15 Jun

seize the moment

Tie game, seventh inning, two outs, one on. Minnesota manager Paul Molitor decided to let starting pitcher Lance Lynn face one more Detroit batter. That batter was JaCoby Jones. It was a Mississippi baseball aficionado moment Thursday at Comerica Park. Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High, hit a 3-1 fastball from Lynn, the former Ole Miss star, over the left-field wall, sending Lynn to the dugout and the Tigers to a 3-1 win. The slumping Jones, who had fanned in his first two at-bats against Lynn, said he guessed fastball and got one. It was his fifth homer of the year; he is batting .222 with 18 RBIs in 62 games. The Tigers have resisted the urge to send Jones to the minors to work on his hitting. His defense in left field remains a plus. “And with the energy that he brings, I love the kid,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, the old Jackson Met, told mlb.com. Lynn, who was 3-0 in his previous four starts and took a shutout into the seventh, fell to 4-5, 4.98 ERA. “I need to be better next time,” he told The Associated Press. P.S. With his fifth homer, Jones has caught Zack Cozart and Corey Dickerson for fourth place in the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby race, which has slowed to a crawl. Leader Tim Anderson has 11 but none since May 28. Mitch Moreland hit his 10th on June 3, same day Brian Dozier got No. 9. Cozart hasn’t gone deep since May 9, Dickerson since May 4.

08 Jun

there and here

This weekend’s Subway Series is the first for Ole Miss product Mickey Callaway as New York Mets manager. The scuffling Mets, losers of six straight, host the rampaging Yankees – whose hitting coach is Louisville native Marcus Thames — for three games at CitiField, all coming to a TV network near you. Mississippi State product Jonathan Holder (2.75 ERA) has done good work out of the Yankees’ bullpen. … An injury to Andrelton Simmons has meant a return to shortstop for Zack Cozart. The Ole Miss alum, signed by the Los Angeles Angels in the off-season to man third base, actually has moved about quite a bit on the dirt for L.A. He has 32 starts at third, 15 at second and five at short, the position he played for seven seasons with Cincinnati. Simmons, who could be out 2-6 weeks with an ankle sprain, might be the best defensive shortstop in the game, but Cozart is no slouch. In fact, Angels manager Mike Scioscia called him an “incredible shortstop.” What the Angels would like to see is a little more offense from their $38 million free agent, who is batting .229 with five homers and 18 RBIs. … Tonight, Cozart and the Angels will face Minnesota’s Lance Lynn, another former Rebels star. Lynn, also an off-season free agent signee, is 4-4 with a 5.46 for the Twins and has won three starts in a row. Worth noting: Cozart is .128 career vs. Lynn. … Arizona’s acquisition of outfielder Jon Jay might cut into Jarrod Dyson’s playing time. McComb native Dyson is hitting just .206 (with 10 steals) overall but is at .318 in his last seven games. And his defense is top-drawer. … Tonight marks a homecoming of sorts for Daniel Sweet, the Flowood native and former Northwest Rankin High star who plays for Pensacola, which is in Pearl for a five-game Southern League series against the Mississippi Braves. Sweet, a switch-hitting outfielder, is in his third season in the Cincinnati organization after being drafted out of Dallas Baptist. He is hitting .148 in 25 games for the Blue Wahoos in his first taste of Double-A. He was batting .284 in A-ball when he was promoted. … Tyler Marlette has been on a tear for the M-Braves, batting .382 in his last 10 games and .296 with six homers for the year. First baseman Marlette, 25, named to the SL All-Star Game on Wednesday, signed with Atlanta in the off-season after seven years in the Seattle organization. He is a career .272 hitter with 68 homers.

08 Jun

in the groove

You kinda figured it was just a matter of time, and the time has come. Brent Rooker, the former Mississippi State standout now in his first season in Double-A, is hitting. A ton. Rooker went 4-for-5 for Chattanooga on Thursday night and is 14-for-29 since the calendar flipped to June. The right-handed hitting first baseman has raised his average 31 points to .271 since the end of May. “That adjustment period might have been a little longer than I liked, ideally,” he told milb.com. “But I knew it was going to happen if I trusted myself, and the results would show up.” The SEC Triple Crown (and Ferriss Trophy) winner last year has eight homers and 36 RBIs in 56 games and is slugging .475 for the Lookouts. He was picked in the competitive balance segment of the first round – 35th overall – by Minnesota last June and batted .281 with 18 homers at two levels in his debut campaign. MLB Pipeline rates Rooker eighth among Twins prospects. … The Lookouts played a Southern League series in Biloxi in mid-May but won’t be in Pearl to face the Mississippi Braves until mid-August. Rooker could be gone by then.

06 Jun

draft update

Drafted in the 35th round out of McLaurin High in 2017 by Milwaukee, Davis Bradshaw elected to eschew pro ball and go to Meridian Community College. He told the Meridian Star last year that he loved the campus, loved Scaggs Field and loved the coaching staff headed by Dillon Sudduth. A year later, Bradshaw’s love will be tested. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound outfielder was drafted again, in today’s 11th round, this time by Miami. The signing offer will be better, which may make for a tougher decision on whether to go pro or stick at MCC for another season. Scouting reports on Bradshaw rave about his speed. The first state juco player to be selected this year, he batted .442 with eight homers and 22 steals for an Eagles team that made it to the NJCAA Region 23 championship game. He hit a jaw-dropping .756 as a senior at McLaurin, a small school in Rankin County. P.S. Also picked today, in the 15th-round by Arizona, was Delta State All-American Zack Shannon, who set the state’s all-division home run mark this year with 31. … Dallas Woolfolk, who left the Ole Miss team late in the season after a difficult year, was drafted in the 13th round today by Oakland. … Willie Joe Garry Jr. of Pascagoula High was perhaps the most intriguing pick from the state on Day 2, going in the ninth round to Minnesota. Garry, an outfielder and Pearl River CC commit, didn’t appear on either the Baseball America or mlb.com lists of top draft prospects. In the 10th round, the Twins picked Madison Central High pitcher Regi Grace.

04 Jun

country strong

When a scout told Sports Illustrated before the season that Hunter Renfroe reminded him of Jethro Bodine, he meant it as a compliment. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Renfroe, a country boy from Crystal Springs, has Jethro-type strength, and it was on full display Sunday in San Diego. The ex-Mississippi State star smashed a pinch-hit grand slam for the Padres, his first homer since he returned May 28 from a lengthy stay on the disabled list. The slam, which propelled the Padres to a 6-3 win against Cincinnati, hit high up on the Western Metal Supply Co. Building down the left-field line at Petco Park. Renfroe pointed down the line with his bat as the ball flew out and then made an impressive bat flip when it hit the wall. “I’m swinging the bat well now, just got to keep it going,” he told mlb.com. Renfroe was a regular much of last season, when he hit 26 bombs, but his strikeout numbers (140) raised questions and he entered 2018 battling for a job. Hitting just .200 with two homers when he went down with an elbow problem in mid-April, Renfroe is 7-for-14 since he came back from Triple-A El Paso. The Padres reportedly are encouraged. “Anybody that’s ever doubted him has probably learned not to doubt him,” Padres manager Andy Green said in an mlb.com article. P.S. Renfroe, who debuted in 2016, now has three career grand slams and 33 career homers. He has a ways to go to catch fellow Mississippians Brian Dozier and Mitch Moreland, who also went deep on Sunday in big games. Fulton’s Dozier, who hit his ninth of the year as Minnesota beat Cleveland, has 160 career, joining Bill Melton and Frank White in a tie for sixth on the all-time list of Mississippi natives. Amory’s Moreland hit his 10th in Boston’s win at Houston and now has 142 career, two shy of ninth-place Charlie Hayes.

03 Jun

role players

If the Minnesota Twins are going to make a playoff run this year, they’ll need more of what they got from Lance Lynn and Brian Dozier on Saturday. With the Mississippi tag team leading the way, the Twins took down first-place Cleveland for the second straight day and, despite a 24-30 record, moved to within 4 1/2 games of the Indians in the American League Central. Former Ole Miss standout Lynn, whose role has grown even more important with Ervin Santana still on the disabled list, worked six innings to notch his third straight win. After a horrid start with his new club, he is 4-4 with a 5.46 ERA. He yielded just two hits but walked five and plunked a batter in what manager Paul Molitor termed a “pretty gritty” effort in the 7-1 victory. Ex-Southern Miss star Dozier had a game-tying RBI triple in the third inning off Trevor Bauer and scored the go-ahead run on an Eddie Rosario homer. Dozier doubled in another run in the fourth as the Twins broke it open. Dozier, who always seems to be in the middle of things when Minnesota wins, is batting just .241 but has 23 RBIs and 34 runs in 54 games. … Surprising Detroit (28-30, 2 1/2 GB in the AL Central) has won eight of 10, and former Pillow Academy (and LSU) star Louis Coleman has played a key role in this stretch for the Tigers as a middle reliever. The sidearming right-hander picked up a win on Saturday with a clean eighth inning against Toronto and is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in 10 games since getting called up in mid-May. Coleman’s career ERA is 3.40 spread over seven MLB seasons. … Tony Sipp’s role with Houston has diminished, but the left-hander out of Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has been effective in middle relief of late. Sipp worked a 1-2-3 eighth for the Astros on Saturday, including a strikeout of Mississippi State alum Mitch Moreland, and now has hung up eight straight scoreless appearances, trimming his ERA to 3.09. Sipp’s Astros lost to Boston 5-4 and have been caught by Seattle in the AL West standings.

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.