Kris Medlen had what might be called plus-enthusiasm, not an official tool in the baseball parlance but a good one to have. You could see it in the way he pitched back when he first passed through Trustmark Park with the Mississippi Braves, and you could hear it in the way he talked about the game. The vibrant right-hander’s career came to a somber end on Saturday when he announced his retirement, at age 32, in the midst of his 13th pro season. He made one appearance with Arizona this year and was 0-5 with a 5.03 ERA at Triple-A Reno when he decided to call it quits. Two Tommy John surgeries — one in 2010, the second in 2014 — took a heavy toll on Medlen’s arm and his career, which at times was brilliant, drawing Greg Maddux comparisons. Medlen helped the M-Braves to their only Southern League pennant in 2008. He went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA for Atlanta in 2012 and won 15 games for the Braves the next season. After missing the entire 2014 season, he signed with Kansas City and won a World Series ring with the Royals in 2015. Released by KC in 2016, Medlen got another shot with the Braves in 2017. He made a couple of appearances for the M-Braves that summer but didn’t get back to Atlanta. Arizona signed him this spring. His career MLB record is 41-26 with an ERA of 3.33 over parts of eight seasons. Nothing to hang your head about — and surely Medlen isn’t doing that.
Cleveland put on a pitching clinic against Kansas City over the weekend, shutting out the Royals three straight games. Starters Ryan Merritt, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco each worked at least six innings, and an array of relievers cleaned up. The Indians opened up 9-game lead on third-place KC in the American League Central and are 6.5 up on Minnesota. The Tribe leads all of MLB with 15 shutouts and leads the AL with a 3.60 ERA. Behind the scenes, directing this show of arms, is Mickey Callaway, the ex-Ole Miss pitcher now in his fifth year as manager Terry Francona’s pitching coach. The Indians have ranked among the league ERA leaders in each of those seasons. Last year, with a staff thinned by injuries, Cleveland made it past Boston and Toronto in the playoffs and all the way to Game 7 of the World Series before falling to the Chicago Cubs. Callaway, widely considered managerial material, rates a chunk of credit in all of this. Next on the agenda for him and his staff is the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium, a power-hitting team in a hitter’s park.
Gotta love this comment from Jarrod Dyson: “I want to take that job and run with it.” The ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star was talking to an mlb.com writer about being Seattle’s everyday left fielder and leadoff batter. And of course, running is what Dyson does best. He has 176 stolen bases (and 211 runs) in 550 career MLB games. And he tracks down virtually everything in the outfield. The Mariners, who traded for Dyson in the off-season, want him to play every day. Manager Scott Servais has said the team is better with Dyson at the top of the lineup. The key will be how well the left-handed hitting Dyson fares against lefty pitching. He is a .231 career hitter against lefties, .260 overall with a .325 on-base percentage. The Royals used Dyson a lot as a pinch runner, pinch hitter and defensive replacement, and he played a key role in their World Series trips in 2014 and ’15. He had hopes of winning a regular job last spring but was derailed by an injury. Now the Mariners are going to give him another shot at full-time duty. The McComb native has had a great spring: .343, five steals. The former 50th-round draft pick is 32 but showing no signs of slowing down. He hit .278 with 30 bags for the Royals last summer.
Having traded away a Mississippian today, Seattle then dealt for one. Welcome to the Mariners, Jarrod Dyson. The M’s, who earlier shipped lefty-hitting outfielder Seth Smith to Baltimore for pitcher Yovani Gallardo, traded pitcher Nathan Karns to Kansas City for Dyson, another lefty-hitting outfielder. Dyson’s game is more about speed and defense than Smith’s (see previous post). The ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College standout has 176 steals over parts of seven MLB campaigns; he’s a .260 career hitter who can play any of the outfield spots. He put up good numbers in a reserve role in 2016: .278, 14 doubles, eight triples, 25 RBIs, 46 runs and 30 steals in 107 games. Kansas City is the only club Dyson has played for.
A 3 games to 1 deficit is certainly a slippery slope but not the end of the world in the World Series. The Chicago Cubs – and their legion of fans – can find some measure of hope in the fact that five teams have crawled out of that hole to win the championship. The last two times it happened, Mississippi natives were on the winning side. In 1985, Greenville’s Frank White was a key contributor for Kansas City as it rallied past St. Louis in the Series many remember for umpire Don Denkinger’s bad call in Game 6. White batted .250 for the Royals with three doubles, a home run, six RBIs and four runs and had two hits, two runs and two RBIs over the final three games. He also played his usual stellar defense at second base. In 1979, Grenada’s Dave Parker (sometimes listed as being born in Calhoun City) had a big series for Pittsburgh as the “We Are Family” Pirates stormed back to beat Baltimore. Parker, the Bucs’ right fielder, hit .345 with three doubles, four RBIs and two runs in the Series and delivered a key knock in Game 6. The current Cubs do have a Mississippi connection in Ole Miss product Chris Coghlan, though his contributions to this point have been minimal. Maybe that’ll change. For the Cubs, something needs to change.
Though his team, the defending world champ, has been eliminated from the postseason race, Jarrod Dyson is surging toward the finish line. Dyson, the former McComb High and Southwest Mississippi Community College star, tripled, drove in a run and scored twice in Kansas City’s loss to Minnesota on Thursday. Over his last 15 games, the lefty-hitting outfielder is batting .353 with 10 runs and five RBIs. For the year, he’s at .271 with eight triples, 45 runs, 25 RBIs and 29 stolen bases. Dyson, who made $1.73M in 2016, is arbitration-eligible again after this season, and speculation is the Royals will seek to bring him back. … Also closing with a kick for an also-ran club is Tim Anderson, the rookie out of East Central CC. Anderson, the Chicago White Sox shortstop, had two hits against Tampa Bay on Thursday and is batting .323 over his last seven games. He is batting .280 with eight homers, 28 RBIs, 55 runs and 10 steals since his June call-up. … Worthy of mention is Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman, whose Oakland team has been out of the hunt for a long time. Though he is winless over his last six starts, Graveman has pitched valiantly in some big games against contenders, including two against Texas and another vs. Seattle on Thursday. “You always need a guy that you look at as your guy,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told csnbayarea.com. “He’s embraced it; I think he’s proud of the fact that he’s that guy.” Graveman finished 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA for a team that currently sits at 67-92.
The numbers are in. MLB’s Statcast numbers, that is, on Hunter Renfroe’s ginormous home run, the one that went where no ball has gone before – the roof of the Western Metal Supply Co. building beyond the left-field wall at San Diego’s Petco Park. Statcast put the distance of Wednesday night’s blast at 434 feet and the exit velocity of the ball off the bat at 109 mph. “I think we all know he’s got a ton of raw power. I wasn’t expecting that,” Padres manager Andy Green told mlb.com. Former Mississippi State star Renfroe, 6 feet 1, 220 pounds, now has four homers in 21 MLB at-bats, with 12 RBIs and six runs. No doubt there are some old Copiah Academy fans who are saying today, “Oh yeah, we saw this coming.” Renfroe hit a Mississippi private school-record 20 bombs for Copiah as a senior just six short years ago. He hit 15 homers his junior year at the Gallman school. He started slowly at State but flexed his muscles as a junior in 2013, belting 16 homers (while batting .345) and earning All-America honors. He also won the Ferriss Trophy that year and was drafted in the first round by the Padres. He hit 77 minor league homers before crashing The Show on Sept. 21. Elsewhere in MLB: Ole Miss product Seth Smith drove in two runs to help Seattle crush Houston 12-4 and hang 2 games out of an American League wild card berth. … Jarrod Dyson, the former Southwest Mississippi Community College star, got two hits, two runs and his 29th steal of the year as Kansas City beat Minnesota 5-2. But Ned Yost’s Royals were eliminated from AL wild card contention just the same. … The fingerprints of former Mississippi Braves were all over Atlanta’s 12-2 win against Philadelphia. The incredible Freddie Freeman extended his hit streak to 30 games; rookie Dansby Swanson – who can play a little, too – went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs; Daniel Castro had three hits and three RBIs; Mallex Smith scored a run; John Gant threw a scoreless inning; and Rio Ruiz got his first big league knock, a triple. … And a blast from another past: John Jaso’s cycle was the first by a Pittsburgh player since former Jackson Generals star Daryle Ward turned the trick in 2004. Ward had five career triples.