20 Mar

give him the ball

Lance Lynn appears to be making strides on his comeback trail. The Ole Miss product, who missed 2016 after Tommy John surgery, threw five shutout innings for St. Louis against Atlanta on Sunday, reducing his ERA this spring to 1.29 in 14 innings over four starts. He wasn’t razor sharp vs. the Braves, but the big right-hander did what he does: He battled. Lynn, who won 60 games for the Cardinals from 2012-15, made at least 29 starts and threw at least 175 innings in each of those seasons. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he expects nothing less in 2017. “If you set yourself below that,” he said, “why take the ball?” The Cardinals in general should be angry birds. They missed the postseason last year, snapping a streak going back to 2010, and then watched the rival Chicago Cubs win it all. Lynn, who’ll turn 30 in May, may also be motivated by the fact he is eligible for free agency after this season. P.S. Joey Butler – remember him? – got a hit in his lone at-bat on Sunday for Washington, which had summoned the Pascagoula native from minor league camp. Butler, 31 and now with his fifth organization, batted .276 with eight homers for Tampa Bay in 2015 but spent all of 2016 in Triple-A with Cleveland. He might get stuck there again with the Nationals.

17 Mar

take it on run

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.

16 Mar

spotlight on …

In Goodyear, Ariz., Cincinnati and San Diego hooked up in a wild Cactus League game on Wednesday that saw several Mississippians make an imprint. For the Padres, former Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe hit his first homer of the spring, a two-run shot in the first inning against Northwest Mississippi Community College alum Cody Reed. Renfroe, expected to be the Padres’ opening day right fielder, is hitting .278 this spring. Lefty Reed, battling for a job on the Reds’ staff, went 3 2/3 innings and allowed four hits, a walk and three runs while punching out seven. His CL ERA is now 4.91. The Reds rallied to win the game 8-7 as Billy Hamilton, Zack Cozart and Stuart Turner chipped in with noteworthy contributions. Taylorsville’s Hamilton, batting just .233 this spring, went 3-for-3, stole two bases, scored a run and drove in one. Ole Miss product Cozart, a .360 hitter, went 2-for-3 with his first CL homer, and ex-Rebels star Stuart Turner, in camp as a Rule 5 draftee, boosted his average to .450 with a pair of hits. P.S. Greenwood native Louis Coleman, yet another Mississippian with the Reds, made his spring debut on Tuesday and threw a clean inning. He had been shelved by a minor arm problem.

14 Mar

if the role fits

Former Mississippi State standout Adam Frazier is getting a lot of at-bats – and hits – while playing a lot of positions for Pittsburgh this spring, tuning up for what is expected to be a role as a super-utility player. Frazier batted leadoff and went 4-for-4 against Atlanta on Monday, raising his Grapefruit League average to .462. He has a homer, seven RBIs and seven runs in 26 ABs. He played center field, the sixth position he has manned this spring. “Anyway to get on the field,” Frazier said in an mlb.com article. “That’s the role I have on this team, I believe.” Frazier, a sixth-round pick in 2013 out of State, rose swiftly in the Pirates’ system and made his big league debut last summer, batting .301 in a reserve role. “We like what he’s doing,” said manager Clint Hurdle, the former Jackson Mets skipper. … Spring cleaning: State alum Mitch Moreland hit his first Grapefruit League homer for Boston on Monday; he’s batting .316 with his new club. … Ex-Ole Miss star Stuart Turner, trying to make Cincinnati’s roster as a Rule 5 draftee, is batting .389, the best average among any catcher in Reds camp. … Oakland has optioned UM alum Bobby Wahl to Triple-A, and San Francisco did the same with State product Chris Stratton. … Picayune High product T.J. House, hit in the back of the head by a batted ball last Friday, is back in Toronto’s camp but not expected to participate in any baseball activities for a few more days. The left-hander is in camp on a minor league contract. … Former Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley, expected to play at the Double-A level this year, has gotten some ABs with Cleveland’s big league team the last couple of days, going 1-for-4. Bradley, a top prospect at first base, hit 29 homers in A-ball in 2016. … Other minor league players with Mississippi ties who have gotten called to big league camp this month include: Austin Riley (Atlanta), Brandon Woodruff (Milwaukee), Tim Dillard (Milwaukee), Cody Satterwhite (Baltimore), Auston Bousfield (San Diego), Jacob Waguespack (Philadelphia), Ti’Quan Forbes (Texas), Daniel Sweet (Cincinnati), J.B. Woodman (Toronto) and D.J. Davis (Toronto).

07 Mar

new faces, new places

It has been a quiet spring for Seth Smith. Too quiet. The Jackson native and ex-Ole Miss star is 0-for-9 in four games with his new club, the Baltimore Orioles. But with the team’s World Baseball Classic participants heading out, Smith is expected to play more regularly in the coming days. The O’s host the Dominican Republic team today in Sarasota, Fla. Believe it or not, Smith is 34 and entering his ninth full season in the big leagues. The lefty-hitting outfielder, a .261 career hitter with 113 homers, has gone from Colorado to Oakland to San Diego to Seattle to Baltimore, which traded for him in January. Smith is coming off a productive year: He hit 16 homers and drove in a career-high 63 runs for the Mariners. He batted just .249 but put up a .342 on-base percentage. Smith likely will platoon in right field for Buck Showalter’s O’s, who made the postseason in 2016. … Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland, who also changed teams this year, is also having a quiet spring. Now with American League East heavyweight Boston after seven years in Texas, Moreland is 2-for-11 in Grapefruit League play, with three RBIs. … Jarrod Dyson, the Southwest Mississippi Community College alum, has been more impactful with his new club, Seattle. Dyson, who won a ring with Kansas City in 2015, is 6-for-17 (.353) with two RBIs, two runs and a stolen base for the M’s, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2001.

06 Mar

future’s so bright …

Former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley got to rub elbows with the Atlanta big leaguers over the weekend and apparently did not look out of place. Riley, 19, a supplemental first-round pick by the Braves in 2015, went 2-for-2 in a Grapefruit League game on Saturday and 0-for-2 with a walk on Sunday. Braves manager Brian Snitker was impressed. “I’ve heard a lot about him, seen him in Instructional League. He’s a man. I mean, that’s real-deal right there,” Snitker, the former Mississippi Braves manager, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Riley, 6 feet 3, 220 pounds, is rated the No. 8 third base prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline and is a consensus top 15 in the Braves’ stacked system, which is rated No. 1 overall by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. Riley played at the low Class A level in 2016, batting .271 with 20 homers in his first full year in Atlanta’s system, and he has 32 homers in 189 pro games. He figures to start 2017 with the high-A Florida Fire Frogs in the Florida State League and arrive at Double-A Mississippi next season, though that timetable can certainly change. As highly regarded as he is, Riley isn’t one of the seven Braves players ranked among the top 100 prospects by MLB Pipeline. That list does include 2016 M-Braves Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Sean Newcomb. “It’s pretty neat what the future’s going to look like here,” Snitker told the AJC. P.S. Tyler Moore is making a strong bid to stick with Miami. The Mississippi State product from Brandon smacked his third homer of the spring on Sunday and is batting .462. Limited by injuries in 2016, the right-handed hitting first baseman hit three homers in 25 games for Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves’ organization. He signed a minor league deal with the Marlins in the off-season. Moore has 24 MLB homers spread over four seasons, all with Washington.

01 Mar

big league chew

Zack Cozart, the former Ole Miss star, is expected to make his spring debut today for Cincinnati, which is 0-5 in Cactus League play. Cozart, a pending free agent who has been the subject of trade rumors, missed the last few weeks of the 2016 season with a knee issue but reportedly is fine now. He hit .252 with 16 homers last year. … Lance Lynn, another notable UM alum, made his spring debut on Monday for St. Louis; he threw two innings (35 pitches) and yielded four singles, a walk and a run against Washington. The right-hander, coming off Tommy John surgery in 2015, made a few minor league appearances late in 2016 but did not pitch in the big leagues. He is 61-39 with a 3.37 ERA for his career. Lynn, who’ll be 30 in May, is in the last year of a three-year contract. … Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson contributed two hits and a run in Tampa Bay’s wild 19-0 win over Minnesota on Tuesday. … Former Southern Miss standout Brian Dozier did not play for the Twins in that game and has appeared in only one of Minnesota’s five Grapefruit League contests. There are no reports of him being injured. … East Central CC alum Tim Anderson, coming off a strong rookie season with the Chicago White Sox, has hit the field swinging this spring. With two hits on Tuesday, he lifted his average to .556. He may be the club’s leadoff batter in 2017. … Ex-Mississippi State standout Tyler Moore, a non-roster invitee in Miami’s camp, is batting .667 with two homers and three RBIs to date. … UM product Alex Presley, trying to stick with Detroit, hit his first homer of the spring on Tuesday. … Ex-State star Chad Girodo, taken off Toronto’s 40-man roster just before spring games began, threw his second scoreless inning for the Blue Jays on Tuesday. … UM alum David Goforth, in a similar situation with Milwaukee, also threw a second scoreless inning. … Bobby Wahl, the former Rebels standout who is new to Oakland’s 40-man roster, got roughed up in his outing on Tuesday, allowing two runs while fanning three.