Greg Hibbard, the former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout, is still out there plying his craft as a pitching coach — 25 years after he last pitched in the big leagues. Hibbard is set to begin his second year with Texas’ Double-A Frisco team (which is managed by former Jackson Generals star Joe Mikulik). Hibbard coached in Cleveland’s system for 13 seasons and is now in his fourth year with the Rangers. The left-hander was a pretty good big league pitcher for a fairly short period, posting a 57-50 record with a 4.05 ERA across parts of six seasons. He played at Harrison Central High before Gulf Coast CC and then went to Alabama. Drafted by Kansas City, he broke in with the Chicago White Sox and won 14 games in 1991. The next year, he was taken by Florida in the expansion draft and then traded to the Cubs. He won 15 games for them in 1993 and parlayed that success into a three-year deal with Seattle. But shoulder problems limited Hibbard to 15 games for the ’94 Mariners and ultimately ended his career. He pitched for the final time in June of that year at age 29.
Zack Cozart is in comeback mode as he enters Year 2 of his 3-year, $38 million free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels. The 2018 season was a big disappointment for the ex-Ole Miss standout. He hit .219 with five home runs in 58 games and was done following shoulder surgery in June. In 2017, his last year in Cincinnati, he put up career numbers (.297, 24 homers, 63 RBIs) and made the All-Star Game at shortstop. The Angels signed him, initially to play second base, then shifting him to third. Heading into spring training, it’s unclear where Cozart, now 33, will play or if he’ll even play full-time. The team depth chart on mlb.com lists him at both second and third. Younger players are nipping at his heels. From halohangout.com: “His 2017 season was a fluke in many ways, from his sudden explosion of power to his ability to hit for average and even his durability.” With Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton in the lineup, the Angels are an intriguing club desperate to make the postseason. They’d no doubt welcome a return to 2017 form from Cozart. P.S. Asked at a recent team event about the Chicago White Sox’s pursuit of Manny Machado, East Central Community College product Tim Anderson had this to say to mlb.com: “He would play a great role in what we are trying to do as far as winning a championship. He definitely brings that talent.” Machado’s preferred position is shortstop, which happens to be where Anderson has played, very capably, the past three seasons. … Former DeSoto Central star Austin Riley is on the MLB Pipeline list of the Top 10 third base prospects for a fourth straight year, checking in at No. 3 in 2019. He has 71 homers over four minor league seasons and finished 2018 with 12 in 75 games at Triple-A Gwinnett. The 21-year-old’s path to The Show is currently blocked by veteran Josh Donaldson, signed as a free agent by Atlanta in November.
Other contract offers for more money and years reportedly were on the table when Brian Dozier chose a 1-year, $9 million deal with Washington last week. The Southern Miss product from Fulton is betting on himself to rebound from a tough 2018 season that may have caused his stock to drop. “Going into this year, personally, you kind of have a chip on your shoulder,” Dozier said in an mlb.com story. Dozier, 31, hit .215 last year with 21 homers playing for Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He admitted that a knee injury hampered him but says he is fully recovered now. The former All-Star also said he feels he is a good fit with the Nationals – who needed a second baseman — and likes the club’s prospects of contending for the postseason in 2019. He’ll be back on the market in 2020. … In an under-the-radar move over the weekend, the Chicago White Sox signed Biloxi native Jacob Lindgren to a minor league deal. The former St. Stanislaus High and Mississippi State star has missed the last two seasons with injuries. He had Tommy John surgery last spring. The 25-year-old left-hander was in Atlanta’s system in 2018 but was cut loose in October. A former second-round pick by the New York Yankees in 2014, he had a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2015. … The Philadelphia Phillies signed Laurel’s Bobby Dickerson, formerly of Buck Showalter’s Baltimore staff, as their new first-base coach last week. Dickerson, coincidentally, has been a longtime mentor to free agent Manny Machado, whom the Phillies have been hotly pursuing. … What has 199 big league wins, 22 saves, 148 professional home runs, 1,417 minor league managerial victories and a World Series ring? The four featured guests – Roy Oswalt, Jay Powell, Hunter Renfroe and Chris Maloney, all Mississippi natives with impressive baseball pedigrees – at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame’s Hot Stove Hall of Fame Evening, set for Jan. 24 at the museum in Jackson. Tickets are on sale at the museum or online at www.msfame.com.
Tim Anderson went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs on Monday night, but ESPN analysts Tim Kurkjian and Eduardo Perez were singing the praises of the shortstop’s defense during the network’s game coverage. The former East Central Community College standout made two highlight-worthy plays in the Chicago White Sox’s 6-2 win over the New York Yankees. On the first, he went deep into the hole and made a jump-and-throw play to nail the batter at first base. On the second, playing in with a runner at third, he short-hopped a hard-hit grounder and cut down the runner at the plate. Defense has been an issue for Anderson, a relative latecomer to baseball, during his three years in the big leagues. He made 28 errors in in 145 games in 2017. But, by all accounts, he is improving. He has just 15 errors in 125 games this year and reportedly is making more plays like the ones he pulled off Monday. “He’s growing and maturing,” Perez said. “He’s a great athlete learning to play baseball,” Kurkjian said. A basketball star in high school in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Anderson didn’t play baseball until his junior year. East Central was his only baseball scholarship offer. In his second year with the Warriors, he batted .495 with 10 homers and 41 steals for a state championship team and was named an NJCAA All-American. Intrigued by his raw skills, the White Sox drafted him 17th overall in 2013. There was speculation then that Anderson might have to move to center field in pro ball, but he has stuck at short. He is also making strides as an offensive threat; he’s at .249 with 17 homers, 58 RBIs and 25 steals in 2018. The White Sox have seen enough that they signed him last year through the 2022 season. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Chris Stratton threw a career-high eight innings on Monday as San Francisco shut out Arizona 2-0. Stratton (9-7, 4.99 ERA) allowed five hits, no walks and fanned six in his second straight quality start since returning from a second pit stop in the minors. … In recent MLB moves: Richton High alum JaCoby Jones has been activated from the disabled list by Detroit; Southern Miss product Cody Carroll was sent to the minors by Baltimore; former Ole Miss star Mike Mayers has landed on the DL for St. Louis; and UM alum Bobby Wahl is eligible to come off the DL for the New York Mets but there’s been no word on when that might happen.
Twenty years ago on this date – Aug. 1 – Chad Bradford, at age 23, made his big league debut, completing a rather rapid journey from Byram High to Hinds Community College to Southern Miss and through three levels of the minors. The right-hander with the down-under delivery pitched 2 1/3 innings for the Chicago White Sox against Texas at The Ballpark in Arlington. He allowed one hit and was charged with one run. He faced eight batters and got seven ground balls, a display of the speciality that helped him stay in the majors for 11 more years, including the immortalized 2001 season with the “Moneyball” A’s in Oakland. Bradford ended his career with a 3.26 ERA, 36 wins and 11 saves. He never made an All-Star team or won a World Series ring, but he did pitch in seven postseasons for five different clubs and put up a sparkling 0.39 ERA.
Brian Dozier wasn’t the only Southern Miss alumnus to put on a new uniform on Tuesday. Cody Carroll was promoted from Triple-A Norfolk to Baltimore and was in New York, though he did not pitch, for the Orioles’ game against the Yankees. Carroll was acquired from the Yankees last week in the Zach Britton trade. The 25-year-old right-hander had a 2.38 ERA and nine saves at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before the deal and pitched twice for Norfolk. Overall, he has 57 strikeouts, 18 walks and no homers allowed this season. It’ll be interesting to see how O’s manager Buck Showalter uses him. “He’s a guy that’s up to 100 mph,” a scout told masnsports.com. “Sinker/slider guy with a big-time power arm and a good slider.” Carroll is the 25th Mississippian (native or college alum) to appear on a major league roster this season and will be the third to make his debut. … Dozier, dealt by Minnesota to the Los Angeles Dodgers just before the trade deadline, actually made it to Dodger Stadium and was in uniform in the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s game. He didn’t play but reportedly will start at second base tonight. “I told Dave (Roberts, Dodgers manager), you’ll get 100 percent from me,” Dozier said in an mlb.com article. “Off the bench, playing every day, whatever the case may be.” … Ex-Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland, who had two hits in his first All-Star Game, is just 4-for-28 since for Boston. That .143 skid has dropped his average to .264. He has 12 homers and 48 RBIs. … Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College standout, was pulled from Tuesday’s game by Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria after Anderson didn’t run out a line drive that appeared to be caught by the Kansas City third baseman. The umpire, however, ruled it a no-catch, and Anderson was thrown out at first base. He said he understood and accepted Renteria’s decision. “It can’t happen. It doesn’t look good,” Anderson told mlb.com. Anderson, also in a slump, is batting .241 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs. … The disaster that has been Ole Miss product Mickey Callaway’s rookie season as New York Mets manager got worse on Tuesday, when the club suffered a 25-4 loss to Washington, the most lopsided defeat in franchise history. At least it didn’t happen at CitiField.
On July 21, 1951, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Crawford native Sam Hairston made his major league debut, becoming the first black American to play for the White Sox. Hairston played in only four MLB games – but his legacy is much, much larger than that. He is the patriarch of the only black three-generation family in MLB history. Hairston had two sons, Jerry and John, who played in the majors and two grandsons, Jerry Jr. and Scott, who also reached that summit. Sam Hairston, a catcher, was a Negro Leagues star, winning a Triple Crown in 1950, before signing with the White Sox. He was 31 when he debuted. He played on in the minors until 1960, winning an MVP award in 1953 and hitting .304 for his career. He scouted and coached in the White Sox’s system before his death in 1997. Eight years ago, the city of Columbus, just a few miles from Crawford, held a Sam Hairston Celebration day with plans to name a baseball field in his honor.
He has taken small and sometimes wobbly steps over the past five seasons, and he is still in the low minors. But Ti’Quan Forbes, a second-round draft pick in 2014 out of Columbia High, may soon be ready for the big leap to Double-A. Forbes, still only 21, has found his footing at high Class A Winston-Salem in the Chicago White Sox’s system. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound third baseman is batting .274 with four homers, 30 RBIs, four triples and 10 doubles in 67 games. He is 11-for-33 with two homers in his last 10 games. And he is making contact, with just 40 strikeouts in 237 at-bats. Forbes hit .234 in 2017 at two levels of A-ball but showed some power with 11 homers. Originally drafted by Texas, the former Mr. Baseball was traded to the White Sox on Aug. 31 last year (for pitcher Miguel Gonzalez) and played only four games at Winston-Salem before his season ended. Back with the Dash to open this year, Forbes helped the club – managed by Omar Vizquel – win a first-half title in the Carolina League. Maybe we see him with Birmingham in the Southern League before the season is done.
Cody Reed was making strides in his quest to get back to the big leagues, winning two straight starts in impressive fashion at Triple-A Louisville. Then came Friday night’s outing at Toledo and a stumble. Reed, the former Northwest Mississippi Community College standout from Horn Lake, got knocked around for 10 hits and eight runs in seven innings. His record dipped to 2-6 and his ERA rose to 4.57 in 12 starts for Cincinnati’s International League affiliate. Reed had a good spring with the Reds and opened this season in the big leagues but appeared in just four games (5.40 ERA) before being sent down. After a decent start at Louisville, the 25-year-old lefty went through a rough patch where he lost five of six outings before the back-to-back wins that preceded Friday’s defeat. Reed was a second-round pick out of Northwest CC in 2013 by Kansas City and was a highly rated prospect when the Royals traded him to the Reds in mid-2015. He made The Show in 2016, going 0-7, 7.36 ERA for a bad team. He got his first and only MLB W last year. You know he is hungry for another. P.S. Ole Miss product and onetime big leaguer Alex Presley was released from a minor league club for the second time this season. He had been playing at Triple-A Charlotte (batting .198) in the Chicago White Sox’s system following a stint with Baltimore’s Triple-A club. Presley, 32, has a .263 career average over eight MLB campaigns.
After a sluggish start at the Triple-A level, Mason Robbins has kicked into gear the last couple of weeks. The former George County High and Southern Miss star is batting .385 over his last 10 games for Charlotte, the Chicago White Sox’s top minor league affiliate. Robbins was hitting just .227 through 18 games for the Knights when he hit his first homer on May 29. Something may have clicked. In his next game, the lefty-hitting corner outfielder went 3-for-4, and he’s been rolling ever since, lifting his average to .284. He has two homers, 17 RBIs, 14 runs, four doubles and three triples. Robbins, 25 and in his fifth pro season, has hit at every level, sporting a .285 career average. He has acknowledged that he needs to hit for more power. For some, that’s the last tool to develop, and it might be the key for Robbins to reach the big leagues. P.S. Robbins’ brother Walker, a fifth-round pick out of George County by St. Louis in 2016, is on the roster of the rookie-level Johnson City club, which opens next week. Walker Robbins, also a lefty-hitting outfielder, has hit .179 over his first two seasons. Expect him to pick it up in 2018. … A third Robbins brother, Logan, went 7-1 with a 4.66 ERA this season as a redshirt junior at Louisiana Tech. The left-hander was not drafted. Logan Robbins was undefeated (18-0) as a starter at Jones County Junior College and his only loss at LaTech came in a C-USA contest against USM.