Aaron Barrett has been knocked down. Not once, but twice. In 2015, in the midst of his second big league season with Washington, the ex-Ole Miss star suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. About a year later, while throwing as part of his rehab program, he suffered a broken humerus, the bone in the upper arm. More surgery. More rehab. Two long years later, in June of this year, Barrett finally made it back to the mound in a professional game. Doctors have told him it’s a minor miracle that he can pitch at all. The Nationals, to their credit, have stayed with him. He has made four appearances over the last three weeks for Auburn in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League. It’s a long way from the big leagues, but the 30-year-old Barrett – who has a 3.47 ERA in 90 MLB games — says he is determined to get back. “I keep telling myself that when it’s all said and done, it’s going to be one hell of a comeback story,” he told milb.com.
One of the great quotes in one of the great baseball movies, “Moneyball,” goes something like this: “We’re all told at some point that we can no longer play the children’s game. Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40. But we’re all told.” It’s the harsh reality for anyone who loves to play — and they will fight it ‘til the bitter end. Take the case of Cody Satterwhite, the former Hillcrest Christian and Ole Miss standout. Drafted in the second round by Detroit 10 long years ago, the big right-hander hasn’t yet been “told,” but he’s surely heard whispers. A career minor leaguer, the 31-year-old Satterwhite has been released three times and become a free agent twice. He missed two full seasons because of injury. He pitched in independent ball and did a tour in Japan. He pitched in Triple-A in Washington’s system last year and posted a 4.35 ERA in 24 games for Syracuse. The Nationals recently re-signed Satterwhite for 2018. Another chance at the children’s game and the big league dream. Good for him.
Ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart, one of several Mississippians on the free agent market, has a serious suitor in San Diego, according to reports. The Padres are looking for a shortstop, and Cozart is the best one out there looking for a team. Cozart batted .297 with 24 homers and 63 RBIs and made his first All-Star Game with Cincinnati in 2017. … There hasn’t been much news of late on other free agent Mississippians, a list that includes Lance Lynn, Mitch Moreland, Seth Smith, Jarrod Dyson, Tyler Moore and Alex Presley. … David Goforth, the former UM standout from Meridian, has signed a minor league deal with Washington. The onetime big leaguer spent most of last season with Milwaukee’s Triple-A club. He has pitched well in winter ball in the Mexican Pacific League, posting a 2.45 ERA and three saves in 29 games for Culiacan. … Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton reportedly is drawing interest from several clubs wanting to trade with Cincinnati for the center fielder. Interested teams include San Francisco, Texas and Baltimore. Hamilton, a defensive whiz, hit .247 (.299 on-base average) with 59 steals this past season.
Lance Lynn appears to be making strides on his comeback trail. The Ole Miss product, who missed 2016 after Tommy John surgery, threw five shutout innings for St. Louis against Atlanta on Sunday, reducing his ERA this spring to 1.29 in 14 innings over four starts. He wasn’t razor sharp vs. the Braves, but the big right-hander did what he does: He battled. Lynn, who won 60 games for the Cardinals from 2012-15, made at least 29 starts and threw at least 175 innings in each of those seasons. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he expects nothing less in 2017. “If you set yourself below that,” he said, “why take the ball?” The Cardinals in general should be angry birds. They missed the postseason last year, snapping a streak going back to 2010, and then watched the rival Chicago Cubs win it all. Lynn, who’ll turn 30 in May, may also be motivated by the fact he is eligible for free agency after this season. P.S. Joey Butler – remember him? – got a hit in his lone at-bat on Sunday for Washington, which had summoned the Pascagoula native from minor league camp. Butler, 31 and now with his fifth organization, batted .276 with eight homers for Tampa Bay in 2015 but spent all of 2016 in Triple-A with Cleveland. He might get stuck there again with the Nationals.
There likely will be a lot of eyes on Tony Sipp as he goes to work in West Palm Beach, Fla., over the next few weeks. The Pascagoula native and former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout is coming off a rough year and is the only seasoned left-hander in Houston’s bullpen. Sipp’s ERA jumped to 4.95 over 60 appearances in 2016. He had a 1.99 in 2015, and his career ERA over eight MLB seasons is 3.65. Batters hit .297 against Sipp in 2016, and he yielded 12 homers in 43 2/3 innings. The beefed-up Astros, picked by some as the favorite in the American League West, surely want a reliable lefty in their pen. If Sipp, 33, doesn’t look sharp, they may have to go shopping. Astros pitchers and catchers formally reported to camp today and will work out at their new spring facility on Wednesday. P.S. Joey Butler, another Pascagoula native and MGCCC alumnus, signed a minor league contract last week with Washington. Butler, a right-handed hitting outfielder, spent all of 2016 in the minors with Cleveland’s Triple-A Columbus club. He batted .276 with eight homers in 88 games for Tampa Bay in 2015 and is a career .282 hitter with 104 homers over nine pro seasons, including a stint in Japan. … Ole Miss product Aaron Barrett may be close to re-signing with Washington as a minor league free agent. He missed the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. While rehabbing last season, Barrett suffered a fractured right elbow and had another surgery. He ultimately was waived by the Nationals and elected free agency in the off-season. As a rookie in 2014, Barrett had a 2.66 ERA in 50 games for the Nats. In 2015, his ERA jumped to 4.60 in 40 games before he was injured late in the season.
For the second straight year, ex-Ole Miss standout Zack Cozart saw a strong season curtailed by physical woes. Cozart, Cincinnati’s shortstop, missed the last 3 1/2 months of 2015 after a knee injury that required surgery, then went down again this year in early September because of recurring pain in that knee. Cozart, who last played on Sept. 10, hit .252 with 16 home runs and 50 RBIs in 120 games. He played only 53 games last year, batting .258 with nine homers. He looked better than ever this April, hitting .361 at month’s end, and was at .303 on June 8 before starting to fade. He had 15 homers on July 18, one thereafter. Cozart, eligible for arbitration again this year, was the subject of trade rumors before and during the season. He might have played his final game for the Reds. … Aaron Barrett, another Ole Miss product, also had a rough year. Barrett, a Washington Nationals reliever, had Tommy John surgery last September and was making progress toward a possible return in late July when he suffered a fractured elbow. “It was traumatizing. It was like someone hit me in the gut, like, a million times,” Barrett told mlb.com in August. “But … I have a bionic arm now, and I’m literally going to come back stronger than ever.” … Former Itawamba Community College star Desmond Jennings battled injuries – again – in 2016 with Tampa Bay and wound up being released on Aug. 26. The toolsy Jennings was batting .200 with seven homers. A Tampa Tribune writer called Jennings’ potential “fool’s gold.” He remains unsigned, as does Jonathan Papelbon, who was released, per mutual agreement, by Washington on Aug. 13. Mississippi State product Papelbon had a 4.37 ERA at the time and had lost his closer’s job after a series of shaky outings. P.S. Jackson’s Seth Smith went 0-for-2 with a run in a wild and crazy game in Seattle on Saturday that the Mariners lost to Oakland 9-8 in 10 innings. The defeat eliminated Seattle from postseason contention, extending their drought to 15 years.
The Washington Nationals have rid themselves of the mercurial Jonathan Papelbon, giving the ex-Mississippi State star his unconditional release on Saturday. Saturday also happened to be National Baseball Card Day. So, of course, when you rip open a pack of 2016 Topps Series 1 to celebrate this special day, you get a … Jonathan Papelbon. Then you open a 2016 Bowman pack and you get a … Mark Melancon, the ex-Pittsburgh closer who displaced Papelbon in Washington. Is that ironic or coincidental or a little bit of both? Also pulled from the same 36-card pack that included the Papelbon: Mitch Moreland, Seth Smith, Chris Coghlan, Kendall Graveman, Jeff Francoeur and Blaine Boyer, local connections all. In a pack of Topps Series 2, there’s a Martin Prado and Luis Avilan and a 100 Years of Wrigley Field commemorative card featuring Rafael Palmeiro’s big league debut (Sept. 8, 1986). In the afore-mentioned Bowman pack, there’s a JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High star now in Triple-A in Detroit’s system. Scattered throughout these packs are other cards of note. A Corey Seager rookie here, a Kyle Seager there. A Jose Bautista bat flip card here, a Rougned Odor there. Current stars such as Madison Bumgarner, Anthony Rizzo, Yoenis Cespedes and Adam Duvall, and future stars (maybe) like Gary Sanchez, A.J. Reed, Brendan Rodgers and Phil Bickford. (Alas, no Dansby Swanson or Ozzie Albies.) Among the so-called inserts, there was a Manny Machado, Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro Suzuki and a reprint of a 1991 Frank Thomas (very cool card). All in all, quite a haul. P.S. So what does Papelbon do next? He wants to keep playing, for sure, and among the teams that are rumored to be interested is the Boston Red Sox, his original club. Do they dare go there?