Hunter Renfroe took some batting practice cuts Sunday in his new home park, Tropicana Field, and put on a show of power, according to an mlb.com account. Former Mississippi State star Renfroe, acquired by Tampa Bay from San Diego in the off-season, hit a pair of balls off the indoor stadium’s catwalks, considered quite a poke. “Renfroe was playing pepper with the back wall,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “That’s not something you see a lot of guys do.” Renfroe averaged 28 homers over the past three seasons with the Padres. … Spencer Turnbull, the Madison Central High alumnus now with Detroit, spent time during MLB’s shutdown back in Mississippi throwing to dad Jim, who, per an mlb.com report, wore full catcher’s gear as his son worked on his complete arsenal of pitches. “He’s caught me my whole life,” Spencer said. “Anytime I go home in the off-season, I’ll throw to him. He’s not usually in full gear, but I’m throwing flat grounds to him all the time.” … Ex-State star Mitch Moreland drew praise from Boston manager Ron Roenicke following his BP session at Fenway Park on Sunday. “When we have him out there on the field, hopefully he can start like he did last year,” Roenicke told mlb.com. “We know how important starting well is this year. Today is about as good a day as you can have for him.” Moreland, typically a fast starter, hit 13 homers in his first 46 games in 2019 and 10 homers in his first 44 games in 2018. … MSU product Dakota Hudson threw live BP in St. Louis’ camp on Saturday and said afterward he is pleased with how efforts to smooth out his delivery have gone. “I feel comfortable with what I’m doing,” Hudson said in an mlb.com article. “I was trying to mess with some stuff at the end of last year, and going into spring this year, I was able to show it off a little bit.” Hudson, 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 2019, is seeking to cut down on walks this season; he led the majors with 86 a year ago. … On the local front, there was some actual baseball in Vicksburg over the holiday weekend, with the Hattiesburg Black Sox semi-pro team taking on the US Military Baseball Team in a three-game series at Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi. The US Military team, a touring independent club, is not affiliated with the Department of Defense but plays in honor of the U.S. Armed Forces.
There was a reference to Jermaine Van Buren in the wind of the internet today. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, a seamhead of great renown, compiled an All-Presidential team in honor of a visit he made to the White House on this date in 2006. On a 25-man roster with the likes of Gary Carter, Homer Bush, Lou Clinton, Dan Ford and J.J. Hoover was – ta da — Jermaine Van Buren, the former Hattiesburg High star who pitched in 16 MLB games in 2005-06. Van Buren, no relation to the eighth president, Martin, was a dominant prep pitcher (21 strikeouts in one seven-inning game) and a second-round draft pick by Colorado in 1998. He stalled in the Rockies’ system, revived his career in the indy Central League and finally made the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs. He got his lone win with Boston in ’06, finishing up with a 9.00 ERA. Van Buren pitched in various leagues, including China, until 2010.
Benn Karr, a Mount Pleasant native, made 177 pitching appearances in his big league career. But his first appearance came as a pinch hitter. He struck out. One hundred years ago today, Karr debuted for the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. A left-handed batter, he hit for Herb Pennock and fanned in the middle of a two-run rally in the ninth inning that gave Boston a 3-2 win on April 20, 1920. Two days later, Karr, a right-handed thrower, made his mound debut at Griffith Stadium against the Washington Senators. It didn’t go so well, either. Coming on in relief, he retired just one batter, yielded two hits, two walks and two earned runs as the Red Sox blew a lead. He took the loss. Undaunted, Karr, who picked up the nickname “Baldy,” went on to win 35 games over six seasons with Boston and Cleveland, including an 11-win campaign with the 1925 Indians. He even hit .245 for his career. After attending Union University in Tennessee, he first entered pro ball in 1914 at age 21. “I took a pro contract because it gave me, a farm boy, a chance to see the country,” he told The Sporting News in an interview many years ago. Karr bounced around the minors for several years and served in the military for two before Boston signed him in 1919. He died in 1968. … Other anniversaries to be celebrated this season: Eighty years ago, Pascagoula native Harry Walker, who won a batting title in 1947, debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals. Sixty years ago, Hickory’s Joe Gibbon, the former two-sport star from Ole Miss, broke in with Pittsburgh. Forty years ago, Jackson’s Stan Cliburn would make his debut with the California Angels. Twenty years ago, ex-Petal High star Nate Rolison had his one brief fling in the majors with Florida. And 10 years ago, four Mississippi natives broke in: Rhyne Hughes with Baltimore, Mitch Moreland with Texas, Jarrod Dyson with Kansas City and John Lindsey with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Mitch Moreland and the Boston Red Sox have a thing. For the third time in four years, ex-Mississippi State star Moreland has signed as a free agent with the Red Sox. The latest deal is one year with an option worth $3 million. Over his three seasons with Boston, the lefty-hitting first baseman, 34, has batted .247 with 56 home runs and 205 RBIs. In two postseasons for the club, he is 10-for-30 with three doubles, a homer, five RBIs and seven runs. He has won a ring and made an All-Star Game appearance while with the BoSox. He won a Gold Glove with Texas in 2016. Before signing Moreland, Boston was heading into spring training with two young players, second-year man Michael Chavis and untested Bobby Dalbec, penciled in at first base. As Boston-based nesn.com described it, the Moreland addition “wasn’t a big move, but it was a prudent one.” Moreland, who broke in with the Rangers in 2010, has 166 career homers, seventh all-time among Mississippi natives. Nicknamed “2-Bags” while in Boston, he has 199 career doubles. … Notable Mississippians still on the MLB free agent market are Brian Dozier, Jarrod Dyson, Billy Hamilton and Tony Sipp.
Rumors that Arizona was interested in signing Brian Dozier to play second base apparently were quelled on Monday when the Diamondbacks traded for Starling Marte, who’ll play center field and make Ketel Marte the D’backs’ everyday second baseman. Former Southern Miss standout Dozier, who turns 33 in May, batted .238 (.340 on base) with 20 homers for world champion Washington in 2019, though he played sparingly toward season’s end and in the postseason. Dozier, an eight-year MLB veteran, is a career .245 hitter with 192 homers. He’s a good defensive player and a good clubhouse guy, even if his offensive production has fallen off, so it seems likely that he’ll land a job somewhere as a role player. P.S. Reports continue to pop up linking Mitch Moreland to Boston, where the Mississippi State product – and current free agent — played the previous three years, smashing 56 homers and collecting a World Series ring.
At last, a trickle of news on the free agent front: MassLive.com speculates that Mitch Moreland would be a “good fit” on Boston’s 2020 roster and might be available at a price the Red Sox would like. Moreland, the former Mississippi State standout from Amory, spent the previous three seasons with the Red Sox, making the All-Star Game and winning a World Series in 2018. A 10-year veteran, the left-handed hitting Moreland batted .252 with 19 homers in 2019, playing only 91 games because of back problems. He said late last season that he’d love to return to Boston. He made $6.5 million last year and, at age 34, may have to settle for much less for 2020. The Red Sox’s only first base options at the moment are Michael Chavis, a 2019 rookie, and Bobby Dalbec, a highly rated prospect who has yet to debut. Both are right-handed batters. … Other Mississippians remaining on the free agent market are Brian Dozier, Billy Hamilton, Jarrod Dyson and Tony Sipp, who reportedly might be on Oakland’s radar. Three have signed: Corey Dickerson with Miami, Kendall Graveman with Seattle and Drew Pomeranz with San Diego.
Corey Wimberly, the former Alcorn State star and longtime minor leaguer, is coaching for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League, which began play Wednesday. He has managed in the Boston Red Sox organization for the last two seasons, spending 2019 at Class A Salem. His charges lost in the Carolina League title series. Wimberly was an All-SWAC infielder for Alcorn who batted .462 with 42 stolen bases, 55 runs and 32 RBIs in 38 games in 2005. (Somehow, he did not win the Ferriss Trophy.) He was drafted as a sophomore-eligible in the sixth round by Colorado in 2005. Wimberly played 12 years of pro ball, reaching the Triple-A level (including a stint with Atlanta) but never getting the big league call. He batted .297 with 351 stolen bases for his career. He last played in the Mexican League three years ago. P.S. There are three Mississippi college products on the current AFL rosters. Ole Miss alum Brady Feigl, a right-hander in Oakland’s system, pitched a scoreless inning for Mesa in its opener. Ex-Southern Miss standout Kirk McCarty, a pitcher in the Cleveland system, is also on the Mesa club. USM product Bradley Roney, who pitched for the Mississippi Braves this season, gave up a home run but registered a hold for Scottsdale. M-Braves alum Trey Harris, Atlanta’s 2019 minor league player of the year, went 2-for-4 with a homer for the Scorpions.
On this date in 1990, Vicksburg native Ellis Burks hit two home runs in one inning for Boston in a game at Cleveland. He is one of 56 players to accomplish that feat in the modern era, and the only Mississippian (native or college alumnus) to do it. Among the others on the list are Joe DiMaggio, Mark McGwire, David Ortiz, Jeff Bagwell, Dale Murphy and Willie McCovey, who is one of five players to go deep twice in one inning TWICE. Burks, a first-round pick by the Red Sox out of a Texas junior college, debuted in the big leagues in 1987 and hit 352 homers in his 18-year career, including 40 in 1996 with Colorado. He finished his career in Boston, playing 11 games in 2004 in his age 40 season and earning a World Series ring when The Curse was vanquished.
There were five Mississippi college products in uniform for Tuesday night’s St. Louis-Pittsburgh game, and all five had something to feel good about. Start with Dakota Hudson, the ex-Mississippi State star. He went 6 1/3 innings in a 4-3 Cardinals victory, winning his fourth straight start to improve to 10-4 on the year. Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers did not pitch for St. Louis but was available in the bullpen for the first time since mid-April, having come off the injured list on Tuesday. MSU product Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh’s second baseman, led off the bottom of the first with a single and went 2-for-4 with a run. Former Meridian Community College standout Corey Dickerson, the Pirates’ left fielder, went 1-for-3 with a double, boosting his average to .301. And ex-State star Chris Stratton worked three perfect innings in relief for the Pirates. Hudson’s performance stole the show for a surging Cardinals club that has moved to within a half-game of first-place Chicago in the National League Central. After allowing a three-run homer in the first inning, Hudson pitched into the seventh without surrendering another run. He valiantly worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth, getting a strikeout (of Josh Bell) and a double-play ball. “What it comes down to, it’s just bearing down and having some guts and trusting your stuff to make quality pitches,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told mlb.com. St. Louis had taken the lead in the top of the fifth on a homer by Mississippi Braves alum Jose Martinez. P.S. Mitch Moreland, the State product from Amory, came off the IL and went 0-for-2 for Boston in a win at Tampa Bay. … Former Bulldogs star Jonathan Holder of Gulfport was recalled from the minors by the New York Yankees on Monday and pitched a clean inning that night at Minnesota. He did not appear in Tuesday’s wild 14-12 Yankees win.
It’s a good bet that Adam Frazier did not want to break for the All-Star Game — and not because he wasn’t invited to the event. Frazier, a Mississippi State alum, was on fire at the plate in the days leading up to the break. The Pittsburgh second baseman had 18 hits in seven games from July 1-7, raking at a .600 clip that raised his average to .287. He scored 11 runs and drove in seven and was named the National League’s player of the week for his efforts. Frazier will hit the restart button today when the Pirates play National League Central rival Chicago at Wrigley Field. The lefty-hitting Frazier figures to be in the lineup, probably leading off, against Cubs righty Yu Darvish. … On the other hand, Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High standout, was playing like someone who needed the All-Star break. The Kansas City center fielder, batting .217 for the year, hit .198 with just four RBIs and five runs in his previous 30 games. Renowned for his speed, he has just 16 steals in 78 games. It might not be a good sign for Hamilton that the Royals have called up prospect Bubba Starling, a center fielder in the minors. The Royals host Detroit today. P.S. Ole Miss product Lance Lynn earned his MLB-leading 12th win on Thursday, throwing seven innings (with 11 punchouts) in Texas’ 5-0 victory vs. Houston. Lynn is 5-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his last five starts. … Ex-Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland went 0-for-4 in his rehab debut with Triple-A Pawtucket. The Boston first baseman has been on the injured list for all but one game since May 25. He is batting .225 with 13 homers.