08 Apr

big bang

For Mitch Moreland, it was a milestone home run. For his Boston team, it was a lot more than that. Moreland, the former Mississippi State standout from Amory, blasted his 150th career homer on Sunday, a seventh-inning shot that lifted the Red Sox to a 1-0 win at Arizona in the finale of a brutal road trip. The defending world champs went 3-8 against Seattle, Oakland and the Diamondbacks. Their home opener is Tuesday vs. Toronto. “It’s going to be nice to get back home and get in front of our fans and get rolling,” Moreland told mlb.com. Unlike so many of his teammates, Moreland is off to a good start. He is batting .258 with club-leading numbers of three homers, nine RBIs and a .645 slugging percentage. Now in his 10th MLB campaign and third with Boston, Moreland made his first All-Star Game last year in addition to winning his first ring. He has 40 homers for Boston – plus one in last year’s World Series – plays a Gold Glove-caliber first base and has become a key part of an elite team. Moreland hit his first big league homer for Texas on Aug. 13, 2010, against Boston’s Josh Beckett. His 150 total puts him ninth on the career list of Mississippi natives; Bill Melton and Frank White are tied for seventh at 160.

27 Feb

waiting game

Jarrod Dyson, who missed the second half of the 2018 season with a groin injury, has yet to appear in a spring training game for Arizona because of another injury: a strained left oblique. The 34-year-old McComb native reportedly hurt himself playing catch earlier this week. Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told mlb.com: “He’s not going to miss a big chunk of time.” Still, oblique injuries can be tricky, and Dyson has a history of hurts. In 2017, with Seattle, he hit .251 with 28 bags while missing the last few weeks of the season with another groin injury. He also had an oblique issue in Kansas City in 2016, when he had his best MLB campaign, batting .278 with 30 steals. He won a ring with the ’15 Royals. In his second season with Arizona, Dyson is expected to back up Ketel Marte in center field and also play a role as a pinch runner and hitter. In 67 games last year, Dyson batted .189 with 16 steals. P.S. Mitch Moreland has yet to appear in a game for Boston, but the ex-Mississippi State star from Amory isn’t hurt. Red Sox manager Alex Cora reportedly is holding back some of the older veterans. Moreland, 33, played 124 games last year and 11 more during the long postseason for the world champion BoSox. … Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart was back in the lineup today for the Los Angeles Angels after being scratched from a Monday start as a precaution over shoulder soreness. Cozart is coming back from shoulder surgery that curtailed his 2018 season.

17 Jan

common ground

Two noteworthy players with Mississippi ties remain on the free agent market, and they have a few things in common. Tony Sipp and Drew Pomeranz are left-handed pitchers, played college ball in Mississippi, were originally drafted by the Cleveland Indians and own a World Series ring. They are even in somewhat similar situations as they look for a new club in 2019. Sipp is 35 – he’ll be 36 in July – and is nearing the end of what has been a fine career. The former Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star, a short reliever for all of his 10 years in the big leagues, has a 3.67 career ERA. After a couple of off years with Houston, he bounced back strong with a 1.86 ERA in 2018, demonstrating that he may still have something in the tank. Ole Miss product Pomeranz, a former first-round pick (fifth overall) in 2010, had a rough 2018, dealing with arm issues and posting a 6.08 ERA for Boston. He was on the Red Sox’s roster for their World Series triumph but didn’t get in a game. Pomeranz, 30, has had a career that’s been all over the place. He has been with five different organizations. He has started and worked in relief. He has had some very good years (All-Star with San Diego in 2016, 17 wins for the Red Sox in 2017) and has a career ERA of 3.92. But last season was such a clunker, his value surely took a hit. It’s likely that both Sipp and Pomeranz will get short-term deals for modest money and will head into spring training with something to prove, Sipp that he’s not done and Pomeranz that last year was an aberration.

29 Oct

ring bearers

Mitch Moreland and Drew Pomeranz earned World Series rings on Sunday night when Boston dispatched Los Angeles in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium. Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State star from Amory, hit a key home run in Saturday’s comeback win; Ole Miss product Pomeranz did not make a Series appearance out of the Red Sox’s bullpen. This makes four straight years that a Mississippi-connected player has won a ring. Former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star Tony Sipp got one with Houston last year (though he didn’t play in the Series); UM alum Chris Coghlan won his with the Chicago Cubs in 2016; and Southwest Mississippi CC product Jarrod Dyson was on Kansas City’s title team in 2015. … Pomeranz, Sipp, former Southern Miss standout Brian Dozier (who was with the vanquished Dodgers in the 2018 Series) and ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn (who won a ring with St. Louis in 2011) are free agents this off-season. … Former Pillow Academy standout Louis Coleman reportedly elected free agency last week after he was removed from Detroit’s 40-man roster and outrighted to the minors.

28 Oct

yes, that was big

The ball traveled 437 feet into the right-field seats at Dodger Stadium. It left the bat at 110 mph, according to Statcast. The blast came with two outs and two on in the seventh inning and put the Boston Red Sox on the scoreboard for the first time in Game 4 of the World Series. Mitch Moreland’s pinch-hit home run on Saturday night was big in so many ways for the Red Sox, who erased a four-run deficit and beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-6 to move within one win of a championship. Amory native and ex-Mississippi State star Moreland, having a quiet Series to that point, said in a postgame interview on MLB Network that he went to the plate looking for a changeup from Ryan Madson. “I thought I’d sit on that and see what happens,” Moreland said in his genuine aw-shucks style. He got a changeup on the first pitch and crushed it. Suddenly, the Red Sox trailed just 4-3. “It kinda took a big hit to get us going,” Boston’s Brock Holt said in a TV interview. “That home run by Mitch was huge,” said teammate Xander Bogaerts. The homer was the fourth of Moreland’s postseason career, more than any other Mississippi native has hit. In his ninth MLB season, Moreland has played in 48 postseason games, batting .244 with 18 RBIs. This is his third World Series. The first two — in 2010 and ’11 with Texas — ended in disappointment. This one might turn out differently, and if it does, Red Sox Nation can look back on Moreland’s big homer as a big reason why.

27 Oct

going deep

It would be a stretch to call Game 3 of the World Series an instant classic. What it was was a crazy train of a game that rattled and rolled along for 18 innings and 7 hours, 20 minutes, the longest in Series history. And Mississippians Mitch Moreland and Brian Dozier will always be able to say they played in it. Neither was in the game in the wee hours of this morning when Max Muncy’s home run won it for Los Angeles 3-2, cutting Boston’s Series lead to 2-1. Drew Pomeranz, the ex-Ole Miss star, was warming up in Boston’s bullpen when Muncy went deep on Nathan Eovaldi’s 97th pitch. Pomeranz was one of just four active players who didn’t get in. Mississippi State product Moreland, batting third for the Red Sox, went 0-for-5 before being lifted as part of a double switch. The Gold Glove candidate was not at first base in the 13th when Ian Kinsler made his wild throw on a play that should have ended the game but instead allowed the tying run to score. Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout, had a chance to be a hero for the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth but fouled out as a pinch hitter against Craig Kimbrel with runners at first and second in a 1-1 game. Who would’ve guessed it would take nine more innings to settle it? Gotta wonder what’s in store for Game 4.

24 Oct

classic stuff

In case anyone was wondering – and someone was – Brian Dozier was not the first Mississippian to lead off in a World Series game when the Fulton native did so in Game 1 on Tuesday night. That distinction belongs to Buddy Myer, the Ellisville native who hit first for Washington in Game 1 of the 1933 Fall Classic against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. Myer, like Dozier, struck out to start the game. Longtime big leaguer Myer, who would win a batting title in 1935, led off in all five games of the ’33 Series for the Senators, who lost to the Giants. Myer went 6-for-20 overall, including a three-hit, two-RBI performance in Game 3, the only game the Senators won. (In the 1945 Series, Meridian native Skeeter Webb led off in all seven games for Detroit, which beat the Chicago Cubs.) … Eduardo Nunez’s big home run on Tuesday – off former Mississippi Braves ace Alex Wood — was the first pinch-hit Series homer for Boston since ex-Ole Miss star Bobby Kielty went deep in Game 4 of the 2007 Series against Colorado. (See previous post.) … Saw this very cool item on the baseball subreddit: Dave Parker, Ellis Burks and Mitch Moreland are tied for the most postseason home runs by a Mississippi-born player. As of today, each has three. Amory native Moreland, of course, could jump ahead with a bomb in this World Series. He struck out in a pinch-hit opportunity in Game 1. Moreland hit his three postseason homers in 2010 and ’11 with Texas, two of them in World Series games. Parker, a Grenada native (per baseball-reference.com), hit all of his postseason homers with Oakland in 1989 – at the age of 38. Vicksburg’s Burks – the state’s career home run leader — hit one each with the Chicago White Sox in 1993, San Francisco in 2000 and Cleveland in 2001. Of note: Louisiana’s leaders are Reggie Smith and Albert Belle (6). For Arkansas, it’s Brooks Robinson and Pat Burrell (5), Alabama Delmon Young (9), Georgia J.D. Drew (7), Tennessee Bill Madlock (4) and Florida Chipper Jones (13).

23 Oct

roster update

Drew Pomeranz, the ex-Ole Miss star, has been added to Boston’s World Series roster after not previously being active for the postseason. A pending free agent, the left-hander had a tough 2018, finishing with a 6.08 ERA in 26 games, 15 in relief after being bumped from the rotation. Pomeranz appeared in three postseason games in 2016 and ’17 for the Red Sox and put up a 9.53 ERA. He was the fifth overall pick out of UM by Cleveland in 2010 and has a 3.92 career ERA in the big leagues.

23 Oct

expectations

We should not expect much from the two Mississippi products in the 2018 World Series, according to one espn.com writer, who has offered a guide to each of the players on the Boston and Los Angeles rosters. The 50-player list was “loosely organized by how prominently each player should figure into his team’s hopes and plans.” Former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland hit .245 with 16 homers and 58 RBIs for the Red Sox this season and is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman. He was hindered by a hamstring injury early in the postseason. Brian Dozier, a Southern Miss alumnus, has played sparingly for the Dodgers in recent weeks, perhaps also bothered by the lingering effects of a knee injury. On the espn.com chart, Moreland was ranked No. 21, just ahead of Yasiel Puig and Nathan Eovaldi. And yet, the 33-year-old Moreland, an All-Star this summer, was described as “an old, slow first baseman with a low batting average and only moderate power, who costs enough money for it to count and offers little upside beyond what’s there.” Uh, OK. The writer’s assessment of Dozier was far less complimentary. He was ranked No. 50, making him, by extrapolation, the least impactful player in the World Series. An LA newspaper’s description of Dozier in July as a streaky hitter, the espn.com scribe writes, “looks darkly prescient, as Dozier had the worst month of his career in September (he hit .087/.189/.229) and has been demoted to the bench for all but one postseason game so far.” All that is true — but it’s also true that Dozier, 31, is a career .324 on-base guy with 172 homers and owns a Gold Glove at second base. Maybe Moreland and Dozier don’t exactly blow your hair back, but it seems foolish to underestimate either of these battle-tested veterans on baseball’s grandest stage. P.S. Moreland isn’t likely to start Game 1 tonight against Clayton Kershaw, one of many lefties the Dodgers can run out. Dozier very well could start against Chris Sale; he’s 12-for-47 career with three homers vs. the Red Sox left-hander.

19 Oct

he’s back

Mitch Moreland was back in the starting lineup for Boston on Thursday and now he’s back in the World Series – for a third time – after the Red Sox dispatched Houston 4-1 in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. The Mississippi State alumnus, who had been limited by a hamstring injury since Game 2 of the ALDS, went 2-for-4 and was on base when Rafael Devers smacked his huge three-run homer off Justin Verlander in the sixth inning. Moreland is 4-for-9 this postseason and carries a .252 career postseason average – with three homers, 15 RBIs and 14 runs – over 44 games. He has appeared in the postseason in seven of his nine pro seasons, going back to his rookie year of 2010 with Texas, which lost in the World Series to San Francisco. Moreland went 6-for-13 in that Series, then 1-for-10 the next year as the Rangers fell to St. Louis. Boston has had Mississippi natives on several of its World Series teams – Boo Ferriss in 1946, George Scott and Dalton Jones in 1967, Oil Can Boyd in 1986 – but never on one of its championship teams. Amory native Moreland will be out to change that.