouts in 103 games. With 148 homers in six pro seasons, he could help supply some power for the Indians, who are chasing a playoff berth and recently lost Jose Ramirez for several weeks due to injury.
A pair of former Southern Miss pitchers will get some bonus work in the Arizona Fall League, the select circuit that begins its season on Sept. 18. Bradley Roney, currently with the Mississippi Braves in Atlanta’s system, and Kirk McCarty, pitching for Lynchburg in the Cleveland organization, are on the AFL’s initial rosters announced Wednesday. More names will be added soon. Roney is one of four current M-Braves on the Scottsdale roster, joined by outfielder Greyson Jenista, outfielder Trey Harris and pitcher Connor Johnstone. Roney returned in May from roughly two years on the injured list. The 26-year-old right-handed reliever has a 2.70 ERA, two saves and 34 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings for Double-A Mississippi. Drafted in 2014, he reached Triple-A in 2016 before stalling out with arm injuries. McCarty, a left-handed starter, was a seventh-round pick in 2017. He has spent two stints on the IL this season at high Class A Lynchburg, where he has posted a 3-6 record with a 5.37 ERA in 12 games. He has a 4.03 career ERA. He’ll pitch for Mesa. Lefty Clayton Andrews, a Milwaukee prospect currently on Biloxi’s roster, is slated to pitch for Glendale.
The drought continued for Spencer Turnbull on Tuesday night. The Madison Central High alum, a rookie right-hander for Detroit, took another loss as his Tigers fell to visiting Cleveland 10-1. Turnbull has gone 12 straight starts without a win, his last coming three months ago on May 31. His record at that time was 3-4, with a 2.84 ERA. His record now is 3-13, which, when you consider that his ERA is still a respectable 4.18, says a lot about how bad the Tigers are this year. In short: Really bad. Tuesday’s loss dropped Ron Gardenhire’s club to 39-90 overall and 17-44 at home, both worst in MLB. They’re 40 games behind first-place Minnesota in the American League Central. The second-place Indians beat the Tigers for the 13th time in 14 games this season. Turnbull did not pitch well: four runs, including a two-run first-inning homer by Jason Kipnis, in five innings. “I don’t feel like I missed by much, but they did real damage on a couple swings,” Turnbull said in an Associated Press story. His teammates barely put up a fight, mustering three hits. All Turnbull can do is turn the page and look forward to his next scheduled start on Sunday. Who does he get? The Twins.
Getting to the big leagues is hard. Staying in the big leagues might be even harder. Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central High standout, was sent back to Triple-A by Cleveland on Tuesday. The Indians needed to call up a starting pitcher, so Bradley, just 8-for-45 with one homer since making The Show, was bumped from the 25-man roster. “It’s not going to hurt him to get at-bats at Triple-A,” Indians manager Terry Francona told cleveland.com. Of the five Mississippians to debut in the majors this year, only ex-DeSoto Central star Austin Riley hasn’t gone back down. Mississippi State product Nate Lowe has been sent down twice by Tampa Bay; he is currently with the big league club again (and hitting a ton). Ole Miss alum Jacob Waguespack also has been yo-yo’ed by Toronto; he was recalled Tuesday to make a spot start. Then there’s Chris Ellis. Ellis, a former UM and Mississippi Braves ace, made Kansas City’s opening day roster as a Rule 5 draftee out of St. Louis’ system. He pitched a scoreless inning in his debut on March 31. He was dropped from the active roster a couple days later and, per Rule 5 rules, was returned to the Cardinals. The 26-year-old right-hander has struggled mightily at Triple-A Memphis, with a 7.74 ERA and four blown saves in five chances over 30 appearances. One has to wonder if he’ll ever get another big league look. Bradley, only 23, surely will, though it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the demotion. He was killing it at Columbus (.292, 24 homers) before his call-up.
Having made two trips to the big leagues this season, Nate Lowe looks like he’s ready for a third. The Mississippi State alum smacked three home runs for Triple-A Durham on Tuesday and is batting .350 over his last 10 games. Lowe went 10-for-38 in two short stints with Tampa Bay but was squeezed out of a roster spot. He slumped for a while after returning to Durham but has picked it up of late. He is batting .290 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs for the season with the Bulls and now has 50 career minor league bombs over four years. The left-handed hitting first baseman, 23, rocketed through three levels of the minors in 2018 and made his big league debut on April 29 of this season. He’s due another look from a playoff-contending Rays club. P.S. After getting five hits on Monday, ex-State star Adam Frazier banged out four more on Tuesday for Pittsburgh and will take a streak of seven straight hits into today’s game. Frazier, back in the leadoff spot where he began the season, hit his fourth homer of the year in the 5-1 win over the Chicago Cubs and boosted his average to .276. “I feel like I’m onto something,” he told mlb.com. … Former Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley, who doubled in his first big league at-bat for Cleveland last week (see previous post), is just 3-for-27 (.111) in eight games. He has struck out 12 times.