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.
Miami has optioned Braxton Lee to the minors, which shouldn’t have come as a big surprise to the 24-year-old outfielder who hasn’t played above Double-A. At one stage in the off-season, when the Marlins were in the process of purging their 2017 roster, Ole Miss product Lee was the only center fielder on the depth chart. The club has since added Cameron Maybin and Lewis Brinson. Lee, a lefty hitter with outstanding speed, likely will start 2018 at Triple-A New Orleans. The Picayune native is coming off a breakthrough year in which he hit .309 to win the Southern League batting crown and raked at a .347 clip in the Arizona Fall League. Drafted in the 12th round in 2014 by Tampa Bay, Lee was traded last summer, moving from Montgomery to Jacksonville in the SL without missing a beat. He hit .219 with four steals in 20 MLB spring training games. Rated Miami’s No. 17 prospect by MLB Pipeline, he’ll be heard from again.
Fans in Goodyear, Ariz., were treated to a noteworthy Mississippi matchup in the Cactus League on Saturday. Cody Reed, the former Northwest Mississippi Community College star from Horn Lake, opposed Chris Stratton, the ex-Mississippi State standout from Tupelo, as Cincinnati took on San Francisco. Both pitchers are trying to nail down a job on the big league roster. Reed, a left-hander, had the better day in a 5-4 Reds win, going four innings and allowing two runs – on solo homers in his final inning – with three strikeouts and no walks. “Throwing strikes – that was big for me,” Reed said in a video posted on mlb.com. “I got a lot of swing-and-misses today. … I feel good.” He has a 5.11 ERA this spring and a 6.75 in 22 big league games with the Reds over the last two seasons. Right-hander Stratton threw four shutout innings for the Giants before giving up four runs in the fifth. He allowed six hits with four punchouts and no walks as his spring ERA rose to 3.86. Stratton has appeared in 20 MLB games the last two years and has a 3.67 ERA. Reed-Stratton is a matchup we might be seeing again during the 2018 season, when as many as six Magnolia State products may be starting games in The Show. The others: Lance Lynn, Drew Pomeranz, Kendall Graveman and Brandon Woodruff.
Great quote from Buck Showalter, the former Mississippi State star now managing the Baltimore Orioles: “We’re lying in the weeds,” he told Mike Lupica of mlb.com. “I just don’t know how deep the weeds are.” Showalter might just find a way through – even in the same division as the great and powerful New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. In eight seasons with the O’s, he has a 622-569 record and only twice had a losing campaign. … Bad luck with injuries has struck Anthony Alford again. The ex-Petal High standout, who had performed well in Toronto’s big league camp, has a hamstring strain that will sideline him for up to six weeks. Alford, a highly rated prospect, missed time last season and in 2016 with injuries. … Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz, who has been limited by a mild flexor strain in his left forearm, threw a bullpen session in Florida on Thursday but is still not expected to be ready by opening day for Boston. … UM product Mike Mayers reportedly has pitched his way into contention for a spot in the St. Louis bullpen. In nine innings this spring, he has a 0.00 ERA with 10 strikeouts and just five hits allowed. He also pitched well in winter ball. … Former Southern Miss star Cody Carroll called his first big league camp with the Yankees an “awesome” experience. In an interview with MLB Pipeline, Carroll said he has been working on a splitter to go with his fastball/slider repertoire. He reached Double-A in 2017 and was outstanding in the Arizona Fall League. … Just wondering: Whatever happened to Rafael Palmeiro’s comeback?
A rookie outfielder appears poised to crack Atlanta’s opening day roster, but it’s not top prospect Ronald Acuna. Dustin Peterson, who had a huge year for the Mississippi Braves in 2016, has had an outstanding spring for the Braves and is in the mix for playing time in left field. Peterson, 23, is batting .318 with two homers and six RBIs. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-handed hitter, acquired from San Diego in 2014, was a Southern League MVP candidate two years ago when he batted .282 with 12 homers, 88 RBIs and 38 doubles for an M-Braves team that played for the league title. Peterson played well in big league camp last year but suffered a broken hand that pretty much wrecked his 2017 season. “It’s a shame he got hurt because who knows what his story would be right now, the way he was swinging the bat last year,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Peterson batted .248 with one homer in 87 games at Triple-A Gwinnett, but indications are he’s got his power back this spring. P.S. Seven other M-Braves alums are currently projected by mlb.com to make the initial 25-man roster: Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Johan Camargo, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino and A.J. Minter.
Lance Lynn is slated to make his spring debut today with Minnesota, pitching against Baltimore in a Grapefruit League game. The Ole Miss product formally signed a one-year deal with the Twins on Monday. He is among several free agents inked by a Minnesota club which has its sights on a playoff berth in 2018. “People want to win and be part of a good atmosphere,” said ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier, the Twins’ best player (and a pending free agent). Lynn went 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA in 33 starts for St. Louis in 2017. With ace Ervin Santana currently out with a finger injury, Lynn is penciled in as the Twins’ No. 2 starter behind 23-year-old Jose Berrios. … Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff, vying for a spot as a starting pitcher for Milwaukee, also goes out today against Texas in the Cactus League. In three appearances, Woodruff has yielded five earned runs over 3 2/3 innings. He may be ticketed to start the season in the minors. … Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford, not expected to make Toronto’s opening day roster, is batting .323 after a 1-for-4 on Monday. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, the ex-Jackson Mets catcher, raved recently on MLB Network about the progress Alford has made since he began playing baseball fulltime in the fall of 2014. “The sky’s the limit,” Gibbons said. Alford will get another shot with the Jays sometime this season. … Mississippi State alum Chris Stratton appears on track to earn a spot in San Francisco’s rotation. The Tupelo native allowed two hits and one run with three strikeouts in four innings on Monday, cutting his spring ERA to 2.25. … Ex-Bulldogs star Hunter Renfroe has hit three homers for San Diego this spring but is batting just .216 with nine strikeouts in 37 at-bats. The team’s regular right fielder much of 2017, he isn’t currently projected to start. … Ole Miss product Alex Presley, in Baltimore’s camp on a minor league deal, has hit well (.323) but is probably a longshot to make the 25-man roster. … Ex-State standout Jonathan Holder has had a good spring with the New York Yankees, posting a 1.42 ERA in five appearances, but is far down the pecking order in the team’s stacked bullpen. USM product Cody Carroll, in New York’s camp as a non-roster invitee, has also impressed: 3-0, 1.80 ERA in four games. … Tony Sipp, the veteran out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, has a 7.71 ERA in five spring outings but likely will stick in Houston’s bullpen again, possibly as the lone left-hander. …Meanwhile, veteran big leaguers Seth Smith, Tyler Moore and Chris Coghlan remain unsigned.
The Detroit Tigers apparently like JaCoby Jones’ defense in the outfield. What the former Richton High star probably needs are more days like Friday with the bat to stick with the club out of spring training. Jones belted a three-run homer – his first in the Grapefruit League – against the New York Mets, going deep against big leaguer Hansel Robles. Jones is batting .412 (.706 slugging) with six RBIs in 17 spring at-bats. He was the Tigers’ opening day center fielder in 2017 but was hit in the face by a pitch early on and spent much of the rest of the season in the minors. The Tigers signed Leonys Martin to play center field in the off-season. Jones is now among the candidates to play left – or serve as a fourth outfielder. The ex-LSU standout, 25, has played in 69 MLB games over the last two years and batted .178 with three homers, 15 RBIs and six steals. Jones lists at 6 feet 2, 205 pounds and runs and throws well (he’s a former shortstop). But he’s gotta hit. P.S. Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland, whose at-bats may be limited in Boston this season now that J.D. Martinez is in the fold, took an 0-for-3 on Friday and is hitting .143 this spring. … Former Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton went 0-for-2 for Cincinnati and is 0-for-18 on the spring. That’s got to be concerning for the Reds. … Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers, trying to nail down a bullpen job with St. Louis, threw two perfect innings with four strikeouts. He hasn’t allowed a run in seven innings and has fanned nine. He pitched very well in winter ball, as well.
Don’t look now, but Austin Riley – who has been getting advice from Chipper Jones this spring – is starting to hit. The ex-DeSoto Central High star went 2-for-3 with a homer today in Atlanta’s 5-1 Grapefruit League win over Toronto. After an 0-for-8 start in Florida, the 20-year-old third baseman is now 4-for-19 with two bombs, four RBIs and four runs. Riley graciously gives some credit to Jones. “It’s been an honor to be around that type of player and pick his brain about, really, the mental side of hitting and the importance of trying to get inside the pitcher’s head,” Riley told mlb.com. Riley, a top 10 Braves prospect, is in camp as a non-roster invitee. He’ll likely play at Triple-A Gwinnett this season and could make the majors in 2019. He hit .275 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs overall last season at high Class A Florida and Double-A Mississippi. For what it’s worth, he looks the part of a third baseman: 6 feet 3, 220 pounds. And he has the arm to play there.
Saturday’s marquee matchup – if there is such a thing in spring training – was the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox game in Ft. Myers, Fla. Southern Miss product Cody Carroll got the win and Mississippi State alum Jonathan Holder the save – they combined for three scoreless innings – for the Yankees in a 5-3 victory. Ex-State star Mitch Moreland went 1-for-3 for the BoSox. They were three of the 18 Magnolia State products who appeared in spring games on Saturday. Another worth noting: Hunter Renfroe, the former Mississippi State standout from Crystal Springs, went 2-for-4 with a homer – his second of the spring – in San Diego’s win against Oakland in Arizona. Renfroe, battling to keep a job with the Padres, had an RBI single off former Bulldogs ace Kendall Graveman, who started and yielded four runs in 1 1/3 innings. Ole Miss alum Bobby Wahl also pitched in that game for the A’s. Others who showed up in the box scores: Mike Mayers, Alex Presley, Louis Coleman, Spencer Turnbull, Corey Dickerson (see previous post), Braxton Lee, Bobby Bradley, Ti’Quan Forbes, T.J. House, Billy Hamilton, Brandon Woodruff and Jack Kruger. P.S. Sad to see that Jacob Lindgren, the former St. Stanislaus High and MSU star, has been shelved with soreness in his left elbow in Atlanta’s camp. Lindgren, a second-round pick by the Yankees in 2014, made the majors in 2015 but has barely pitched the last two seasons because of injury. He had Tommy John surgery in 2016. “We’re going to make sure with him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about shutting Lindgren down for a time.
Though it wasn’t a storybook moment, Corey Dickerson has symbolically turned a page in his career. The McComb native made his first plate appearance in a Pittsburgh uniform today, striking out against Philadelphia’s Ben Lively in a Grapefruit League game. Cast off – technically “designated for assignment” — by Tampa Bay in a rather surprising move on Feb. 18, Dickerson learned four days later he had been traded to Pittsburgh. He reported to Pirates camp in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday. He spent his time in baseball limbo back in Mississippi, where his wife gave birth to their second child. He also worked out at Meridian Community College, where he played in 2009 and ’10. Dickerson, who played high school ball at Brookhaven Academy, was an eighth-round draft pick by the Rockies out of MCC in 2010 and arrived in the big leagues in 2013. The 28-year-old came into this spring with a .280 average, 90 homers and 256 RBIs in 563 big league games, split between Colorado and Tampa Bay. An All-Star starter in 2017, the last thing he expected was to be DFA’d just after spring camp began in an apparent salary dump. “It’s hard to stomach,” he told mlb.com. “At the time, I was caught off guard.” In a sense, it was a lateral move. Neither the Rays nor the Pirates are expected to contend. Dickerson, a lefty hitter, is expected to be the Pirates’ left fielder, joining Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in what shapes up as a pretty good outfield. P.S. Staying on the Pirates track: Adam Frazier isn’t expected to hold a regular job with Clint Hurdle’s Bucs but does figure to get a fair number of at-bats as a utility man. The Mississippi State alum, who had quite a day at the plate on Friday (three hits, including a triple, three RBIs and two runs), enjoyed a solid 2017 campaign. He batted .276 with six homers, 53 RBIs and 55 runs in 121 games in his second big league season, and he also won the Pirates’ Heart and Hustle Award.