The emotional rollercoaster passed through Detroit on Friday, taking the Tigers from elation to anger with a final stop at dejection. Richton High product JaCoby Jones was in the middle of the dogpile in the 10th inning after delivering what was first thought to be a game-winning knock against Pittsburgh. Replay said otherwise. Tigers runner Nicholas Castellanos was ruled out at the plate, with McComb native Corey Dickerson – in his Pirates debut – getting an assist on what was a pretty sad throw from left field. Former Jackson Mets star Ron Gardenhire – in his debut as Detroit manager – was ejected arguing the reversal. The game went on, and, as fate would have it, the Pirates won in 13 innings in just under 5½ hours. Football-like weather produced a football-like score – 13-10 – on opening day at Comerica Park. The Tigers blew a save in the ninth and fell behind 10-6 before scoring four in the bottom half to extend the game. Then came the soul-crushing 10th. Jones, who entered as a pinch runner in the seventh inning, had a good day: 2-for-2 with a walk and a run. Of course, he’d have felt a whole lot better about it if he’d also gotten that RBI. For the Pirates, ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier went 3-for-7 and scored twice. He was aboard in the 13th when Gregory Polanco hit the game-winning three-run homer. Dickerson, the Meridian Community College alum acquired from Tampa Bay in February, had one hit and an RBI in six trips. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout Braxton Lee from Picayune made his big league debut for Miami, going 0-for-4 in the 17-inning win against the Chicago Cubs. … Taylorsville High alum Billy Hamilton, batting ninth for Cincinnati, was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts as the Reds opened their season with a loss to Washington.
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.
One of the great quotes in one of the great baseball movies, “Moneyball,” goes something like this: “We’re all told at some point that we can no longer play the children’s game. Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40. But we’re all told.” It’s the harsh reality for anyone who loves to play — and they will fight it ‘til the bitter end. Take the case of Cody Satterwhite, the former Hillcrest Christian and Ole Miss standout. Drafted in the second round by Detroit 10 long years ago, the big right-hander hasn’t yet been “told,” but he’s surely heard whispers. A career minor leaguer, the 31-year-old Satterwhite has been released three times and become a free agent twice. He missed two full seasons because of injury. He pitched in independent ball and did a tour in Japan. He pitched in Triple-A in Washington’s system last year and posted a 4.35 ERA in 24 games for Syracuse. The Nationals recently re-signed Satterwhite for 2018. Another chance at the children’s game and the big league dream. Good for him.
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.