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.

01 Aug

big league chew

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.

21 Jul

date of note

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.

03 Jul

hitting his stride?

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.

30 Jun

oops …

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.

14 Jun

heat check

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.

13 Jun

status update

Ryan Rolison, the 22nd overall pick in the draft and the first Mississippian chosen, has signed with Colorado; no financial details were announced. The left-hander was the first Ole Miss player to be drafted in the first round since Drew Pomeranz in 2010. The list of signees from this year’s draft also includes Zack Shannon (Arizona), James McArthur (Philadelphia), Brady Feigl (Oakland) and Dallas Woolfolk (Oakland). … T.J. House, the former Picayune High standout, has been released from Triple-A by the Chicago White Sox. The erstwhile big leaguer, 28, had a 1-6 record and a 6.81 ERA in nine starts for Charlotte. He has 29 MLB appearances on his ledger, the last with Toronto in 2017. … Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman remains on the shelf in Oakland’s system with a forearm problem. Graveman last pitched on May 24 for Triple-A Nashville. The A’s opening day starter, he is 1-5, 7.60 in big league duty this year. … Ex-Ole Miss star Chris Coghlan, who signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs in late March, has not played this season because of a shoulder injury. The 32-year-old MLB veteran is a career .258 hitter and won a World Series ring with the Cubs in 2016.

27 May

coming out on top

Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College star, found himself in the leadoff spot for the Chicago White Sox on Saturday. Apparently, he likes it there. Anderson hit two home runs, drove in a career-high four runs and scored three times to fuel an 8-4 win at Detroit’s Comerica Park. The reedy (6 feet 1, 185 pounds) shortstop is batting .246 with 10 homers, 18 RBIs and 11 steals. He leads all Mississippians in the majors in homers and steals. His second bomb, a three-run shot, on Saturday came off Louis Coleman, the pride of Schlater, and put the White Sox up 7-3 in the sixth. “I’m having a hot streak right now,” Anderson, who also homered on Friday, told The Associated Press. Anderson hit fifth on Friday, seventh on Thursday and eighth on Wednesday after not playing on Tuesday. Apparently, the White Sox, having a brutal season, are searching for a lineup that clicks. Maybe they found something. Anderson, a 2013 first-rounder out of ECCC now in his third MLB campaign, has shown flashes of stardom. He hit .257 last year with 17 homers, 56 RBIs and 15 steals after batting .283 as a rookie. P.S. Coleman wasn’t the only Magnolia State product to yield a homer on Saturday. Chris Stratton, the Tupelo native and Mississippi State alum, gave up two bombs but got the win as San Francisco beat the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Stratton, now 6-3 with a 4.97 ERA, allowed three runs in five innings. Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez took him deep. Ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz allowed a homer to Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson and lasted just 3 1/3 innings for Boston, which rallied to beat the Braves 8-6 at Fenway Park. There is speculation that Pomeranz may be moved to the bullpen.

23 May

a little deja vu

The current configuration of the Atlanta Braves’ infield should look very familiar to Mississippi Braves fans. On June 30, 2016, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson and Johan Camargo – each one a natural shortstop — were in the same lineup for the first time. Albies had returned that day from a stint in Triple-A Gwinnett to play second base with Swanson at short and Camargo at third. It was a good mix. They combined to go 8-for-13 with two RBIs and two runs as the M-Braves won at Jackson (Tenn.) 6-5. On July 4 of that year, the infield trio hit 1-2-3 in the order in their first game together at Trustmark Park. Albies, who is tearing up the National League (.286, 14 homers, 34 RBIs) for the first-place Braves, was the M-Braves’ opening day shortstop in 2016 and hit .321 with four homers and 21 steals in 82 games in Pearl. The more-heralded Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick by Arizona in 2015, joined the M-Braves in late April of 2016 when Albies was promoted to Gwinnett. Swanson played 84 games, all at short, and batted .261 with four homers and 45 RBIs. He finished that year in the big leagues. Camargo was a jack-of-all-trades in 2016: 29 games at third, 32 at short and 64 at second. The switch-hitter batted .267 with four homers and 43 RBIs, spending the whole season in Pearl. That 2016 team made the Southern League playoffs. This has the makings of a special summer in Atlanta, and June 30, 2016, might have been one of the sparks that started this flame. P.S. Ole Miss product Alex Presley, in his 13th pro season, has signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox and is on the Triple-A Charlotte roster. Presley was granted his release by Baltimore last week. The lefty-hitting outfielder is a career .263 hitter in the big leagues and has batted .289 in the minors.