08 Jun

there and here

This weekend’s Subway Series is the first for Ole Miss product Mickey Callaway as New York Mets manager. The scuffling Mets, losers of six straight, host the rampaging Yankees – whose hitting coach is Louisville native Marcus Thames — for three games at CitiField, all coming to a TV network near you. Mississippi State product Jonathan Holder (2.75 ERA) has done good work out of the Yankees’ bullpen. … An injury to Andrelton Simmons has meant a return to shortstop for Zack Cozart. The Ole Miss alum, signed by the Los Angeles Angels in the off-season to man third base, actually has moved about quite a bit on the dirt for L.A. He has 32 starts at third, 15 at second and five at short, the position he played for seven seasons with Cincinnati. Simmons, who could be out 2-6 weeks with an ankle sprain, might be the best defensive shortstop in the game, but Cozart is no slouch. In fact, Angels manager Mike Scioscia called him an “incredible shortstop.” What the Angels would like to see is a little more offense from their $38 million free agent, who is batting .229 with five homers and 18 RBIs. … Tonight, Cozart and the Angels will face Minnesota’s Lance Lynn, another former Rebels star. Lynn, also an off-season free agent signee, is 4-4 with a 5.46 for the Twins and has won three starts in a row. Worth noting: Cozart is .128 career vs. Lynn. … Arizona’s acquisition of outfielder Jon Jay might cut into Jarrod Dyson’s playing time. McComb native Dyson is hitting just .206 (with 10 steals) overall but is at .318 in his last seven games. And his defense is top-drawer. … Tonight marks a homecoming of sorts for Daniel Sweet, the Flowood native and former Northwest Rankin High star who plays for Pensacola, which is in Pearl for a five-game Southern League series against the Mississippi Braves. Sweet, a switch-hitting outfielder, is in his third season in the Cincinnati organization after being drafted out of Dallas Baptist. He is hitting .148 in 25 games for the Blue Wahoos in his first taste of Double-A. He was batting .284 in A-ball when he was promoted. … Tyler Marlette has been on a tear for the M-Braves, batting .382 in his last 10 games and .296 with six homers for the year. First baseman Marlette, 25, named to the SL All-Star Game on Wednesday, signed with Atlanta in the off-season after seven years in the Seattle organization. He is a career .272 hitter with 68 homers.

30 May

show time, again

Former Southern Miss ace Scott Copeland reportedly has been called to the big leagues by the injury-ravaged New York Mets. Copeland, 30, last appeared in an MLB game in 2015 with Toronto. Signed to a minor league contract out of an independent league in mid-April, Copeland is 4-0 with a 3.81 ERA between Triple-A and Double-A in the Mets’ system. He was a 21st-round draft pick by Baltimore in 2010 after going 11-1 for a C-USA championship team as a senior in Hattiesburg. Copeland, who has 182 minor league appearances on his resume, pitched in five games for the Blue Jays in 2015, going 1-1, 6.46. When he appears in a game for the Mets, he’ll become the 23rd Mississippian (native or college alum) to play in the big leagues this season.

11 May

breaking out?

You still have to scroll down quite a ways to find Billy Hamilton’s name on the MLB batting average list. But a recent hot streak has carried the former Taylorsville High star above the proverbial Mendoza Line and could be a good sign for a Cincinnati club that needs some. Hamilton, batting .346 in May, went 2-for-4 for the Reds on Thursday with a triple and an RBI in a 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The switch-hitting center fielder is now at .212 for the year with a .314 on-base average. He has two homers, 11 RBIs and 21 runs hitting mostly at the bottom of the order. As recently as April 29, he was hitting .169. “It’s been a grind but I have more confidence than I’ve had all year,” he told mlb.com a few days ago. Jim Riggleman, who took over as Reds manager for the fired Bryan Price on April 19, has kept Hamilton in the lineup, citing the value of his defense. Oddly enough, Hamilton has only five stolen bases, the most recent on April 23. The Reds, even after a season-best three-game win streak, are 11-27, worst record in the National League. … Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss standout from Fulton, has not been hot of late but may have had a breakout Thursday, going 4-for-4 with a homer in Minnesota’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Dozier is batting just .190 over his last 15 games and is at .246 with six homers, 14 RBIs and 20 runs for the season. Production from Dozier, who typically hits first or second in the lineup, is essential for Minnesota (15-18) as it battles to stay in the American League Central race. P.S. Scott Copeland, the former Southern Miss ace, is off to Las Vegas; that is, he has been promoted to the Triple-A 51s by the New York Mets. Copeland was 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in two starts for Double-A Binghamton. Copeland, in his ninth year of pro ball, had signed with a team in the independent Atlantic League this spring but was purchased by the Mets a short time thereafter. He has five MLB appearances on his resume, all with Toronto in 2015. At age 30, Copeland was a bit old for Double-A, though one of his teammates was another 30-year-old name of Tim Tebow.

10 May

tale of one city

There were huge hits by Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge in the eighth inning and another dominant ninth by Aroldis Chapman, but don’t overlook what Jonathan Holder did for the New York Yankees in their 9-6 win over Boston on Wednesday night. Former Mississippi State standout Holder entered the game in the top of the eighth. Boston led 6-5 – thanks in part to State alum Mitch Moreland’s sixth homer — and had runners at second and third with one out. Holder struck out Christian Vazquez and, after intentionally walking Mookie Betts, got a ground out by Andrew Benintendi to end the inning. In the bottom half, as Yankee Stadium went nuts, Gardner’s two-run triple and Judge’s two-run homer off Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, the former Mississippi Braves star, put New York ahead. Chapman then notched his ninth save with a three-strikeout ninth. Holder, who doesn’t get a lot of work out of the Yanks’ stacked bullpen, got the win and is now 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA in nine games. He has delivered 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his last three outings. … While the Yankees have won 17 of 18 to move past the Red Sox into first place in the American League East, New York’s other team is in a nosedive. The Mets, under first-year manager Mickey Callaway, the ex-Ole Miss star, may have reached a nadir on Wednesday. They lost 2-1 at Cincinnati – the National League’s worst team – and suffered a batting-out-of-order gaffe in the first inning. Once 11-1, the Mets have lost eight of nine and fallen to third place in the NL East at 18-17. A headline in one New York paper called it a “laughable spiral.” The language will get worse if things don’t begin to turn around. “(W)e’re better than this, and we’re going to start figuring it out,” Callaway said in an mlb.com article.

03 May

three cheers

Walk-off bombs are exciting, yes, but a squeeze bunt for the win isn’t far behind on the thrill meter. Former Richton High star JaCoby Jones scored the clincher for Detroit on John Hicks’ perfect bunt as the Tigers took down Tampa Bay 3-2 Wednesday in the 12th inning. No one, including Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, was expecting Hicks to lay one down with no outs and Jones at third following a triple. “I wish I could’ve said I put a squeeze on,” Gardenhire, the onetime Jackson Mets shortstop, told mlb.com. Jones, a fast runner, scored easily as two Rays collided going for the ball on the right side of the infield. “When I saw the bunt down, it surprised the crap out of me,” Jones said. Jones, playing regularly and playing well for the Tigers, went 3-for-5 to boost his average to .280. … It was a good night, too, for Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout who notched his first win of 2018 as Boston, powered by Mookie Betts’ three homers, beat Kansas City 5-4. Pomeranz, making his third start after beginning the year on the disabled list, allowed eight hits, two walks and three runs in six innings. Reports said his velocity was much improved over his first two outings. … Pittsburgh took its lumps from Washington in a 9-3 loss, but Corey Dickerson, the Meridian Community College product, continued to shine for the Pirates. He was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and is at .318 with four homers and 20 RBIs for the year. He also stole his third base on Wednesday. P.S. Three former Mississippi Braves played key roles in Atlanta’s 7-0 win over the New York Mets, a victory that propelled the Braves (18-11) into first place in the National League East. Sean Newcomb (2-1) yielded just two hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts; Freddie Freeman ripped three hits to lift his average to .333 and drove in a run; and Johan Camargo, batting .316 in his limited chances, blasted a two-run homer, his fifth extra-base knock in 19 at-bats. Mickey Callaway, the former Ole Miss star now managing the Mets, saw his club, which started 11-1, drop to 17-11.

16 Apr

well-connected

Aside from nasty weather, what’s the biggest story in the big leagues to date? It’s a tough call. Shohei Ohtani and the surging Los Angeles Angels? The red-hot Boston Red Sox? The amazin’ New York Mets? A case could be made for any of the three first-place teams – and it’s interesting to note that there’s a Mississippi connection on each club. Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart has had an impact as a newcomer with the 13-3 Angels, batting .273 with two homers and seven RBIs. In Boston (13-2), which travels to Anaheim for a three-game set beginning Tuesday, former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland is batting .292 in his sporadic calls to duty. And ex-UM star Drew Pomeranz should be joining the Red Sox rotation soon. The Mets, managed by former Ole Miss pitcher Mickey Callaway, have the best ERA in the majors and the best record (12-2) in the National League. They host NL East rival Washington in a big series starting tonight. For the record, the other first-place teams also have Mississippi ties: Southern Miss product Brian Dozier (.289, four homers) and Ole Miss’ Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.00 ERA) with Minnesota; Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson (.358, 12 RBIs) and ex-State star Adam Frazier (.250) with Pittsburgh (where Clint Hurdle is the manager); and Southwest CC product Jarrod Dyson (.176) with Arizona.

06 Apr

make a toast

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Jackson Mets’ first playoff team. The ’78 JaxMets beat Arkansas in the Texas League East playoffs and then fell to El Paso in the title series. Mookie Wilson was the hub of the offense, batting .292 with seven homers, 15 triples and 72 RBIs. Kelvin Chapman, another future big leaguer, hit .266 and led the club with 84 runs. Juan Monasterio batted .289, and Bobby Bryant belted eight homers. Jeff Reardon was the ace, going 17-4 with a 2.54 ERA. Neil Allen led the league in ERA. Scott Holman won 11 games and Kim Seaman 10. The ’78 season was the fourth year the Mets’ Double-A club operated at Smith-Wills Stadium, an affiliation that lasted 16 years. The OJMs missed the playoffs in 1979 but then went on a rip where they made it eight straight years and won three league titles. The ’78 JaxMets were managed by Bob Wellman, no relation to Phillip Wellman, who, 30 years later, managed the Mississippi Braves to the Southern League pennant. That remains the only title claimed by the M-Braves, now entering their 14th year at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The ’08 M-Braves featured a great young pitching staff: Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Todd Redmond, James Parr, et al. Kala Ka’aihue led the team in homers (14) and RBIs (61) and swung a big bat in the postseason. But the club was defined more by the scrappiness of Matt Young and J.C. Holt, who combined for 52 steals. Wellman loved to get aggressive on the bases, and the M-Braves scored the pennant-winning run against Carolina on a walk-off double steal. … This season also marks the 25th anniversary of the first Jackson Generals team to win a Texas League title. The 1993 season was the third at Smith-Wills Stadium for the Houston Astros affiliate. Stars of that club, managed by Sal Butera, included Brian Hunter, Roberto Petagine, Jim Dougherty, Tom Nevers and Jackson native Fletcher Thompson.