As the Washington Nationals try to stay relevant in the National League East race, they’ve been getting a lot of production of late from a certain free agent signee. Over his last 15 games, he’s batting .327 with five homers and 12 RBIs. He homered in both games of a Wednesday doubleheader and drove in four runs as the Nationals swept Philadelphia to get to 35-38. Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star, has overcome a slow start with his new team to raise his average to .235. He’s got 12 homers, 28 RBIs and 28 runs. Dozier, who finished 2018 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed a one-year, $9 million deal with the Nationals, who are starting to get some bang for those bucks. For comparison sake, the marquee free agent who left Washington and signed with Philadelphia for 13 years and $330 million is in the throes of wicked slump. Bryce Harper, who went 0-for-4 in Wednesday’s twinbill, is hitting .208 with one homer in his last 15 games for a skidding Phillies team that has fallen to 39-34 and 4 games back of Atlanta in the NL East. Harper is batting .243 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs and is third in the NL in strikeouts with 91. (To be fair, he’s tied for second in walks with 47.) He’s even getting booed at home games. Philadelphia brass may not be feeling buyer’s remorse just yet, but they certainly aren’t getting the bang for the buck they expected. … Dozier’s 12th homer of the year accounted for one of the two runs the Nationals scored in a 2-0 win in Wednesday’s second game, the highlight of which was Max Scherzer’s seven brilliant innings the day after suffering a broken nose. “That’s why you put him in the category of one of the best, if not the best, in the game, the best of our generation,” Dozier told mlb.com.
Pearl River Community College takes the No. 1 seed into its NJCAA Division II World Series opener on Sunday at Enid, Okla. The Wildcats also take power bats and arms. Five Wildcats have nine or more homers: Dexter Jordan 18, Kasey Donaldson 13, Wiley Cleland and Reece Ewing 11 and Austen Izzio nine. Starting pitchers Shemar Page (7-1) and Miles Smith (8-3) have punchout stuff, Page averaging 10.13 strikeouts per nine innings, Smith 9.80. All of these players, save for Ewing, are Mississippi kids. … The Mississippi Braves have trotted out a new shortstop in the first two games of the current homestand, with recent addition Riley Unroe replacing the slumping Ray-Patrick Didder, who is hitting .123. Unroe, a minor league veteran taken in the Rule 5 draft by Atlanta in the off-season, was batting .304 at Class A Florida when promoted last week to the Double-A M-Braves, who are limping along at 21-24. Tonight at Trustmark Park, right-hander Jasseel De La Cruz is slated for his M-Braves debut. He threw a no-hitter for Florida on Saturday and was 3-1, 1.93 ERA for the Fire Frogs. … Austin Riley’s numbers through nine games in the big leagues are off-the-charts good: .389, five homers, 12 RBIs, eight runs, .833 slugging percentage. Atlanta’s record since the former DeSoto Central High star arrived: 7-2. Looks like he’ll be sticking around. … Seems like only yesterday – actually, it was Sunday – when the rumors were rampant that Mickey Callaway was going to be fired as manager of the New York Mets. The ex-Ole Miss star had just watched his club lose three straight to woeful Miami. The Mets went home and promptly beat Washington four straight, turning Nationals manager Dave Martinez’s chair considerably hotter. “He’s a hell of a manager,” Southern Miss product Brian Dozier, in his first year in Washington, said in an mlb.com story. “I got his back any day.” The Nats, with their huge payroll, are 19-31. … Things are also tough in Detroit, where former Jackson Met Ron Gardenhire’s Tigers just finished an 0-9 homestand to fall to 18-29. Said Gardenhire: “We have to stick together. We have to have each other’s backs.” Gardenhire has stuck with JaCoby Jones in center field; the Richton High alum is batting .173.
Bradley Roney, the former Southern Miss standout who reached Triple-A in 2016 in Atlanta’s system, pitched in an official game on Tuesday for the first time in almost two years. Roney, 26, worked two scoreless innings for Class A Florida. “It feels so goooooood to be back,” he tweeted after he was activated from the injured list on Monday. Roney, a 2014 draftee by the Braves, last pitched in July 2017 for the Double-A Mississippi Braves. He made 15 appearances that year, posting a 3.75 ERA, four wins and two saves out of the bullpen. If all goes well, he’ll likely get back to Pearl sometime this summer. … Ole Miss product and onetime big leaguer Aaron Barrett, who missed the 2016 and ’17 seasons with major arm injuries (see previous posts), has been effective in his ongoing comeback effort in Washington’s system. The 31-year-old righty has a 3.57 ERA and nine saves in 15 games at Double-A Harrisburg. He has 90 major league appearances on his resume, the last in 2015. … USM alum Cody Carroll, on the IL since the start of the season with a back issue, has begun throwing, according to reports. Carroll made his MLB debut with Baltimore in 2018, his fourth pro season. He was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk in spring training before he was shut down. … Former George County High standout Justin Steele, who is on the Chicago Cubs’ 40-man roster, has struggled since returning from a stint on the IL at Double-A Tennessee. A 23-year-old lefty, Steele has a 9.33 ERA in six outings this season. Steele had Tommy John surgery in 2017 and was limited to 11 games last year, plus some work in the Arizona Fall League.
There has been a power surge of late among several Mississippians, notably Bobby Bradley, Austin Riley and Hunter Renfroe. Bradley, the former Harrison Central High star, has begun to mash at Triple-A Columbus in Cleveland’s system. The 22-year-old first baseman has four homers in his last four games, three in his last two. A .366 spurt over his last 10 games has boosted his average to .315 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in his first full season at the Triple-A level. “It’s really a great experience, you learn so much from the veteran guys,” Bradley said in an milb.com story. Riley, the DeSoto Central product, hit two more bombs for Triple-A Gwinnett (Atlanta) on Wednesday. That’s 10 in his last 13 games, during which he has batted an absurd .469. He is at .315 with 12 homers and 32 RBIs. “Obviously, I’m seeing the ball well,” he told milb.com. “I’ve worked really hard on getting my swing where it is now.” Renfroe, the ex-Copiah Academy and Mississippi State standout, hit a go-ahead home run for the San Diego Padres on Wednesday. He also hit a tie-breaking bomb on Monday and a walk-off grand slam on Sunday. “He’s clutch. And he has been for a long time,” Padres manager Andy Green told mlb.com. Renfroe now has nine homers on the year, second to Mitch Moreland’s 10 among Mississippians in the majors. P.S. Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart is 2-for-8 (.125 for year) since coming off the injured list for the Los Angeles Angels, who also designated MSU product Chris Stratton for assignment on Tuesday. Stratton, who’ll likely land in Triple-A, has an 8.59 ERA in seven appearances. … Tony Sipp, the veteran reliever out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, went on the 10-day IL for Washington with a strained oblique.
Jonathan Holder, the Mississippi State product from Gulfport, got the last six outs and earned the win in the New York Yankees’ 4-3, 14-inning victory against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night. Holder, the fifth reliever called on by the Yanks, trimmed his ERA to 5.54 and struck out three, running his season total to 14 in 13 innings.
Jarrod Dyson, the former Southwest Mississippi Community College star from McComb, went 1-for-5 with a walk and scored twice as the leadoff batter in Arizona’s 12-4 win over Pittsburgh. Dyson scored in both the seventh and eighth innings as the Diamondbacks rallied for 11 runs to overcome a 4-1 deficit. Getting more regular playing time of late, Dyson is at .286 (.379 OBP) with three homers, seven RBIs, 10 runs and three steals.
Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss standout from Fulton, hit his fourth home run, a three-run shot that gave Washington an early lead in a game the Nationals would ultimately lose 7-5 to Colorado. Dozier, who was batting .080 with no RBIs on April 6, has three homers in his last four games and has lifted his average to .188 with six RBIs.
With opening day a mere two days away, Chris Stratton finds himself on a new team. Stratton, a former Mississippi State star from Tupelo, was traded late Monday from San Francisco to the Los Angeles Angels. “I’m definitely in shock,” the right-hander told the San Francisco Chronicle. Stratton, a former first-round pick who has a 4.63 ERA over three MLB campaigns, did not win a job in the Giants’ rotation this spring. (Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, a free agent signee, took one of those spots.) Stratton is out of minor league options, so rather than run him through waivers, the Giants worked a trade with the Angels for lefty Williams Jerez. At some point, Stratton may get a shot at a starting job with the Angels, who play their last exhibition game tonight at Dodger Stadium. … Kudos to Spencer Turnbull and Brandon Woodruff, who have officially earned spots in the rotation with Detroit and Milwaukee, respectively. Madison Central alum Turnbull is slotted as the Tigers’ No. 3 and will work at Toronto on Saturday. Woodruff, a State product from Wheeler, will pitch one of the three weekend games in Milwaukee against St. Louis. … Cool moment on MLB Network Monday night: Ex-Ole Miss star Aaron Barrett made his first appearance at Washington’s Nationals Park in four years and got a rousing ovation. The right-hander, battling back from a series of injuries, including a broken arm, worked in the exhibition game against the New York Yankees. In camp as a non-roster invitee, Barrett posted a 6.75 ERA in seven games; he’ll start the year in the minors.
Fifteen days before the season opener, Tony Sipp has found a new team, the Washington Nationals. The veteran left-hander out of Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College reportedly has agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million contract with a mutual option for 2020. The 35-year-old Sipp had a strong bounce-back year in 2018, putting up a 1.86 ERA in 54 appearances for Houston. He made $6M last year. Sipp has a career 3.67 ERA in 580 games, working exclusively as a reliever. He had a 0.90 ERA against left-handers in 2018, and a Washington Post reporter is already predicting a special role for him: “Expect to see a lot of Sipp versus (Bryce) Harper in the coming season.” The former Nationals left-handed slugger is now with division rival Philadelphia. Sipp joins Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier on what shapes up as a strong Nationals club. Dozier also signed a one-year deal as a free agent.
Other contract offers for more money and years reportedly were on the table when Brian Dozier chose a 1-year, $9 million deal with Washington last week. The Southern Miss product from Fulton is betting on himself to rebound from a tough 2018 season that may have caused his stock to drop. “Going into this year, personally, you kind of have a chip on your shoulder,” Dozier said in an mlb.com story. Dozier, 31, hit .215 last year with 21 homers playing for Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He admitted that a knee injury hampered him but says he is fully recovered now. The former All-Star also said he feels he is a good fit with the Nationals – who needed a second baseman — and likes the club’s prospects of contending for the postseason in 2019. He’ll be back on the market in 2020. … In an under-the-radar move over the weekend, the Chicago White Sox signed Biloxi native Jacob Lindgren to a minor league deal. The former St. Stanislaus High and Mississippi State star has missed the last two seasons with injuries. He had Tommy John surgery last spring. The 25-year-old left-hander was in Atlanta’s system in 2018 but was cut loose in October. A former second-round pick by the New York Yankees in 2014, he had a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2015. … The Philadelphia Phillies signed Laurel’s Bobby Dickerson, formerly of Buck Showalter’s Baltimore staff, as their new first-base coach last week. Dickerson, coincidentally, has been a longtime mentor to free agent Manny Machado, whom the Phillies have been hotly pursuing. … What has 199 big league wins, 22 saves, 148 professional home runs, 1,417 minor league managerial victories and a World Series ring? The four featured guests – Roy Oswalt, Jay Powell, Hunter Renfroe and Chris Maloney, all Mississippi natives with impressive baseball pedigrees – at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame’s Hot Stove Hall of Fame Evening, set for Jan. 24 at the museum in Jackson. Tickets are on sale at the museum or online at www.msfame.com.
Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star, has agreed to a 1-year, $9 million deal with the Washington Nationals, published reports say. Dozier, 31, batted .215 with 21 homers and 72 RBIs last season, which the second baseman split between Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The former All-Star looks like a good fit in a Nationals lineup that includes – at the moment – Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Trea Turner and Ryan Zimmerman and on a team that likely will contend in the strong National League East. P.S. Petal High product DeMarcus Evans was named Texas’ minor league reliever of the year and will be honored at the Dr Pepper Texas Rangers Winter Warmup on Jan. 25 in Arlington, Texas. Evans, a 25th-round pick in 2015, was 4-1 with nine saves, a 1.77 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 56 innings at Low Class A Hickory. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound right-hander also pitched in the Arizona Fall League. … Former William Carey star Tyler James was rated the fastest prospect in Kansas City’s system in a recent mlb.com article. A 25th-round selection in 2017, James led the rookie Arizona League with 31 steals in 2017 and the rookie Pioneer League with 38 last summer, when he also batted .312.
Having left his original MLB organization in 2017, David Goforth got a second chance with Washington last season. The former Ole Miss star from Meridian is now looking for a third shot. Goforth, who spent all of the past season in Triple-A, became a minor league free agent earlier this month while playing winter ball. The 30-year-old right-hander went 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA and a save in 14 games for Culiacan in the Mexican Pacific League; he is currently on the team’s reserve list. Goforth spent seven years in the Milwaukee system – he was a seventh-round pick out of UM in 2011 – and appeared in 31 big league games (with a 3.91 ERA) over three different seasons. He was designated for assignment by the Brewers in April of 2017 and was sent to the minors for the rest of that season. He signed with Washington as a free agent last fall. P.S. Also on the minor league market is former Rebels star and erstwhile big leaguer Chris Coghlan, who spent most of 2018 in Triple-A with the Chicago Cubs. Coghlan, 33, last played in the majors in 2017 with Toronto. … Another ex-UM standout, J.B. Woodman, is also a free agent, having been released out of A-ball by St. Louis in August. Woodman was a second-round pick by Toronto in 2016 and was traded last year for major league infielder Aledmys Diaz.