16 May

tough sledding

He left the campus of Mississippi State last spring as the SEC Triple Crown winner, hit .282 with seven homers in a brief fling in rookie ball, then advanced to the high Class A level and cruised with a .280 average and 11 homers in 40 games there. Not surprisingly, the sledding has gotten a little tougher for Brent Rooker in his second pro season. The 23-year-old first baseman/left fielder, a supplemental first-round pick by Minnesota last June, is batting .235 at Double-A Chattanooga. He has three homers, 18 RBIs, 41 strikeouts and six walks in 136 at-bats. Baseball America ranked Rooker as the Twins’ No. 7 prospect entering this season, and MLB Pipeline has him at No. 8. He’s projected to make the majors in 2020. The Double-A level has humbled many hitters, even some as skilled as Rooker. In time, he’ll adjust. He went 3-for-4 with four RBIs in a Southern League game against Tennessee on Tuesday, extending his hitting streak to seven games. … Rooker, the 2017 Ferriss Trophy winner, is one of five former honorees currently playing pro ball. The others are Drew Pomeranz, Chris Stratton, Hunter Renfroe and Auston Bousfield. The 2018 winner will be announced on Monday.

12 May

welcome back

Kind of a good news/bad news scenario for Kendall Graveman. Oakland brought Graveman, the Mississippi State product, back up from Triple-A Nashville to make a start on Friday. Great. The start would be against the sizzling-hot New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Oh. Unbowed, Graveman answered the call with a strong six-inning effort, allowing just three hits and one earned run and notching his first big league win of the season in a 10-5 Oakland victory. The A’s opening day starter, Graveman was sent to the minors to work on mechanics after going 0-5 with an 8.89 ERA. He may have put those troubles behind him on Friday. “I thought I attacked better and had a good mindset,” he told mlb.com. Graveman did allow two home runs, including a three-run shot by Aaron Judge in his final inning. But those three runs were unearned because of an error that started the inning. It’s unclear if Graveman will remain in the Oakland rotation, but he certainly made a good case for doing so. … Two other Magnolia State college alums made MLB starts on Friday, and it did not go well for either. Ex-State standout Brandon Woodruff, also recalled from the minors on Friday, lasted just three innings for Milwaukee, allowing nine hits, a walk and seven runs against Colorado (at Coors Field). Former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn went 4 2/3 for Minnesota but was KO’d after yielding eight hits, two walks and four runs against the Los Angeles Angels. Still, there was some good news for the pair: Their teams rallied to win.

11 May

breaking out?

You still have to scroll down quite a ways to find Billy Hamilton’s name on the MLB batting average list. But a recent hot streak has carried the former Taylorsville High star above the proverbial Mendoza Line and could be a good sign for a Cincinnati club that needs some. Hamilton, batting .346 in May, went 2-for-4 for the Reds on Thursday with a triple and an RBI in a 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The switch-hitting center fielder is now at .212 for the year with a .314 on-base average. He has two homers, 11 RBIs and 21 runs hitting mostly at the bottom of the order. As recently as April 29, he was hitting .169. “It’s been a grind but I have more confidence than I’ve had all year,” he told mlb.com a few days ago. Jim Riggleman, who took over as Reds manager for the fired Bryan Price on April 19, has kept Hamilton in the lineup, citing the value of his defense. Oddly enough, Hamilton has only five stolen bases, the most recent on April 23. The Reds, even after a season-best three-game win streak, are 11-27, worst record in the National League. … Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss standout from Fulton, has not been hot of late but may have had a breakout Thursday, going 4-for-4 with a homer in Minnesota’s loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Dozier is batting just .190 over his last 15 games and is at .246 with six homers, 14 RBIs and 20 runs for the season. Production from Dozier, who typically hits first or second in the lineup, is essential for Minnesota (15-18) as it battles to stay in the American League Central race. P.S. Scott Copeland, the former Southern Miss ace, is off to Las Vegas; that is, he has been promoted to the Triple-A 51s by the New York Mets. Copeland was 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in two starts for Double-A Binghamton. Copeland, in his ninth year of pro ball, had signed with a team in the independent Atlantic League this spring but was purchased by the Mets a short time thereafter. He has five MLB appearances on his resume, all with Toronto in 2015. At age 30, Copeland was a bit old for Double-A, though one of his teammates was another 30-year-old name of Tim Tebow.

06 May

big league chew

Lance Lynn did not downplay the significance of his outing for Minnesota on Saturday. “It feels like a monkey is off my back, honestly,” the ex-Ole Miss star told mlb.com. Lynn, signed as a free agent this spring to bolster the rotation of team expecting to contend, earned his first win as a Twin in an 8-4 victory over the White Sox at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field. He pitched out of some trouble early to go six innings, allowing eight hits and two runs with seven strikeouts. He is 1-3 with a 7.28 ERA this year. His career mark, in six years with St. Louis, is 73-50, 3.49. … Former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson hit two homers for the ChiSox — neither of them off Lynn — to give him six for the season, most of any Mississippian in the majors. … Mitch Moreland, the Mississippi State product from Amory, hit his fifth homer for Boston in an 8-5 win at Texas. Moreland is batting .338 with 16 RBIs for the first-place Red Sox. Also in that game, Mississippi Braves alum Craig Kimbrel notched his 300th save, becoming the sixth former Jackson area Double-A player to hit that milestone. joining Billy Wagner, Jeff Reardon, Randy Myers, Todd Jones and Rick Aguilera on that list. Ex-MSU star Jonathan Papelbon also had 300-plus. Kimbrel reached the plateau in fewer games than any pitcher in history. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford is getting his second chance in The Show, having been recalled Saturday by Toronto. Alford, one of the Blue Jays’ highest rated prospects, was injured in spring training, one of several setbacks he has suffered in his career. He is batting just .154 in 10 games at Triple-A Buffalo. He went 1-for-8 in four big league games in 2017. Alford’s career minor league average is .269 with 21 homers and 76 steals in 317 games.

26 Apr

tale of two starts

Both Kendall Graveman and Lance Lynn were saddled with another loss on Wednesday, but there was a difference in their outings. Former Mississippi State star Graveman may have found something; ex-Ole Miss standout Lynn is still searching. Graveman fell to 0-5 for 13-12 Oakland, allowing three runs in six innings of a 4-2 loss to Texas. But utilizing his changeup more frequently and effectively, he struck out seven batters and actually trimmed his ERA to 8.89. “I thought the changeup was really good,” Graveman told mlb.com. “Got a lot of swing-and-misses. For me, that’s a big plus, something I’m working on … .” Lynn, in his fourth start for Minnesota, was KO’d by the New York Yankees in the fourth inning of a 7-4 defeat, the 8-11 Twins’ sixth straight L. Lynn (0-2) yielded six runs – including two homers – and saw his ERA jump to 7.71. “When I made pitches, I would get outs, but I didn’t make them when it counted,” Lynn said in an mlb.com article. P.S. Cool to see five former Mississippi Braves combine for eight hits, three runs and three RBIs in Atlanta’s 5-4 victory at Cincinnati. Included was Ronald Acuna’s first big league hit and Ozzie Albies’ seventh homer. In addition, M-Braves alums Jesse Biddle tossed two scoreless innings and A.J. Minter notched his first save.

23 Apr

meritorious work

The longest current hitting streak in the majors belongs to Brian Dozier, who went 2-for-5 on Sunday to extend his run to 16 games. That also happens to be a Minnesota Twins record to begin a season. Former Southern Miss star Dozier just keeps doing these things, steadily establishing himself as one of the game’s premier players. In what might be his last tour with the Twins – he’s a free agent at season’s end – Dozier is batting .310 with four homers and nine RBIs. Over the past four years, he has been an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner, set a record for homers by a second baseman (with 42 in 2016) and earned two team MVP and Heart and Hustle awards. He drove in more than 90 runs each of the previous two years, hit at least 20 homers and scored more than 100 runs each of the last four and topped 30 doubles and 10 steals each of the last five. He batted a career-high .271 with 34 homers last season and helped the Twins reach the postseason for the first time in seven years, then homered to lead off the wild card game at New York’s Yankee Stadium. Dozier and the Twins will be back on that stage today, opening a four-game series against the Yanks and their array of stars. Dozier will hold his own. P.S. Also on the MLB hot list: Mitch Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State standout who is batting .438 with two homers and nine RBIs in his last five games for Boston, and JaCoby Jones, the Richton High product who is hitting .375 with two homers and five RBIs in his last seven games for Detroit.

10 Apr

pitching in — and out

Lance Lynn was good on Monday night. Unfortunately for the ex-Ole Miss star, Justin Verlander was better. Looking much sharper in his second start for Minnesota than in his first, Lynn tossed five shutout innings with nine strikeouts, but the Twins fell to Verlander and Houston 2-0 at frigid Target Field. Lynn, a free agent signee in Minnesota after several years with St. Louis, allowed five runs in his first inning with the Twins last week. “I feel like I’ve gotten off to the worst start I’ve ever got off to in the big leagues,” the big right-hander told mlb.com. “Good thing is there’s a lot of season left, so I’ll be all right.” Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed, in his 2018 debut with Cincinnati, endured a rocky start at chilly Philadelphia, allowing three earned runs on four hits and a walk in three innings. Poor starts have been a theme for Mississippi-connected pitchers this season. Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman, Oakland’s No. 1 starter, is 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA in three starts, having yielded five homers. (He has had the misfortune of facing the Los Angeles Angels twice.) Ex-State standout Chris Stratton, who won a job in San Francisco’s rotation in the spring, is 0-1, 4.35 in two starts. Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers had a 4.50 ERA in two appearances with St. Louis before being sent down when Greg Holland was activated. Brandon Woodruff, an MSU product, posted a 5.14 in three games (one start) for Milwaukee before he, too, was demoted to the minors, and fellow Bulldogs alum Jonathan Holder was sent down by the New York Yankees lugging a 20.25 ERA over three appearances. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, who started the season on the disabled list for Boston, had made one rehab appearance, allowing two earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in a Triple-A start. He should be ready for prime time soon.