Limited to 81 games – four in the majors — in 2017 because of injury, Anthony Alford is making up for the lost at-bats in the Mexican Pacific League. The ex-Petal High star, a highly rated Toronto prospect, debuted for Jalisco on Nov. 22 and is batting .367 over his first 12 games. He has two three-hit games with a homer, six RBIs and eight runs. Alford, 23, jumped from Double-A to the big leagues last May but got hurt and spent the rest of the season in the minors. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound outfielder batted .310 with five homers in 68 games at New Hampshire. P.S. Detroit has signed veteran Leonys Martin, ostensibly to compete with Richton High product JaCoby Jones for the center field job. Jones batted .170 with three homers, 13 RBIs and six steals in 56 games with the Tigers. He was hit in the face by a pitch early in the season and spent time on the disabled list.
Former Madison Central High standout Spencer Turnbull, trying to make a case for a spot on Detroit’s 40-man roster, is having mixed results in the Arizona Fall League. The right-hander, who would be eligible for next month’s Rule 5 draft if not protected, is 2-2 with a 3.74 ERA in six starts for Mesa. He worked 3 2/3 innings on Tuesday, yielding three runs on six hits and two walks while taking the loss. A 2014 second-round pick out of Alabama, Turnbull has endured two straight injury-plagued seasons (shoulder, elbow). He was 7-3, 3.05 at Class A Lakeland in 2017, then went 0-3, 6.20 in six Double-A starts at Erie. MLB Pipeline rates Turnbull as the No. 28 prospect in the Tigers’ system. Reports say he has big league stuff — he just needs to stay healthy. P.S. Meanwhile, down in Mexico, David Goforth is hoping to catch someone’s attention with his showing in the Mexican Pacific League. A minor league free agent, the Neshoba Central High and Ole Miss alum has a 1.96 ERA in 16 appearances for Culiacan, with a win and two saves. Despite solid numbers in Triple-A in 2017, Goforth, 29, only got one big league appearance with Milwaukee. He has pitched in 31 MLB games overall – all for the Brewers — since 2015. In 2014, with Huntsville in the Southern League, he put up 27 saves.
Numbers generally don’t lie in baseball. And Zac Houston’s numbers are telling us this: He’s got strikeout stuff. Houston, the former Mississippi State star from Poplarville, fanned the side in an Arizona Fall League game on Monday, giving him four punchouts in two innings of scoreless relief for Mesa. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound right-hander, an 11th-round pick by Detroit in 2016, reached high-A ball this season. He had an 0.77 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings for Lakeland. Over 87 2/3 innings as a pro, Houston has 140 strikeouts, or 14.4 per nine innings. That’s strikeout stuff. He throws an upper 90s fastball and a quality slider. His walk totals are a bit high (4.6 per nine) but probably not a major concern at this point. Houston turns 23 next month. Baseball America ranked him as the Tigers’ No. 23 prospect entering 2017; MLB Pipeline doesn’t currently have him in the top 30. That should change.
In the wake of the news that Brad Ausmus is out after this season as manager of the Detroit Tigers, one has to wonder: Will Dave Clark be considered for the job in 2018? The former Shannon High and Jackson State slugger has been the Tigers’ third-base coach for four years. He knows the players. He has managed in the minors, where he won a couple of championships, and in winter league ball. And he has big league managerial experience, having served as Houston’s interim skipper for 13 games at the end of the 2009 season. Clark was a good player, as well, for parts of 13 seasons with several clubs. You’d like to think he has a shot at this job.
The sight of Tim Anderson coming to the plate likely doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of many major league pitchers. But Detroit’s Matt Boyd, one out away from a no-hitter, might rather have faced someone other than the former East Central Community College star. Anderson, a .262 hitter on the season, entered today’s game batting .429 in September and coming off his first career four-hit game for Chicago. What’s more, the right-handed hitting Anderson was 8-for-23 (.348) against left-hander Boyd over the last two seasons. He’s now 9-for-27. In the ninth, Boyd fell behind in the count 2-0, then threw a changeup, which Anderson was looking for. He sliced it into right-center field for a double, spoiling the no-no in what was otherwise an awful day for the White Sox, who lost 12-0 at Comerica Park.
It’s showtime for JaCoby Jones, the ex-Richton High star now playing center field for the Detroit Tigers. Jones took a star turn on Tuesday in a 13-2 win over Kansas City, smacking a pair of home runs and driving in three runs all told. The Tigers want to see more of that from the 25-year-old rookie over the next few weeks. It has been a rocky year for Jones, who has been up and down from Detroit to the minors several times after winning the center field job in spring training. Now getting regular playing time again for an also-ran club, he has eight hits in his last 31 at-bats, a modest .258 average but a jump from his season clip of .183. The homers on Tuesday were his first since his only other big league bomb in April. He has 10 RBIs. He also has 38 strikeouts in 82 ABs. A converted infielder, Jones is an athletic center fielder at 6 feet 2, 205 pounds with speed and power. This is only his fifth year of pro ball, but he is 25. If he’s going to be an impact player, the time is at hand. P.S. Former Mississippi State standout Hunter Renfroe of Crystal Springs is San Diego’s nominee for the 2017 Roberto Clemente Award. The award goes to the major leaguer who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Renfroe, who was the Padres’ opening day right fielder, is currently back in the minors. … Ex-Jackson Mets skipper Clint Hurdle has been given a four-year extension (through 2021) as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hurdle, who won the National League Manager of the Year award in 2013, has been with the Pirates since 2011.
Ready or not, MLB’s Players Weekend arrives today, complete with alternate uniforms, funky accessories and, for some players, nicknames on their backs. Many traditionalists will be cringing. Here’s a sampling of what Mississippians will be wearing: Billy Hamilton is “Bone,” Zack Cozart is “Coach,” Drew Pomeranz is “Big Smooth,” Tim Anderson is “B. Moss” (in honor of a childhood friend killed earlier this year), Mitch Moreland is “2-Bags,” Kendall Graveman is “Digger,” Brian Dozier is “Doz,” and Tyler Moore is “T-Mo.” Jarrod Dyson was slated to wear “Zoombiya” (from his twitter handle) but is on the disabled list, as is Bobby “Peanut” Wahl. Seth Smith, whose unofficial nickname is “Dad” (after the character on American Dad), is sticking with “Smith.” Good call. P.S. Amidst all the shouting and brawling and ejecting at Comerica Park on Thursday, JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High, had a good day for Detroit: 2-for-4, two RBIs and a stolen base. … Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland homered twice for Boston in its loss to Cleveland and now has 17 on the season, three in the last two days. … Ex-Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson went deep for Tampa Bay in a win against Toronto. Dickerson has 24 homers. … J.T. Ginn, a pitcher/infielder at Brandon High, made the 20-man roster for USA Baseball’s Under-18 World Cup team. The team will compete in the tournament in Thunder Bay, Canada, from Sept. 1-10. Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray was among the 40 finalists invited to the national trials. Ginn, 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, a Mississippi State commit, was 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings for Brandon in 2017. He also hit .483 with 16 homers.