In need of some good games, Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State star now with the San Diego Padres, produced one on Saturday. Renfroe drove in a run with a sac fly, assisted on throwing a runner out at the plate and smacked a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning as the Padres beat San Francisco 5-4 before a sellout crowd at Petco Park. Renfroe, 1-for-3 with a walk on the day, lifted his average to .190. The Crystal Springs native has two homers and eight RBIs — seven in his last four games — for the 6-10 Padres. The club’s opening day right fielder in 2017, Renfroe made the roster as a reserve this spring. Injuries have given him more playing opportunities of late. “He’s battling hard up there right now,” San Diego manager Andy Green told mlb.com. Renfroe generated great expectations coming up in the Padres’ system and debuted late in 2016 with a .371 average and four homers in 11 games. Last year was one of ups and downs. He hit 26 homers but batted just .231 with 140 strikeouts in 445 at-bats. He was sent to the minors at one point for a few small repairs. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Renfroe has tremendous power and can be an asset in the outfield with his strong throwing arm. He needs more games like Saturday’s to remain a part of the Padres’ future. P.S. Also in need of a good game was former State standout Kendall Gravemen, now with the Oakland A’s. He didn’t have one. The right-hander yielded five runs in four innings and took the loss as the A’s fell at Seattle 10-8. Graveman is 0-3 with a 9.87 ERA in four starts.
Tony Sipp got the word on Thursday that he was going to make Houston’s opening day roster. On Friday night, the veteran left-hander out of Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College responded with a three-strikeout, scoreless inning against Washington in a Grapefruit League contest. It hasn’t been a great spring for Sipp, now 34 and about to start his 10th MLB campaign. He has a 5.19 ERA. He didn’t have a great 2017 for the Astros, either — 5.79 ERA, eight homers allowed in 37 1/3 innings – and wasn’t on the roster for their World Series run. Still, Sipp has a career ERA of 3.83 and will be the lone lefty in the Astros’ bullpen. “We’ve wanted Tony on the team to give us some balance and also because we feel like he’s got a track record where he can help us,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch told msn.com on Thursday. An injury to former Mississippi Braves star James Hoyt apparently paved the way for Sipp to make the 25-man roster. How long he keeps that job is up in the air. P.S. Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State standout from Wheeler, yielded four runs in five innings for Milwaukee against the Chicago Cubs on Friday. The right-hander, bidding to make the opening day roster, saw his spring ERA swell to an inconvenient 7.11. … With both Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija down with injuries, there is little doubt now that State alum Chris Stratton has won a job in San Francisco’s rotation. He has pitched well this spring with a 4.03 ERA in six outings. … Former Bulldogs star Hunter Renfroe, competing for a role in San Diego’s outfield, smacked his sixth homer of the Cactus League season on Friday and is batting .254 with 13 RBIs this spring.
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.
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.
It was, to use Hunter Renfroe’s own word, “humbling” to be sent back to the minor leagues after almost five months as a big league regular with San Diego. “You either grow from it or you fail from it,” the ex-Mississippi State standout told The Associated Press. The 25-year-old rookie returned to the Padres with some vigor on Monday, hitting a three-run homer in his first at-bat that propelled the team to a 4-2 win over Arizona. Renfroe went down to Triple-A El Paso on Aug. 18 and hit .509 with four home runs in 14 games, then helped the club reach Game 5 of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series. Monday’s homer was Renfroe’s 21st for the Padres. He also struck out for the 126th time; he has just 26 walks. How Renfroe handles the last two weeks of the season will be closely scrutinized. P.S. Brent Suter threw five shutout innings and fellow former Biloxi Shuckers star Brett Phillips threw out a runner from center field to end the game as Milwaukee kept its playoff drive alive with a 3-0 win at Pittsburgh.
Crackle … buzzzz … crackle … We interrupt coverage of the heated major league races to take you to Memphis’ AutoZone Park, where, tonight, the Memphis Redbirds and El Paso Chihuahuas will open the best-of-5 Pacific Coast League Championship Series. Mississippians could play prominent roles. Dakota Hudson, former Mississippi State star, will start Game 1 for the Redbirds, a St. Louis affiliate, and he’ll likely face another ex-Bulldogs standout, Hunter Renfroe, an outfielder for the Chihuahuas, a San Diego farm club. Hudson was the Double-A Texas League pitcher of the year but scuffled a bit in Triple-A, going 1-1 with a 4.42 ERA in seven starts. He delivered a strong start in winning Game 1 of the PCL semifinals, yielding one run in six innings. Ole Miss product Mike Mayers works out of the Memphis bullpen. He had a 3.28 ERA in 31 games and made three scoreless appearances in the semifinal series. Renfroe, sent down by the Padres last month, hit .509 with four homers in 14 games in his return to El Paso, which he led to the PCL pennant in 2016. He had a homer and three RBIs in the Chihuahuas’ semifinal series sweep of Fresno. Renfroe should have some fond memories of AutoZone Park; he made his Triple-A debut there last summer and hit a home run, one of the 105 he has blasted in his five pro seasons.
He’d surely much rather be in the big leagues, but Hunter Renfroe is doing something now that he wouldn’t be doing in San Diego: Chasing a championship. The ex-Mississippi State star, demoted by the Padres last month, has helped Triple-A El Paso reach the Pacific Coast League finals. He drove in the go-ahead run on Friday night as the Chihuahuas beat Reno 7-6 to complete a three-game sweep in the semifinals. In 14 regular season games for El Paso, Renfroe batted an eye-popping .509 with four homers, 18 RBIs and 18 runs. He went 3-for-12 with a homer and three RBIs in the Reno series. “Hunter came down here with a smile on his face, ready to play some baseball,” El Paso manager Rod Barajas told milb.com. Renfroe was hitting .230 with 20 homers for the Padres when he was sent down, ostensibly to work on making more contact. El Paso awaits the winner of the other PCL semifinal between Memphis and Colorado Springs. Former Ole Miss standout David Goforth pitches for Colorado Springs, a Milwaukee affiliate, and worked in Friday’s game, a 16-15 win that put the Sky Sox up 2-1 in the series. MSU product Dakota Hudson, one of St. Louis’ top prospects, got the win for the Redbirds on Wednesday night, allowing one earned run in six innings. P.S. In his first MLB appearance since July 31, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum Tony Sipp pitched a clean inning for Houston in its 9-8 loss to Oakland. Veteran left-hander Sipp, having a difficult year, has a 6.27 ERA. … Ex-Northwest Mississippi CC star Cody Reed made his first big league appearance since May 3, pitching an inning (one unearned run) for Cincinnati in a loss to the New York Mets.