09 Jul

just reward

The preseason magazines didn’t give Mitch Moreland much attention. Sports Illustrated’s Boston Red Sox preview didn’t mention him at all. The Amory native and former Mississippi State standout had re-signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in mid-December with no guarantee of a spot in the lineup. But Moreland did what he does: Keep grinding. And on Sunday, Moreland got a spot on the American League All-Star roster, voted in by his fellow players. It’ll be the first trip to the Midsummer Classic for the humble nine-year veteran. Funny how things work out. Boston had five players make the All-Star squad. When Boston manager Alex Cora informed the team of this news, his announcement of Moreland’s selection reportedly got the loudest response. “Out of all of them — I’m very proud of all of them — but to tell the team that he’s an All-Star, that was amazing,” Cora said in an mlb.com article. Moreland wasn’t in the lineup for Games 1 or 2 of the season, coming in late as a defensive replacement at first base for Hanley Ramirez. When his at-bats did come, Moreland started slowly. But by mid-May, he had taken the everyday job. Ramirez was released at the end of that month. As a 17th-round draft pick, Moreland said he always felt like he had to battle for everything he got in the game. “I might not be the fastest or have the quickest hands or whatever, but I’m going to work as hard as anybody out there,” he told masslive.com on Sunday. That lunch-pail mentality has served him well. He reached the big leagues with Texas in 2010 – his fourth pro season — and has been in The Show ever since. He’s had some good years. He has 143 career homers. He has a Gold Glove. And, hey now, he’s an All-Star. P.S. Props also to former Mississippi Braves Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Craig Kimbrel and Biloxi Shuckers alum Josh Hader for making the All-Star rosters.

29 Jun

watch for it

In the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees clash slated for the next three days at Yankee Stadium, we might be lucky enough to see a matchup of Mississippians in a crucial spot: Amory native Mitch Moreland of the BoSox vs. Gulfport’s Jonathan Holder of the Yanks. Moreland, having a strong year (.290, 11 homers, 40 RBIs), typically hits in the middle of Boston’s order. (A left-handed hitter, he isn’t in the starting lineup tonight against lefty CC Sabathia.) Holder, having a breakout season (1.78 ERA in 26 games), has been getting more calls in key late-inning situations for New York. Moreland is 0-for-1 this year and 0-for-2 career against fellow Mississippi State product Holder, a right-hander. Boston hitters are 0-for-8 against Holder in 2018 and were 1-for-15 against him last year. Moreland is 4-for-14 vs. the Yanks in 2018, with a homer, against Masahiro Tanaka, currently out with an injury. He was 10-for-50 last year, with homers against Tanaka and Sonny Gray, Saturday’s scheduled starter. The Red Sox currently lead the Yankees by a game in the American League East. P.S. Former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn, currently pitching on a one-year deal with Minnesota, is considered an attractive trade piece, and one of the teams mentioned by mlb.com as a good fit is – drumroll – the Yankees. After a sluggish start in 2018, Lynn, a veteran who eats innings, is 4-2, 2.40 over his last seven starts.

25 May

‘put me in coach’

Mitch Moreland doesn’t always start for the Boston Red Sox. But when he does, he prefers to rake. The ex-Mississippi State star is batting .311 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 34 games (103 at-bats) for the 34-16 Red Sox. The lefty-hitting first baseman has started only 25 games there in a platoon with Hanley Ramirez. Moreland, who re-signed as a free agent with Boston in the off-season, batted cleanup and homered in a 6-3 loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday night. It was his fifth homer in his last 15 games, and he is batting .333 over that stretch. With Ramirez mired in a deep slump, there has been much speculation in Boston media about Moreland, who is also the superior fielder, getting more playing time, even against lefty starters. Certainly seems to make sense. “We’ll figure it out. We’ll find at-bats for Mitch,” manager Alex Cora told mlb.com after Thursday’s game. The Red Sox host Atlanta tonight and with right-hander Julio Teheran scheduled for the Braves, Moreland ought to be in the lineup. P.S. Moreland’s homer was the 139th of his career, moving the Amory native out of a tie with Matt Lawton for 10th place on the all-time list for MLB homers by Mississippi-born players. Brian Dozier is the only other active player in the top 10; the ex-Southern Miss star from Fulton ranks eighth with 158. Ellis Burks tops that chart with 352, followed by Dave Parker (339), George Scott (271), Chet Lemon (215), Dmitri Young (171), Bill Melton (160), Frank White (160), Dozier, Charlie Hayes (144) and Moreland. The not-yet-officially-retired Seth Smith has 126. … Dozier also has seven bombs this season and is tied with Moreland and Tim Anderson (East Central Community College) for the lead in the 2018 All-Mississippi Home Run Derby.

27 Jul

time for a breakout

It is a three-team scrap, at the moment, in the American League East. Boston clings to a 1-game lead over the New York Yankees with Tampa Bay hanging 2.5 back. The Rays are visiting Yankee Stadium for a four-game series that starts tonight. Boston hosts surging Kansas City, an AL Central and wild card contender, for three starting on Friday. It’s not a good time to be in a slump, but both Corey Dickerson of the Rays and Mitch Moreland of the Red Sox are in one. Former Meridian Community College star Dickerson, a first-time All-Star this year, is batting .209 with one homer and four RBIs over his last 23 games. His average has plunged to .303. Yankee Stadium is a great hitter’s park for lefties, and Dickerson is batting .343 with three bombs against Yankees pitching this season. So … a breakout might be coming. The Rays would love to see it. Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State standout, is hitting .124 without a homer in his last 24 games and went 2-for-17 on the club’s recent road trip. His average is down to .239, and he’s been dropped in the BoSox’s order. He suffered a broken toe in mid-June but played through it and says it’s fine now. If there is a positive for Moreland entering the weekend, he is a better hitter at Fenway Park: .253 with six of his 12 homers and a .341 on-base percentage. He doesn’t have a hit in seven at-bats against Royals pitchers this year, so … perhaps he is due. The Red Sox surely hope that’s true.

29 Jun

so happy together

Mitch Moreland signed as a free agent with Boston in the off-season. One-year deal, $5.5 million. Both parties have to be thrilled with how this has worked out. Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State star from Amory, has been what Red Sox manager John Farrell calls “a bedrock in our lineup,” which no longer features David Ortiz. The Red Sox are 43-35, tied for first in the American League East with the surprising New York Yankees. Moreland, a lefty-hitting first baseman, is batting .275 and is tied for the club lead with 12 homers and 41 RBIs. He leads in slugging percentage at .486. He will be a free agent again after this season, and his performance has no doubt boosted his market value. When Moreland first signed, speculation was he would platoon at first base with Hanley Ramirez and also get some at-bats as the DH. As it has turned out, Moreland, a Gold Glove winner last year with Texas, has been the regular first baseman essentially from Day 1, appearing in 72 of the team’s 78 games. And there’s this: For the last couple of weeks, he has played with a broken big toe. “It’s a lot more fun playing than it is sitting and watching. That’s the way I look at it,” Moreland told the Boston Herald. That’s the definition of a gamer.

06 Oct

fresh start

As a rookie in 2010, Mitch Moreland was dynamite in the postseason. He batted .348 (16-for-46) with a home run and seven RBIs as Texas made it all the way to the World Series before losing to San Francisco. Since then, the Mississippi State alum’s postseason production has been minimal: 3-for-43. In 30 career games, he is batting .213 with three homers. In last year’s American League Division Series against Toronto, the lefty-hitting first baseman was 0-for-13. “That’s in the past,” Moreland told sportsday.dallasnews.com. “All I’m thinking about is Thursday. Right now, I’m 0-for-0.” The Rangers hook up with the (hated?) Blue Jays again in the ALDS – Game 1 is today in Arlington — and Moreland is not exactly swinging a hot bat. He hit .167 with one homer in September and October, finishing the year at .233 with 22 bombs and 60 RBIs. He is 0-for-3 with two walks this season against Marco Estrada, Toronto’s Game 1 starter, 0-for-3 against J.A. Happ and 2-for-6 against Aaron Sanchez. A strong postseason, like the one Moreland enjoyed as a rookie, would certainly be welcomed by the Rangers — and would also look nice on the resume for Moreland, who is a pending free agent. P.S. Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz apparently will be on Boston’s roster for its ALDS against Cleveland. The left-hander, who made 13 starts for the Red Sox after being acquired from San Diego, was moved to the bullpen and threw a sharp 1 1/3 innings in the final game of the year. Pomeranz, who had a 3.32 ERA this season (4.59 with Boston), has pitched in relief often in his pro career. … The Indians’ pitching coach is UM product Mickey Callaway, now in his fourth year in that position.

29 Jul

good news, bad news

The Texas Rangers look to Mitch Moreland for power. With Prince Fielder done for the year, perhaps now more than ever. Ex-Mississippi State standout Moreland delivered two solo home runs on Thursday night, powering the Rangers to a 3-2 win against Kansas City. “I know that’s what I’m looked upon as … hit the ball in the gap or drive it out of the ballpark,” Moreland told mlb.com, while humbly deflecting praise toward winning pitcher Cole Hamels. Texas, which once had a big lead in the American League West, is up 3 games on second-place Houston. Moreland enjoyed his best season in 2015 (.278, 23 homers, 85 RBIs) but has had his struggles this year. He is hitting just .237 with 16 homers and 42 RBIs. But there are indications he has found a groove. In his last 38 at-bats, the lefty-hitting Amory native is batting .289 with five homers. Both of his homers on Thursday were to the opposite field at Globe Life Park, an approach that Rangers manager Jeff Banister made note of. “When he’s locked in like that it’s a huge plus for our offense,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. … Washington manager Dusty Baker went back to Jonathan Papelbon (see previous post) in a save situation on Thursday. The former State star lasted three batters. The struggling Papelbon, handed a three-run lead against San Francisco, got an out but then yielded a hit and a walk. Two other relievers closed out the Nationals’ 4-2 win. Papelbon was charged with a run that moved his ERA to 4.41.