When last we saw Mike Mayers in a big league game — for St. Louis on Aug. 18 — he was giving up four earned runs in 2/3 of an inning against Pittsburgh. That moved the Ole Miss product’s career ERA in seven appearances to 19.80, not what you wanna see on the back of your baseball card. That ugly number is due mostly to a couple of bad outings. But it is what it is. The Cardinals still have Mayers on their 40-man roster, and he has pitched well in winter ball. Through six starts for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League, Mayers is 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA. After a 12-day layoff, he threw five innings of one-hit, one-run ball on Tuesday. A third-round pick out of UM in 2013, Mayers, 25, has a career minor league ERA of 3.54. Only once in his five minor league seasons has he finished with an ERA above 3.39. He went 5-6 with a 3.28 in 2017 at Triple-A Memphis, splitting time between starting and relieving. He was up for three big league appearances, including that ERA wrecker on Aug. 18. He has to be champing at the bit for his next shot. P.S. Picayune native and Ole Miss alum Braxton Lee, the Southern League batting champ last season, recently was added to Miami’s 40-man roster, and ex-Madison Central High standout Spencer Turnbull made Detroit’s protected roster. Former UM star Bobby Wahl, who made his MLB debut with Oakland in 2017, has been removed from the A’s 40-man. Right-hander Wahl was injured (shoulder) in midseason and didn’t pitch after July 31.
This was a close call. Drew Pomeranz went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA last season and was a key player in Boston’s drive to a division title. But Brian Dozier, who also had sparkling numbers, was arguably THE key player in unheralded Minnesota’s drive to a wild card berth. On that basis, the former Southern Miss star is a repeat winner of the Cool Papa Bell Award, given here for the best performance by a Mississippian in the majors. Dozier, who also won the 2016 award, batted a career-high .271 (.359 on-base) with 34 homers, 93 RBIs, 106 runs and 16 steals in his fifth full season with the Twins. He was a regular on the highlight shows for his defense at second base. What’s more, he led off the American League wild card game against New York with a home run, though the Twins couldn’t hold the lead. No disrespect to Pomeranz — or for that matter Zack Cozart, Corey Dickerson, Jarrod Dyson, Lance Lynn and Adam Frazier, each of whom had a very good season – but Dozier was simply a cut above. … The award honors Negro Leagues legend Cool Papa Bell, the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Previous honorees include Mitch Moreland, Corey Dickerson, Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan.
Free agency should be good to Zack Cozart. The former Ole Miss star, a good-hit/good-field shortstop, is rated No. 11 on the list of 184 available free agents by sports.yahoo.com. He is coming off a career year, having made his first All-Star Game. He earned $5.3M in 2017. The one issue, the Yahoo writer suggests, might be Cozart’s age: 32. Not exactly ancient, but for a shortstop … . Oddly enough, on a recent MLB Now segment on MLB Network, Cozart was mentioned as both the “most underrated” and “most overrated” player on the market. UM product Lance Lynn, who bounced back strong in 2017 after Tommy John surgery, was No. 13 on Yahoo’s list, Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland No. 47, ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star Jarrod Dyson No. 52 and former Rebels standout Seth Smith No. 73. Other Mississippians on the market (as minor leaguers) are Tyler Moore, Alex Presley, David Goforth, Scott Copeland, Joey Butler and Cody Satterwhite as well as Chris Coghlan, Desmond Jennings and Louis Coleman, erstwhile big leaguers released during the 2017 season.
Seth Smith, the ex-Ole Miss star from Jackson, is a free agent and could sign with a new team as early as today. Smith, 35, batted .258 with 13 homers for Baltimore in 2017. If you’re keeping track, the Orioles are the fifth different organization Smith, a .261 career hitter, has played for since breaking into the big leagues in 2007.
As we plunge into the off-season, here are some other numbers of interest for other Mississippians in the majors:
Brian Dozier: 106. The ex-Southern Miss standout topped the century mark in runs for the fourth straight season with Minnesota, while also hitting 34 homers and driving in 93 runs.
Drew Pomeranz: 173.2. The former Ole Miss star worked a career-high in innings in his first full year in Boston and posted a 17-6 record with a 3.32 ERA.
Corey Dickerson: .241. That was the Meridian Community College alum’s batting average after the All-Star Game, which he played in. He hit .312 before the break for Tampa Bay.
Zack Cozart: 55. The Ole Miss product, a free agent, set a career-high for extra base hits, including 24 homers and seven triples during an All-Star campaign in Cincinnati.
Lance Lynn: .605. That’s the career winning percentage for the big right-hander out of Ole Miss. A free agent, Lynn is 72-47 in six years with St. Louis.
Mitch Moreland: 34. The Mississippi State product, a free agent, notched a career-high for doubles and also belted 22 homers, one off his career-best, in his first season with Boston.
Adam Frazier: 7. That’s the number of positions (including DH) the ex-State standout played in 2017 for Pittsburgh. He batted .276 with six homers, 53 RBIs and nine steals in 121 games all told.
Jarrod Dyson: 204. The Southwest Mississippi CC alum, a free agent, topped 200 career steals last season and has 26 or more in each of the last six seasons, despite being a part-time player. He set career-highs for at-bats, runs, home runs and RBIs with Seattle in 2017.
Billy Hamilton: 0. Remarkably, the former Taylorsville High star has yet to win a National League stolen base title, despite stealing 56, 57, 58 and 59 bases over the past four seasons for Cincinnati.
Hunter Renfroe: 14. The former State star played 14 games in the minors in 2017 after being abruptly sent down by San Diego in August. He hit .509 with four homers at El Paso; he batted .231 with 26 homers for the Padres with 140 strikeouts and 27 walks.
Tim Anderson: 13. The East Central CC product walked only 13 times in 606 plate appearances and struck out 162 times. On the positive side, he hit .257 with 17 homers and 52 RBIs in his second season with the Chicago White Sox.
Alex Presley: 5,693. The former Ole Miss standout hit the home run, on Sept. 19, that tied the MLB single-season record for total bombs. That was one of the three homers he hit last season for Detroit.
Anthony Alford: 1. The onetime Mr. Baseball from Petal got his first – and, to date, only – career hit with Toronto on May 23. Alford’s MLB stint was interrupted by injury after four games, and he spent the rest of the season in the minors. He’ll likely vie for a starting job in the spring.
Mickey Callaway, the former Ole Miss pitcher; Ron Gardenhire, the Jackson Mets shortstop from way back when; and ex-Jackson State slugger Dave Clark are among the candidates for the four managerial openings in the big leagues, according to various reports. Callaway, Cleveland’s pitching coach, is rumored to be the favorite in Philadelphia but is also said to be a good fit for the New York Mets. Gardenhire, currently bench coach for Arizona, is reportedly under consideration for the job in Boston and also Detroit, where Clark has been the third-base coach for four years. Gardenhire managed in Minnesota for 13 seasons, winning over 1,000 games and making six postseason trips. Clark was an interim skipper in Houston in 2009. … Charlie Morton, one of three former Mississippi Braves on Houston’s current roster, will start Game 3 of the American League Championship Series tonight at New York. CC Sabathia starts for the Yankees. Morton, a 14-game winner this season, yielded two runs in 4 1/3 innings in Game 4 of the ALDS at Boston, a game the Astros won 5-4 to claim the series. M-Braves alums Brian McCann and Evan Gattis also play for the Astros, whose hitting coach is onetime Jackson Generals coach Dave Hudgens. … Former M-Braves star Jason Heyward went 0-for-3 in the Chicago Cubs’ 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Sunday night’s NLCS Game 2. Heyward is just one of numerous Cubs slumping this postseason; he is 2-for-15 this year and is batting .155 in 35 career postseason games. … Ole Miss alum David Goforth, who pitched briefly for Milwaukee in 2017, is now working in the Mexican Pacific League, and Southern Miss product Scott Copeland, a Miami minor leaguer, is pitching in the Dominican Winter League. Those leagues started last week.
Three members of the Mississippi Braves’ original opening day roster from 2005 are on MLB postseason teams this year. Catcher Brian McCann, the first M-Brave to get the big league ticket, is with Houston – along with fellow ex-M-Braves Charlie Morton, Evan Gattis and James Hoyt – heading into the American League Division Series battle with Boston. Right-hander Blaine Boyer, who was the second M-Brave to be promoted to Atlanta, works out of the Red Sox’s bullpen, as does Craig Kimbrel. Outfielder Gregor Blanco, who waited a little longer – until 2008 – than McCann and Boyer to make The Show, is a bench player for Arizona, which hosts Colorado in tonight’s National League wild card game. Blanco has had a journeyman career but has played in 37 postseason games and won two World Series rings – with San Francisco in 2012 and ’14. Released by the Giants after last season, Blanco signed with the Diamondbacks. In 90 games, the speedy left-handed hitter batted .246 with three homers, 13 RBIs, 43 runs and 15 steals. He is also a good defensive outfielder. His advice for his D-backs teammates, many of whom are making their first postseason appearance? “Have fun and play the game,” Blanco told sfgate.com. “Whatever happens, happens.” P.S. Several other former Jackson area Double-A connections are with teams who made the postseason, including ex-Jackson Mets shortstop Ron Gardenhire, now Arizona’s bench coach, and ex-JaxMets infielder Dave Magadan, the D’backs’ hitting coach. Former JaxMets pitcher Neil Allen is the pitching coach for Minnesota, which was eliminated Tuesday by the New York Yankees. M-Braves alum Chasen Shreve, a Las Vegas native who threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium, is a reliever for the Yanks. Dave Hudgens, a onetime Jackson Generals hitting coach, now fills that role for Houston. M-Braves products Alex Wood and Luis Avilan pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Jason Heyward and Tommy LaStella play for the Chicago Cubs. … Tuesday marked the end of an era in Tampa Bay with the unexpected departure – by mutual agreement? — of former Generals pitching coach Jim Hickey from the Rays’ staff. Hickey has been the Rays’ pitching coach for 11 years. He’ll have no trouble finding another job. Also on Tuesday, Seattle announced that ex-JaxMets shortstop Tim Bogar will not return as bench coach.
Crystal Springs native Hunter Renfroe hit his 26th home run of the season for San Diego on Sunday, the last day of the MLB regular season. That’s an impressive total to be sure. But it’s not the record for homers in a rookie season by a Mississippi native. That belongs to Luke Easter, who hit 28 for Cleveland in 1950 – at the age of 35. Easter, a Jonestown native, was the first black Mississippian to play in the majors, breaking in late in 1949. Greenville native George Scott hit 27 “taters” as a rookie for Boston in 1966. Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks, Mississippi’s all-time home run leader with 352, hit 20 for the Red Sox in 1987, his first year. Worth noting: Renfroe hit four homers in 11 games at the end of the 2016 season but was still classified as a rookie this year. Calhoun native Dave Parker, who launched 339 career bombs, hit just four as a rookie in 54 games for Pittsburgh in 1973. McComb native Corey Dickerson hit 24 homers in 2014, his first full season with Colorado, but he no longer had rookie status. Gulfport’s Bill Melton cracked 23 in 1969 as a first-year regular for the Chicago White Sox, but he had exceeded rookie standards in 1968. … Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High star, finished the season with 59 stolen bases, one shy of MLB leader Dee Gordon. Hamilton’s last attempt at a 60th bag on Sunday was foiled when the lead runner in a double steal was thrown out in Cincinnati’s win over the Chicago Cubs. Hamilton, with 243 career steals, is the all-time leader among Mississippi natives. … Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart went 0-for-3 to finish at .297 in what was probably his final game with the Reds. Cozart is among a sizable group of Mississippi-connected players headed for free agency, including Lance Lynn, Seth Smith, Mitch Moreland, Jarrod Dyson and Tyler Moore.