It’s here. Opening Day. New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays. Tropicana Field. OK, there’s no mystique and aura – or even sunshine — at The Trop, but it’s still Opening Day. And the first game of the 2017 season (noon, ESPN) could give us a matchup of Mississippi natives. McComb’s Corey Dickerson is expected to be in the Rays’ lineup as the DH batting leadoff. Gulfport’s Jonathan Holder is working out of the Yankees’ bullpen. Dickerson, a lefty hitter, is a veteran of 413 big league games and has a .279 career average. In his first season in Tampa in 2016, the Meridian Community College alum batted .245 with 24 homers. Holder, a right-hander, pitched in eight games (5.40 ERA) for the Yankees last summer and is still classified as a rookie. Drafted out of Mississippi State in 2014, he posted a 2.50 ERA (and a bunch of strikeouts) as he rose through the Yankees’ system. He pitched in Atlanta in the soft opening of SunTrust Park on Friday night; he wasn’t sharp. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout Chris Coghlan signed a minor league deal with Toronto and, according to reports, will start the season with Triple-A Buffalo. He had been released by Philadelphia. … Itawamba Community College product Desmond Jennings was given his release by Cincinnati.
Chris Coghlan will get a World Series ring next month. He’s looking for a uniform to wear. The Ole Miss alum was released by Philadelphia in a bit of a surprise move on Tuesday. Trying to make the lowly Phillies as a non-roster invitee, Coghlan, 32, didn’t have a great spring (.231, five RBIs) but did offer a left-handed bat and the versatility to play several positions. Coghlan batted .250 with six homers last year, which he split between Oakland and the champion Chicago Cubs. Over an eight-year career interrupted by injuries, Coghlan batted .260 with 52 homers. He hit .321 with Florida in 2009 when he won rookie of the year honors but never came close to that figure again. … Catching up on other roster news: Former Rebels star Stuart Turner apparently will make Cincinnati’s big club as a backup catcher, and lefty Cody Reed out of Northwest Mississippi Community College is going to stick in the Reds’ bullpen. However, Greenwood native Louis Coleman, a relief pitcher, was sent to the minor league camp, as was ex-Itawamba CC star Desmond Jennings, who reportedly can choose to be a free agent. … JaCoby Jones – who, it should be noted, did play a little football at Richton High – appears to have won Detroit’s center field job after batting .333 this spring. He debuted with the Tigers last summer. Former Ole Miss standout Alex Presley, despite batting .452 in a bid to win an outfield spot, was sent down by the Tigers. … Ex-Mississippi State star Jonathan Holder, who made his MLB debut last summer, appears to have claimed a job in the New York Yankees’ bullpen. He has had a strong spring (3.00 ERA). … MSU product Chad Girodo was sent out by Toronto. The lefty had a 2.08 ERA this spring after posting a 4.35 as a rookie last season.
A sliver of the baseball spotlight will be trained tonight on Memphis’ AutoZone Park, where Hunter Renfroe will lead El Paso against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a one-game showdown for the Triple-A championship. Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State star from Crystal Springs, hit .306 with 30 home runs and 105 RBIs and won Pacific Coast League MVP honors with the Chihuahuas, a San Diego affiliate. International League champ SWB, a New York Yankees affiliate, is managed by former Jackson Mets star Al Pedrique. Both clubs feature several top prospects. Jonathan Holder, another MSU product, spent part of this season with SWB but is now in the big leagues. Renfroe, rated the Padres’ No. 3 prospect by mlb.com, may be in line for a call-up to The Show, but he says all he is focused on at the moment is his current team and tonight’s game. “San Diego will always be there, and when the time comes for them to make a decision, I’ll be here,” he told The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. The NBC Sports Network will televise the 7:05 game. P.S. For the first time in his seven seasons in the majors, Mitch Moreland was ejected from a game. Former State standout Moreland got tossed in the fourth inning Monday by home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley after “disputing,” while walking away, a called third strike during Texas’ game against the Los Angeles Angels. “It was obviously a pitch I didn’t agree with,” Moreland said in an mlb.com article. The Rangers won 3-2 in walk-off fashion, reducing their magic number for clinching the American League West to 3.
Jonathan Holder was almost perfect on Sunday. The right-hander out of Mississippi State, pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, faced 13 batters and struck out 12 of them. He registered the save in a 3-1 win that clinched an International League playoff berth for SWB, a New York Yankees affiliate. Gulfport native Holder, a sixth-round pick by the Yankees in 2014, put up a 2.20 ERA at Double-A Trenton with 10 saves in 11 chances. He has been even better for SWB, going 6-for-6 in save opps with an 0.89 ERA, 35 strikeouts and no walks in 20 1/3 innings. Punchouts are not Holder’s forte, or so he says. “Getting swings and misses is a plus, but letting hitters get themselves out is my game plan,” he told milb.com. For the record, he has 225 K’s in 219 2/3 career innings. Holder is not on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, but he has positioned himself for a possible September call-up. P.S. Pittsburgh sent former State star Adam Frazier down to rookie-level Bristol on Sunday. Why Bristol? Because, according to mlb.com, Frazier can be recalled as soon as Bristol’s season ends, which is Thursday. The versatile Frazier is hitting .321 with a home run and seven RBIs in 39 games with Pittsburgh, which is still chasing a wild card in the National League.
Charlie Hayes had just three hits in 16 at-bats in the 1996 World Series, but what New York Yankees fans seem to remember is that the Hattiesburg native caught the foul pop that wrapped up the Yanks’ first championship in 18 years. The Yankees celebrated that title during their annual Old-Timer’s Game on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, and Hayes, now 51, was there with the likes of John Wetteland, Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill, other heroes of ’96. Though Hayes played only 262 of his 1,547 career games with the Yankees, he’ll be forever linked with the boys in pinstripes thanks to that Series victory over Atlanta. In the Game 6 clincher, Mark Lemke hit the pop that settled into Hayes’ glove and sent him leaping into the air. “I think I’ve had over four million people tell me they were at the game, so, it’s kind of unique,” Hayes said in a story on mlb.com. Hayes, drafted by San Francisco out of Forrest County AHS in 1983, actually had many shining moments in a 14-year MLB career spent with five different clubs. He hit 144 homers, including 25 with Colorado in 1993, when he led the National League in doubles with 45 and batted a career-high .305.
A four-hit game on Monday moved Tim Anderson’s average above the Mendoza Line. But an 0-for-5 followed on Tuesday. It hasn’t been a silky smooth season for the former East Central Community College star now playing at Triple-A Charlotte in the Chicago White Sox’s system. After a big year in Double-A in 2015, Anderson is batting .221 with three doubles, two RBIs, seven runs and four steals in 15 games for Charlotte. “You’ve just got to keep grinding and stay focused and keep dreaming about what you’ve been working for all your life,” Anderson told milb.com. Veteran Jimmy Rollins is currently handling shortstop duties for the ChiSox, but Anderson, the 17th overall pick out of ECCC in 2013, is expected to take the job by 2017 if not before. Anderson’s speed is considered his standout tool. P.S. Mississippi State alum Jonathan Holder got the last three outs of a combo no-hitter for Double-A Trenton on Tuesday. Fellow New York Yankees prospect Ronald Herrera worked the first eight innings against New Hampshire. Gulfport’s Holder got two strikeouts and made a nice defensive play in the ninth. “I’m thankful to be part of something that goes into history here in Trenton,” Holder told milb.com. He has a 1.08 ERA in four appearances at Trenton this season. … Former Biloxi Shuckers star Orlando Arcia, the heir apparent for Milwaukee’s shortstop job, is batting .313 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 17 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs. “He loves to play the game and he’s always having fun out there,” Sky Sox manager Rick Sweet, the former Jackson Generals skipper, told milb.com.
Making strides on the comeback trail, Zack Cozart got a hit in his first game of the spring and went deep in his second game. “(T)errific to see,” Cincinnati manager Bryan Price told mlb.com. Former Ole Miss star Cozart appeared to be on course for his best season in the big leagues in 2015 when he suffered a knee injury that required surgery. In 53 games, the slick-fielding shortstop batted .258 with nine home runs. Meanwhile, also in Reds camp, Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High star, still has played in only one game, that as a DH. Hamilton, Cincy’s center fielder, is coming back from shoulder surgery and coming off a tough year (.226). P.S. Mississippi State alum Jacob Lindgren was sent to the minor league camp by the New York Yankees. The left-hander, who made his MLB debut last season, had a 15.43 ERA in three spring appearances for a Yankees club with a deep bullpen.