05 Oct

that was then

As the Houston Astros marched toward their first World Series title last year, all Tony Sipp could do was watch. The veteran relief pitcher, who struggled through much of the 2017 season, wasn’t on the team’s roster for any of their three postseason series. Well, that was then. After an amazing resurgence in 2018, the former Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout is on the roster for the American League Division Series against Cleveland. Game 1 is today at Minute Maid Park. A couple of things happened for the 35-year-old left-hander this year. First, he had to battle just to make the team in spring training and essentially keep his career alive. “It all just came together to create that hunger again. It’s do or die; my back is against the wall,” Sipp told the Houston Chronicle last month. Then, he regained confidence in his best pitch, a splitter that had abandoned him in 2016 and ’17. In 54 appearances (38 2/3 innings) this season, Sipp put up a 1.86 ERA. He yielded just one home run after coughing up eight in 2017 and 12 in 2016. He is the lone lefty in Houston’s bullpen; he is best against lefties (0.90 ERA this year) but can also get right-handed hitters (2.89). P.S. Houston’s roster also includes former Mississippi Braves Brian McCann, Evan Gattis and Charlie Morton, a hero of last year’s title run. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens is a former Jackson Generals hitting coach, a last link to the Double-A Astros affiliate that played at Smith-Wills Stadium from 1991-99. … In that other ALDS, which starts tonight at Fenway Park, Boston’s roster includes former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland (but not Ole Miss alumnus Drew Pomeranz). The New York Yankees have an alum from both State (Jonathan Holder) and Ole Miss (Lance Lynn) in their bullpen, and the Bombers’ hitting coach is former East Central CC standout Marcus Thames.

19 Jul

bounce back

After he posted a 5.79 ERA in 2017 and was left off Houston’s postseason roster, Pascagoula native Tony Sipp’s future with the World Series champs appeared rather cloudy. The left-hander’s results in spring training weren’t great, but an injury to another relief pitcher enabled Sipp to grab the last spot in the Astros’ bullpen. To his credit, he has not let go. The former Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout enters the second half of the season with a 1.93 ERA in 27 appearances. Over his last 15 games, it’s a 0.66. Home runs plagued him in 2017, when he yielded eight. He hasn’t allowed one this year. Sipp, now 35 years old, is only used situationally – he’s worked just 23 1/3 innings – but he has been effective in his role. “I can use him a little bit more, the way I used him in 2015 and 2016, and he adds a different dimension to a bullpen that I’ve been able to mix and match,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch told The Houston Chronicle last week. The first-place Astros are said to be seeking bullpen help for the second half (and beyond), but Sipp’s job would appear secure. Quite a change from just a few months ago.

14 Feb

on the radar

There likely will be a lot of eyes on Tony Sipp as he goes to work in West Palm Beach, Fla., over the next few weeks. The Pascagoula native and former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout is coming off a rough year and is the only seasoned left-hander in Houston’s bullpen. Sipp’s ERA jumped to 4.95 over 60 appearances in 2016. He had a 1.99 in 2015, and his career ERA over eight MLB seasons is 3.65. Batters hit .297 against Sipp in 2016, and he yielded 12 homers in 43 2/3 innings. The beefed-up Astros, picked by some as the favorite in the American League West, surely want a reliable lefty in their pen. If Sipp, 33, doesn’t look sharp, they may have to go shopping. Astros pitchers and catchers formally reported to camp today and will work out at their new spring facility on Wednesday. P.S. Joey Butler, another Pascagoula native and MGCCC alumnus, signed a minor league contract last week with Washington. Butler, a right-handed hitting outfielder, spent all of 2016 in the minors with Cleveland’s Triple-A Columbus club. He batted .276 with eight homers in 88 games for Tampa Bay in 2015 and is a career .282 hitter with 104 homers over nine pro seasons, including a stint in Japan. … Ole Miss product Aaron Barrett may be close to re-signing with Washington as a minor league free agent. He missed the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. While rehabbing last season, Barrett suffered a fractured right elbow and had another surgery. He ultimately was waived by the Nationals and elected free agency in the off-season. As a rookie in 2014, Barrett had a 2.66 ERA in 50 games for the Nats. In 2015, his ERA jumped to 4.60 in 40 games before he was injured late in the season.

28 May

some rain must fall

Tony Sipp had gone all season — 16 appearances out of the Houston bullpen — without allowing a home run before last Thursday. That’s when Detroit’s James McCann took Sipp deep for a game-winner in the bottom of the 11th inning. Sipp, a Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Moss Point High product, made his next appearance Wednesday in Baltimore. The left-hander was brought in to face lefty Chris Davis in the bottom of the eighth with the score tied. Davis hit the first pitch out, and the Orioles went on to win 5-4. “I just missed with it, just left it up, middle,” Sipp told mlb.com. Sipp hasn’t missed much this season. The 29-year-old has a 1.53 ERA with 20 strikeouts over 17 2/3 innings for the surprising Astros, who continue to lead the American League West. For his MLB career, spanning seven seasons, Sipp has a 3.64 ERA, 20 wins and six saves working mostly as a situational lefty. Not bad for a 45th-round pick (by Cleveland out of Clemson in 2004). P.S. With the Wednesday recall of Donnie Veal by Atlanta and the recent promotions of Jacob Lindgren (New York Yankees) and David Goforth (Milwaukee), there are now nine Mississippi-connected pitchers in the big leagues and two more on the disabled list. Picayune High product T.J. House, assigned to Triple-A after a recent rehab stint, could be close to returning to Cleveland. … Former Mississippi State star – and Ferriss Trophy winner — Ed Easley was recalled by St. Louis from Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday but didn’t play against Arizona. He is still seeking his first appearance in an MLB game. Catcher Easley, 29, also was on the Cardinals’ roster for three games in April.

08 Aug


For most of this season, Tony Sipp has been quietly efficient for a team that doesn’t capture a lot of headlines. Former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star Sipp, a situational lefty for the lowly Houston Astros, had allowed just one earned run in 12 previous appearances when he was called on Thursday to face Philadelphia. It was the eighth inning, there were two runners on with one out, and the Astros led 5-2. Sipp allowed a single that loaded the bases but then got the second out. Up came Ryan Howard, Philly’s massive left-handed slugger. Sipp had held lefties to a .120 batting average and just one homer to that point of this season. Then Howard, on a 3-2 pitch, hit one out of Citizens Bank Park – a stadium-shaking grand slam that propelled the Phillies to a 6-5 win. Sipp jumped and punched the air in frustration as the ball left the yard. He was on all the highlight shows, the center of attention for all the wrong reasons. He was pulled from the game, left to mull that one pitch until his next opportunity comes. Overall, Sipp has a 2.91 ERA in 38 games in his first season with the Astros following stints in Cleveland and Arizona. Still, despite all his good work, that one pitch on Thursday is what got noticed. It’s the nature of the role, a role that’s not easy to play.

10 Jun

the long and short of it

Now that the 2014 Ole Miss team has made history — reaching the College World Series for the first time in 42 years — the Rebels must hope history doesn’t repeat. Ole Miss’ 1972 trip to Omaha lasted just two games. The Rebels lost 8-6 to Southern Cal and 9-8 to Texas. That Ole Miss team was coached by Rebels legend Jake Gibbs, who just the year before was catching for the New York Yankees. The stars were shortstop Steve Dillard — future big leaguer (nice career) and future manager of the Jackson DiamondKats (forgettable season) — outfielder Paul Husband and pitcher Jim Pittman, who won 10 games for a 28-16 club. The ’72 Rebels won the SEC Championship Series 2-games-to-none against Vanderbilt. Next they won the NCAA District III playoffs, going 5-1 in the double-elimination affair and beating South Alabama twice for the right to go to Omaha. It was Ole Miss’ fourth CWS berth. Having waited so long for the fifth, maybe the Rebels will stay a little longer. P.S. A spinning managerial wheel put pitcher Tony Sipp in right field for Houston on Monday night. Left-hander Sipp, the former Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star, moved from the mound to the outfield (for one batter, who walked) and back again during the eighth inning at Arizona. It was the first MLB outfield appearance for the veteran Sipp, who was a standout outfielder in amateur ball, playing the position at Clemson as well as in high school and junior college. He faced six batters Monday and retired five of them, notching his fourth hold in the Astros’ 4-3 win and lowering his ERA to 2.70.

02 May

opportunity knocks

Tony Sipp, the ex-Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star from Pascagoula, has signed a major league deal with Houston and reportedly will be in the Astros’ bullpen tonight when they host Seattle. Sipp had been at Triple-A Tucson in the San Diego system but was granted his release so he could sign with the Astros. Sipp, 30, came up with Cleveland and spent last season with Arizona. The left-hander has a 3.84 career ERA in 304 games. P.S. There has been nothing new today on Billy Hamilton’s injured left hand. The Taylorsville High product sprained his knuckles Thursday night making a diving catch. Word last night was that he might not miss more than a game or two. He is batting .245 with 11 steals for Cincinnati.

01 Feb

sipp catches on

Tony Sipp, the former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star from Pascagoula, has signed a minor league contract with San Diego and will go to big league camp with the Padres later this month, according to a variety of reports. Sipp, a 30-year-old power left-hander, has a career 3.84 ERA, though he slipped last season to a 4.78 with Arizona. He would appear to have a good chance of making San Diego’s roster, which isn’t overrun with lefty relievers.

29 Nov

hitting the market

Left-handed relievers always seem to be in demand, so it’s likely that Tony Sipp will find a big league job for 2014 without much difficulty. The Pascagoula native and former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star has declared himself a free agent; he had been designated for assignment by Arizona. Sipp, 30, didn’t pitch well in his one season with the Diamondbacks. He posted a 4.78 ERA — almost a run higher than his career average (3.84) — in 37 2/3 innings and walked 22 batters, hit three more and yielded six homers. The D’backs even sent him to the minors for a while. Sipp had four solid years with Cleveland before the Indians traded him last off-season, so perhaps 2013 was an aberration. A hard thrower (9.3 strikeouts per nine innings for his career), Sipp is not a closer (two career saves in eight chances) but still has value as a lefty specialist. He’ll land somewhere.