14 Jun

big league chew

With a clutch home run against the New York Yankees on Thursday, Tim Anderson achieved a notable double-double (homers and steals) for the third straight season with the Chicago White Sox. The former first-round pick out of East Central Community College belted homer No. 10, a three-run shot, in the fifth inning, tying the score at 4-4 at Guaranteed Rate Field. The ChiSox went on to win 5-4. “Those moments are the moments you want to be in. Not being afraid to fail,” Anderson, never at a loss for words, told mlb.com. He is batting .317 with 10 homers, 32 RBIs and 15 steals. He had a 20-20 double-double last year. Anderson was fourth in the latest All-Star voting results for American League shortstop, a tough crowd that includes Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Andrelton Simmons, Gleyber Torres, Xander Bogaerts and Jorge Polanco (who led the voting). … Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels became on Thursday the first Japan native to hit for the cycle in the big leagues. How many Mississippi natives have pulled off this rare feat? Five. Gulfport’s Gee Walker (opening day 1937), Moss Point’s Sam Leslie, Ellisville’s Harry Craft, Greenville’s Frank White (who did it twice) and Hattiesburg’s Fred Lewis. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones, whose hot hitting (.344 in his last 30 games) had earned him the leadoff spot in Detroit’s lineup, left Thursday’s game with an elbow contusion after an HBP. He’ll be reevaluated today, reports said. … Mississippi State product Chris Stratton reportedly will make a second rehab appearance before returning to Pittsburgh’s roster. He went on the injured list May 25 with side discomfort. He threw two innings for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. The veteran right-hander from Tupelo has a 5.40 ERA in four games with the Pirates after posting an 8.59 in seven appearances with the Angels before being traded.

10 Jun

where are they now?

Nick Sandlin has made a rapid ascent in the Cleveland organization. A second-round pick and the fourth player drafted out of Mississippi in 2018, the ex-Southern Miss ace was promoted to Triple-A last week and has made two relief appearances for the Columbus Clippers. He allowed two runs in his debut but worked a clean inning on Saturday. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a 1.56 ERA in 15 games at Double-A Akron this year. He climbed through four levels of the minors last summer, finishing with a 3.00 ERA and five saves. He has 67 strikeouts in 43 2/3 pro innings. Rated the No. 17 prospect in the Indians’ system by MLB Pipeline, Sandlin could make the big league team this season. … The first Mississippian chosen in 2018, Ole Miss alum Ryan Rolison, is now with Colorado’s advanced Class A Lancaster club. The lefty, the Rockies’ No. 3 prospect, is 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA in nine starts and has made the California League All-Star Game. … Forecast by many as a first-round draft pick in 2018, Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington slipped to the third round, where he was plucked by the Chicago White Sox. The East Central High alum, who moved from low-A Kannapolis to high-A Winston Salem in mid-May, is 1-1, 6.16 in four starts at the new level. He had a 1.62 ERA at the low-A level. … Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray, the top high school pick from the state last year who signed a pro contract (first-rounder J.T. Ginn of Brandon went to State), is already rated the No. 7 prospect in Milwaukee’s system though he has yet to play above the rookie level. The 2018 second-rounder hit .182 with two homers in 24 games in the Arizona League, playing through a bout of pneumonia. He’ll likely go to the Pioneer League this summer. “He has the tools, no doubt about it,” Rafael Neda, Gray’s manager last year, told Baseball America this spring. “He’s a really athletic kid with a high ceiling. We’ve started to see that.”

03 Jun

back in ’69

Fifty years ago, the first round of the major league draft included quite a few now familiar names, players who went on to make an impact in The Show. Jeff Burroughs went No. 1 overall to Washington – the old Senators – and J.R. Richard second to Houston. Alan Bannister, Don Gullett, Roger Metzger and Gorman Thomas were also among the top 24 picks. The third overall selection in 1969 never made the big leagues but still rates a prominent place in Mississippi baseball lore. Ted Nicholson, a product of Laurel’s old Oak Park High, was taken by the Chicago White Sox at No. 3, the highest any Magnolia State high schooler has ever been drafted. Reportedly scouted and signed by Crawford native and ex-Negro Leagues star Sam Hairston, Nicholson played parts of three seasons in the low minors – his career was interrupted by military duty – and hit .252 with 12 home runs and 68 RBIs. He was out of the pro game by 1972. … Though none are expected to go in tonight’s televised (MLB Network) first round, Mississippi-connected players have popped up in the opening round with some regularity. In the very first draft in 1965, Delta State’s Joe DiFabio was the 20th overall pick by St. Louis. Ole Miss’ Ryan Rolison was the 22nd selection last year, and Brandon High product J.T. Ginn was No. 30. The highest pick from the state is Mississippi State alum Will Clark, taken No. 2 in 1985. Others of note: State’s B.J. Wallace went third in 1992, UM’s Drew Pomeranz No. 5 in 2010, Tupelo High’s Kirk Presley eighth in 1993, State’s Paul Maholm No. 8 in 2003 and Jackson State’s Dave Clark 11th in 1983.

18 Apr

give a flip

“Bat flips have become part of the game.” So says Tim Anderson in an mlb.com story. Former East Central Community College star Anderson, the Chicago White Sox’s marvelously talented shortstop, plays the game with much zeal, which is fine. But a demonstrative bat flip after a home run in the fourth inning of a scoreless game? That crosses the line. Anderson should not have been surprised when he was plunked — in the butt — by Kansas City pitcher Brad Keller in his next at-bat. Keller was ejected, as he should have been. Anderson was, too, rather inexplicably. All he did was yell at people as the two teams confronted each other on the field. The managers, Rick Renteria and Ned Yost, also did a lot of yelling and also were booted. A show of genuine emotion in baseball is great. Let the kids play, as they say. But there’s a time and place for it. Players have always done a pretty good job of policing their game. That’s what happened in Chicago on Wednesday. What baseball doesn’t need is the over-the-top histrionics of the NFL and the NBA, where every sack and every dunk are celebrated as if world peace had been achieved.

08 Mar

ready to rumble

Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College star, is playing like a man on a mission in the Cactus League this spring. He went 2-for-3 on Thursday and is now 11-for-22 with a homer, six RBIs and five runs for the Chicago White Sox. When the White Sox were courting Manny Machado, there was speculation that Anderson would lose his shortstop job to the touted free agent. The outspoken Anderson, the team’s starter at short since 2016, wasn’t about to just step aside. “He knew what he could do, and he was going … to show everybody that he was going to hold on to that particular position,” ChiSox manager Rick Renteria recently told the Northwest (Chicago) Herald. Machado signed with San Diego. The White Sox will be just fine at shortstop, as Anderson himself would tell you. “(T)he sky’s the limit. I’m excited where I’m at and the direction I’m headed,” he told the Northwest Herald. He hit .240 with 20 homers and 26 steals last season. … Mississippi State product Adam Frazier and Meridian CC alum Corey Dickerson, top-of-the-order hitters in Pittsburgh’s lineup, also have hit the ground running this spring. Frazier homered Thursday and is 2-for-5 in his two games, while Dickerson is 5-for-9 in three games after a 2-for-3 day in the Grapefruit League. P.S. After finishing last season on the disabled list, there’s a chance ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart will start this season on what is now being called the injured list. Vying this spring to start at either third base or second for the Los Angeles Angels, Cozart has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 left calf strain and reportedly will be out for a few weeks. The season starts March 28. Cozart, 33, was scratched from the Angels’ lineup with tightness in his calf last Sunday and is receiving treatment. He played just 58 games in 2018 – after signing as a free agent — because of a left shoulder injury that required surgery. Early in camp, he was rarin’ to go. “I was actually shocked, in a good way, how good I felt so early,” he told the Orange County Register just after reporting. “It’s doing great.” The calf injury is quite a blow.

30 Jan

whatever happened to …

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.

25 Jan

eye on …

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.

16 Jan

there and here

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.

28 Aug

learning curve

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.

01 Aug

on this date

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.