Cleveland’s trade for New York Yankees relief ace Andrew Miller had a trickle-down effect in the Indians’ organization. Joey Butler, the former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star from Pascagoula, was removed from the 40-man roster to clear a spot for Miller and designated for assignment on Sunday. Butler, 30, an outfielder, has been playing at Triple-A Columbus all season, hitting .238 with eight homers and 40 RBIs. The Indians claimed Butler on waivers in the off-season from Tampa Bay, where he played well in 2015 (.276, eight bombs in 88 games) in his first real opportunity in the big leagues. The Indians reportedly liked what they saw from Butler in spring training, so he might stay in the organization. He is a .288 hitter with 90 homers over his minor league career, which dates to 2008, when he was drafted by Texas out of UNO. P.S. The all-Mississippi home run race heated up on Sunday. Surging Mitch Moreland, the former Mississippi State standout, clubbed his 18th for Texas, but Southern Miss product Brian Dozier belted a pair for Minnesota to end the day with 19. (Dozier, not a noted slugger at USM, has 94 homers in four-plus MLB seasons.) Ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart (Cincinnati) has 15 homers this year, as does Meridian CC alum Corey Dickerson (Tampa Bay). … Continuing on a home run theme, former Mississippi Braves star Jose Peraza hit his first big league homer for the Reds and Jeff Francoeur crushed his 160th for Atlanta. It was Francoeur’s first homer at Turner Field as a Brave since 2009.
Joey Butler was hitting .347 on June 13. A few days later, the Pascagoula native hit his sixth home run in just his 40th game of the season with Tampa Bay. On July 1, he broke up a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning. And, well, there are few highlights since. Butler, a 29-year-old rookie who had cups of coffee with Texas and St. Louis before this season, is still on the Rays’ roster. But his productivity and playing time have been in a slow fade. He got just eight hits in July, five in August and is 1-for-9 in September. He was even sent back to Triple-A for a time. All in all, Butler has had a good year, batting .269 with six homers, 24 RBIs and five steals in 86 games. He is said to be a great guy in the clubhouse. And the team (76-81) was 31-28 in his starts, which is something the Rays might want to remember as they plan for 2016. P.S. Former Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton had shoulder surgery on Tuesday and now faces 4-6 weeks of rehab. Reports say he will work on “hitting and bunting” this off-season in California. In his second full season with Cincinnati, Hamilton hit .226 (.274 on-base percentage) with an MLB-best 57 stolen bases.
Joey Butler, the 29-year-old rookie from Pascagoula, has had an eventful first season with Tampa Bay. First career homer. First career stolen base. A three-hit game. A four-hit game. But what Butler did on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field grabbed more headlines than all of those neat feats. He broke up Cleveland pitcher Carlos Carrasco’s no-hit bid with two outs in the ninth inning. Yes, Butler did it. With runners at the corners in an 8-0 game, Butler fell behind 0-2 and then lined a hanging slider just over the glove of leaping second baseman Jason Kipnis for a clean single. “He left me a pitch to hit, and I did what I could with it,” Butler told ESPN.com. In the seventh inning, Butler had drawn a walk that ended Carrasco’s perfect game. Butler is batting .316 with six homers, one of which came off Carrasco just last month. … Cleveland pitchers Cody Anderson and Danny Salazar took perfect games into the sixth inning against the Rays on Monday and Tuesday. This amazing display by the three Indians starters must have pitching coach Mickey Callaway, the ex-Ole Miss standout, feeling some satisfaction in the midst of the Tribe’s tough season. P.S. On this date in 2002, a one-day record of 62 homers were struck across the major leagues. Vicksburg’s Dmitri Young hit two of them, Gulfport’s Matt Lawton and Hattiesburg’s Wendell Magee one each. Also going yard that day were ex-Jackson Generals star Lance Berkman (twice), Mississippi State alum Rafael Palmeiro and Southern Miss product Kevin Young.
A Jackson Generals player from years ago made the comment when asked what it took for him to get to the big leagues: “I just kept showing up.” Joey Butler, now starring for the Tampa Bay Rays as a 29-year-old rookie, apparently has that kind of resolve. Butler played at ’Goula, Perk and UNO. He’s been through Spokane, Bakersfield, Frisco, Surprise, Round Rock, Magallanes, Mazatlan, Memphis, Orix and Durham. He got his first taste of the big leagues in 2013 with Texas, his original organization (15th round, 2008). He got 12 at-bats. St. Louis, which had taken Butler on a waiver claim, called him up last year for five at-bats. Then he went to Japan. He came back to the States this spring but didn’t make the Rays’ roster out of camp. He went to Triple-A Durham. The Rays called on May 3 when Itawamba Community College alum Desmond Jennings went on the disabled list. Finally given an opportunity to play regularly in the majors, Butler has gone off: .344, four homers, 16 RBIs, 15 runs in 37 games. The Pascagoula native and ex-Mississippi Gulf Coast CC star is also said to be a great guy in the clubhouse. “I think the entire dugout gets excited when he comes to the plate …,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told saintpetersblog.com. There is something to be said for just showing up. P.S. On this date in 1945, Boo Ferriss lost a game for the first time in his big league career. The Shaw native and former Delta State coach had begun his rookie season with eight straight victories for the Boston Red Sox before losing a 3-2 decision to the New York Yankees. Ferriss would go 21-10 that year and 25-6 in ’46 before injuries curtailed his career.
After finishing last season in Japan, Joey Butler will get another shot at sticking with an MLB club this spring. The former Pascagoula High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout recently signed a minor league contract with Tampa Bay. A right-handed hitting corner outfielder, Butler, 28, has a chance to crack the Rays’ 25-man roster in the spring, some reports say. The Rays’ current projected outfield starters are former Itawamba CC star Desmond Jennings in center, veteran David DeJesus in left and newly acquired rookie Steven Souza in right. Butler, who has played just 14 MLB games (with Texas and St. Louis), is a career .293 hitter in the minors. He goes 6 feet 2, 220 pounds and has averaged almost 11 homers a year in seven minor league seasons. P.S. Props to Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn on signing a 3-year, $22 million deal with the Cardinals.
Former major leaguers Bill Hall and Fred Lewis are plugging away in the independent Atlantic League, though neither is on a team enjoying much success. Nettleton’s Hall, 34, who played 11 years in the big leagues, is batting .258 with three home runs and 18 RBIs for Long Island, the defending league champ but a sub-.500 club in 2014. Lewis, 33, the ex-Stone County High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star, is hitting .259 with six homers, 39 RBIs and 12 stolen bases this year. The 7-year MLB veteran began the season with Lancaster but is now with Bridgeport, the league’s worst team. … In Japan, Pascagoula’s Joey Butler, another ex-Gulf Coast CC standout, is playing sparingly in his first season with Orix, which stands second in the Pacific League with just a handful of games remaining. Butler, 28, who has 17 MLB at-bats on his ledger, is hitting .231 with two homers and six RBIs in 21 games for the Buffaloes.
The Mississippi Braves, starting to make a move (perhaps) in the Southern League South, settle in tonight at Trustmark Park for a 10-game homestand. The M-Braves have won 10 of 14 to climb to 17-17. Prized prospect J.R. Graham (0-1, 2.42) goes to the mound against Montgomery. Pitching has carried the club. The M-Braves rank third in the SL in ERA and fourth in WHIP. Williams Perez, 22-year-old right-hander from Venezuela, has been a rotation revelation with a 1.50 ERA (but just a 2-3 record). Aaron Northcraft is 3-1, 2.82, David Bromberg 1-2, 2.01, Jason Hursh 2-2, 3.41. Closer Shae Simmons has eight saves and 1.13 with 21 strikeouts in 16 innings. Shortstop Elmer Reyes continues to rake at .347 with 16 RBIs, and M-Braves vet Mycal Jones has three homers in 13 games since rejoining the club. … Looking for some offense, St. Louis called up Pascagoula native Joey Butler, who was batting .360 with four home runs at Triple-A Memphis. The former ’Goula High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout, who debuted with Texas in 2013, didn’t play Friday. Maybe he should have: The Cardinals went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and lost to Pittsburgh 6-4. … Mississippi State product Paul Maholm fell to 1-3 in his six starts for Los Angeles as San Francisco beat the Dodgers 3-1. Maholm allowed three runs on three hits (one homer) and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. The left-hander’s ERA is now 4.71. He may not keep his spot in the rotation much longer. … Milwaukee recently re-signed Tim Dillard, the former Itawamba CC star from Saltillo. The 12-year pro, who has some big league time, is currently in Triple-A. … Good sign for Chris Coghlan? The Ole Miss alum got a ninth-inning hit off Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel on Friday and scored the game-tying run for Chicago. Alas, the hapless Cubs lost in the 10th (on yet another clutch hit by former M-Braves star Freddie Freeman). … Ex-UM standout Seth Smith was robbed of his third homer on Friday night in San Diego, but he did get three hits in the Padres’ 10-1 win over Miami and raised his average to .309. … Belhaven University is really good at home: an eye-popping 31-4 this season. But the Blazers, hosting the NAIA’s Jackson Bracket at Smith-Wills Stadium, aren’t the top seed in the regional. That would be Oklahoma Wesleyan, which brings a 52-6 record and a No. 3 national ranking to town. Belhaven (40-19) plays Oklahoma City in Monday’s second game, after Sterling and Houston-Victoria tangle in the opener. The winner of the latter gets Oklahoma Wesleyan in Monday’s late game.
Jeff Francoeur may be running low on chances in baseball, but he’ll get at least one more. Cleveland has signed the former Mississippi Braves star to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. The Indians’ outfield currently includes Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, David Murphy and Ryan Raburn, which might be a tough group to crack. The right-handed hitting Francoeur, whose star burned out quickly in Atlanta, has played for the New York Mets, Texas, Kansas City and San Francisco over the past five seasons. He batted .204 overall in 2013 and was released twice (by the Royals and Giants). Francoeur, who turns 30 on Wednesday, is still a good outfielder and is a career .263 hitter with 140 home runs. True, he may face long odds of making the cut with the Indians. But, like Starkville native Julio Borbon — an outfielder who’ll go to camp with Baltimore as a Rule 5 draftee — and Pascagoula’s Joey Butler — a waiver claim who’ll get a look from St. Louis as a spare outfielder — Francoeur has a chance to make a big league roster. Sometimes that’s all you can ask. Sometimes that’s all you need.