T.J. House, the former Picayune High star and MLB veteran, is pitching for the Eastern Reyes del Tigre, one of the four clubs in the newly formed Constellation Energy League in Texas. The league was created by the Sugar Land Skeeters, a member of the independent Atlantic League, which is shut down for 2020. House, 30, pitched in 29 big league games from 2014-17. The left-hander held a spot in Cleveland’s rotation for part of 2014, going 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA. He spent last season in the independent American Association. The Constellation Energy League will be based at Sugar Land’s Constellation Energy Field and starts its 28-game season on Friday. … There are several former big leaguers on the CEL rosters, including Cameron Rupp, David Huff, Tommy Joseph and former Mississippi Braves star Dustin Peterson. P.S. With Baltimore having agreed to a $950,000 signing bonus for third-round draft selection Anthony Servideo of Ole Miss, all seven players picked from in-state schools in last month’s draft have now signed or agreed to terms. (Former DeSoto Central star Blaze Jordan’s reported deal with Boston has not yet been made official.) … Henri Lartigue, an Ole Miss product from Southaven, was added to Philadelphia’s 60-man roster at catcher over the July 4 weekend. That makes seven non 40-man roster members with Mississippi ties in MLB summer camps, the others being Billy Hamilton, Tyler Keenan, Jack Kruger, Brent Rooker, Nick Sandlin and Ryan Rolison. Hamilton, the only one of this group with big league time, is expected to be added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster before the season begins. … Tanner Propst, an MRA alum who pitched at Delta State in 2020, signed as a non-drafted free agent with Colorado.
Benn Karr, a Mount Pleasant native, made 177 pitching appearances in his big league career. But his first appearance came as a pinch hitter. He struck out. One hundred years ago today, Karr debuted for the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. A left-handed batter, he hit for Herb Pennock and fanned in the middle of a two-run rally in the ninth inning that gave Boston a 3-2 win on April 20, 1920. Two days later, Karr, a right-handed thrower, made his mound debut at Griffith Stadium against the Washington Senators. It didn’t go so well, either. Coming on in relief, he retired just one batter, yielded two hits, two walks and two earned runs as the Red Sox blew a lead. He took the loss. Undaunted, Karr, who picked up the nickname “Baldy,” went on to win 35 games over six seasons with Boston and Cleveland, including an 11-win campaign with the 1925 Indians. He even hit .245 for his career. After attending Union University in Tennessee, he first entered pro ball in 1914 at age 21. “I took a pro contract because it gave me, a farm boy, a chance to see the country,” he told The Sporting News in an interview many years ago. Karr bounced around the minors for several years and served in the military for two before Boston signed him in 1919. He died in 1968. … Other anniversaries to be celebrated this season: Eighty years ago, Pascagoula native Harry Walker, who won a batting title in 1947, debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals. Sixty years ago, Hickory’s Joe Gibbon, the former two-sport star from Ole Miss, broke in with Pittsburgh. Forty years ago, Jackson’s Stan Cliburn would make his debut with the California Angels. Twenty years ago, ex-Petal High star Nate Rolison had his one brief fling in the majors with Florida. And 10 years ago, four Mississippi natives broke in: Rhyne Hughes with Baltimore, Mitch Moreland with Texas, Jarrod Dyson with Kansas City and John Lindsey with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
On this date in 1952, Greenwood native Dave Hoskins became the first black player to appear in a Texas League game. His story is chronicled in an milb.com piece published today. Hoskins, a Negro Leagues alumnus, debuted for the Double-A level Dallas Stars on April 13 and beat San Antonio. The right-hander yielded just two runs while working around eight hits and seven walks. Hoskins went 22-10 with a 2.12 ERA for Dallas that season – he also batted .328 – and made the majors in 1953 with Cleveland, posting a 9-3 mark with a 3.99 ERA. (He claimed to be 27 at the time, but it was later revealed that he was 36.) Hoskins pitched briefly for the Indians in 1954 but was not on their World Series roster that fall.
Demarcus Evans might not rank among the Texas Rangers’ top 30 prospects, but no prospect in the Rangers’ system has a better fastball than the former Petal High star, according to MLB Pipeline. Evans, 23, now on the 40-man roster and in big league camp, throws serious gas: In his five pro seasons, he has 369 strikeouts in 242 1/3 innings. If he improves his command, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound right-hander can be an impact arm out of the Texas bullpen. … Power is Bobby Bradley’s thing; the former Harrison Central High standout has said that he takes an assassin’s mentality to the plate: “I’m about to hit this ball as hard as possible. If you don’t have that certain kind of mentality, you’re already beat.” Rated by MLB Pipeline as the top power-hitting prospect in Cleveland’s system, Bradley, 23, has 147 homers over six minor league seasons and belted one during his 15-game MLB stint in 2019. … Mississippi State product Brent Rooker was given the nod as the top power prospect in Minnesota’s system. Rooker, who hit 36 homers in his three years in Starkville, has 54 in his three minor league campaigns, including 14 in Triple-A last year despite missing about half the season with injury. He smacked a monstrous homer for Team USA in Tokyo last fall that fans there may still be buzzing about. … As for the fastest running prospect in each organization, it came as no real surprise that James Beard topped the MLB Pipeline list for the Chicago White Sox. A fourth-round pick out of Loyd Star High last summer, Beard was considered the swiftest player available in the draft, drawing comparisons to Billy Hamilton. Beard, bigger than Hamilton at 5-10, 170, stole nine bases in 31 games at the rookie level in 2019.
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.