26 Jun

up-date in arms

Surely there are Oklahoma players and fans wondering this today: How can Ole Miss possibly top the brilliant pitching performance of Jack Dougherty, Mason Nichols and Josh Mallitz on Saturday, which followed the brilliant pitching performance of Dylan DeLucia on Thursday? How deep is that well? Heads up Sooners, ’cause here comes Hunter Elliott, who’ll start Game 2 of the College World Series with the national title in the Rebels’ grasp. Elliott, the freshman left-hander from Tupelo, has, in his last four starts, beaten LSU, Southern Miss and Arkansas and pitched masterfully in a no-decision against Miami. He is 5-3, 2.70 ERA, on the season. And he’ll have Rebel Nation roaring with every strike he throws in Omaha today. … The Houston Astros’ three-man no-hitter against the New York Yankees on Saturday marked the first time the Yanks had been no-hit since June 11, 2003, when Holmes Community College product Roy Oswalt and former Jackson Generals star Billy Wagner started and finished, respectively, a six-man no-no for the Astros at the old Yankee Stadium. … Former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn’s return to the Chicago White Sox’s rotation has not exactly sparked a team resurgence (see previous post). Lynn, coming off knee surgery, is 1-1 with a 6.19 ERA in his three starts, and the team is 6-6 since his return. He was roughed up Saturday by Baltimore. In 16 innings, Lynn has yielded 20 hits and three walks. … Mississippi State alum Ethan Small, bidding for another shot in The Show, threw seven strong innings for Nashville on Saturday, leading Milwaukee’s Triple-A club to a 2-1 win against Gwinnett. Small (4-3, 3.18) allowed three hits and one run and punched out 10, getting rehabbing big leaguer Eddie Rosario twice. … Jackson Prep alum Will Warren had the “unicorn slider” (see previous post) working Saturday, hurling 5 1/3 shutout innings in a win for Double-A Somerset in the Yankees’ chain. The right-hander allowed four hits and three walks with seven K’s. There is speculation, per MLB Trade Rumors, that the Yankees might use Warren as trade bait for a big league arm.

25 Jun

comes now a ‘unicorn’

In just his first professional season, Will Warren has made it to the pivotal Double-A level. A key factor in the former Jackson Prep star’s rise is a pitch he discovered and refined in minor league spring training with the New York Yankees. It has been labeled the “unicorn slider,” a bolting breaking ball that compliments Warren’s low-90s fastball. “I’ve never seen a pitch like it,” catcher Josh Breaux, Warren’s teammate with the Somerset Patriots, told nj.com. Warren, 23, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, takes a 2-2 record and 3.92 ERA into his fifth Double-A start tonight against Hartford at Somerset’s TD Bank Ballpark. Warren told nj.com that his quick rise in the Yankees’ system is “unreal.” Warren went 7-0, 1.39 ERA, at Jackson Prep as a senior and signed with Southeastern Louisiana, a good but off-the-radar NCAA Division I program. He spent four years with the Lions, posting a 3.90 ERA in 53 games. The Yankees liked something they saw and drafted him in the eighth round last summer. He made his pro debut this season with High-Class A Hudson Valley, going 2-3, 3.60, in eight starts before earning the promotion to Somerset of the Eastern League late last month. All told, he has 56 strikeouts and 17 walks in 55 2/3 innings. Warren still has work to do, of course, but he is rated the Yankees’ No. 27 prospect by MLB Pipeline, which notes that his slider could become a “high-leverage weapon” in the big leagues.

25 Jun

around the horn

As the weather has warmed in the Carolina League, so has Blaze Jordan, the ex-DeSoto Central High star. Jordan, playing for Boston’s Low-Class A Salem team, homered for the second straight day on Friday and now has eight homers on the season. But the 19-year-old third baseman, who famously has been winning home run derby contests since age 11, is doing more than slug. After a poor start in April, Jordan hit .323 in May and has really cranked it up in June: .421. Boston’s No. 6 prospect is batting .309 overall with a .361 on-base average, 20 doubles, 40 RBIs and 38 runs in 61 games. He has struck out just 44 times in 243 at-bats with 18 walks. In only his second pro season, Jordan is making big strides. … Look for Brandon Woodruff, the Mississippi State alum from Wheeler, to make a return to Milwaukee’s rotation soon, possibly Tuesday. On the injured list since late May, Woodruff threw a rehab game in A-ball on Thursday and pronounced himself healthy. He pitched five innings and allowed one run on two hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. The two-time All-Star is 5-3 with a 4.74 ERA for the Brewers this season. … Meanwhile, former State standout Hunter Renfroe, who has 13 homers this season, has missed Milwaukee’s last two games with a reported calf injury. It seems unclear how long Renfroe might be down. … Kudos to Jackson native and ex-big leaguer Stan Cliburn, whose Southern Maryland Blue Crabs clinched the Atlantic League North first-half title on Thursday. Cliburn’s club is 42-14. Among his best players are Mississippi products Braxton Lee (.305, 31 RBIs) and Bradley Roney (4-0, 4.21 ERA). … The Acadiana Cane Cutters, with a roster chock-full of Mississippians, lead the Texas Collegiate League with a 14-5 record. Patrick Lee, who plays for William Carey University, is batting .296 and has also pitched in five games for the summer league team. Carey’s Connor Adams is 3-0, 2.74 in eight appearances. Also on the roster are Casey Artigues (Southern Miss), Cade Crosby (Gulfport/Nicholls State), Vantrel Reed (Hinds Community College), Will Tynes (USM), Reed Vincent (Belhaven) and Justin Williams (Madison/Louisiana Tech).

24 Jun

northwest gloom

Adam Frazier got a big hit for Seattle on Thursday. Sorta. The ex-Mississippi State standout broke up a no-hit bid by Oakland’s Frankie Montas with two outs in the eighth inning. The hit did not factor in the outcome of the game, which Seattle won 2-1 thanks to two wild pitches in the ninth. Frazier hasn’t been much of factor in the Mariners’ season, which has been to this point a huge disappointment. Even after sweeping the hapless A’s, the M’s are 32-39 and a long, long way from playoff position. A Seattle writer recently described the situation as close to “disaster territory.” This was a team that expected to contend, and Frazier was one of the pieces Seattle brass added in the off-season with that goal in mind. Frazier was a .324 hitter and an All-Star second baseman for Pittsburgh last year. Traded to San Diego in July, Frazier’s production fell off, but Seattle considered him a key addition as it sought to build on last year’s 90-win campaign. It hasn’t worked out. A career .275 hitter, who made his MLB debut six years ago today, the 5-foot-10 lefty swinger is batting .222 with 21 RBIs and 28 runs through 70 games. He is batting .176 in his last 30 games and went 1-for-11 in the Oakland series. “I’ve never had (a slump) go this long,” Frazier told the Seattle Times. “I’ve had a bad month or so and then figured it out, but I’ve never had a bad two-and-a-half months.” There is time for a turnaround — but not much.

24 Jun

more to come?

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco’s first comment from Thursday’s postgame press conference summed it up nicely: “Just wow.” Wow captures the performance by junior right-hander Dylan DeLucia, who threw a four-hit shutout to beat Arkansas 2-0 and propel the Rebels into the College World Series best-of-3 final. Appropriately, DeLucia punched out the last batter, his seventh K of the day. Wow. The Rebels and the throng of UM fans at Charles Schwab Field went wild. “It’s amazing,” DeLucia said in a postgame interview on ESPN. “I don’t even have kind of words for it right now. It’s a blessing.” It was the eighth win of this remarkable season for DeLucia and the eighth win of this remarkable postseason for the Rebels. But pump the brakes for a minute. Eight is not enough. It’ll take two more to win the national title, to match archrival Mississippi State’s accomplishment from a year ago. Next up is Oklahoma, which is on a run essentially as amazing as the Rebels’. Unranked in preseason, pegged to finish fifth in the Big 12, OU went 15-9 in the league and won the conference tournament. The Sooners then took down Florida in Gainesville in the regionals, beat No. 4 national seed Virginia Tech in the Super Regional and stand 3-0 in Omaha with two wins over No. 5 seed Texas A&M. That deserves a wow. Led by Tanner Treadway (.488 in the NCAAs), OU can rake as well as Ole Miss. The Rebels might have an edge in arms: They have allowed just 2.2 runs per game in the NCAAs. Will that pitching hold up this weekend? The Rebels need two more W’s to put a final wow on this season.

23 Jun

scattered about

One of the more compelling stories of the 2022 season has been the return to the big leagues of Christian Bethancourt. The former Atlanta prospect, who played for the Mississippi Braves in 2012-13, won a job with Oakland as a non-roster invitee in the spring and is batting .241 with four homers and 17 RBIs. Before this season, Bethancourt had not played in the majors since 2017. He labored in the minors, in Korea and in winter ball. When he homered on June 1, off Justin Verlander, it was his first bomb in MLB in 2,118 days. If — just for kicks — you were to put together a team of former M-Braves now playing for other organizations, Bethancourt would be a prominent member. Put him at catcher. At first base, there’s the great Freddie Freeman, who left Atlanta this spring for a bigger contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is producing as expected: .302, seven homers, 42 RBIs. (He’ll make his much-anticipated return to the ATL on Friday.) Second base: Tommy LaStella, now with San Francisco. Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons, Chicago Cubs. Third base: Johan Camargo, Philadelphia. The outfield would feature Jason Heyward (Cubs), Cristian Pache (A’s) and Dylan Moore (Seattle). Willians Astudillo (Miami) would make a fine DH. There is an abundance of former M-Braves pitchers scattered around the big leagues. The best of the bunch might be left-hander Alex Wood, who has 68 career wins (5-5 in 2022) and started — albeit poorly — for the Giants today at Truist Park against his former club. Craig Kimbrel (Dodgers) is the logical choice as closer. (For what it’s worth: Williams Perez leads the Mexican League in ERA, and Joey Terdoslavich is among the league’s top home run hitters.)

23 Jun

down on farm

It was a quiet day for the few but proud Mississippians active in the majors. In Triple-A, however, it was a different story on Wednesday: Former Southern Miss standout Chuckie Robinson went 3-for-4 with his first Triple-A home run in Louisville’s loss to Iowa. Robinson, a good defensive catcher, started this season with Cincinnati’s International League club, was sent down to Double-A Chattanooga, then bumped back up a few days ago after hitting .276 in 31 games with the Lookouts. Delta State product Trent Giambrone, who had a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2021, went 0-for-5 for Iowa, the Chicago Cubs affiliate. … Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley, who started this season in Cleveland, hit a pair of homers — doubling his season total — for the Indians’ Columbus club, which lost an IL game to Omaha. Bradley is batting .202. Ex-Mississippi State star Konnor Pilkington, who also has some time in The Show this year, gave up five runs in four innings as the Clippers’ starter but did not take the loss. USM product Nick Sandlin has joined the Clippers’ bullpen, sent down Monday by the Indians despite a 2.98 ERA, but didn’t work Wednesday. … Former MSU standout and erstwhile big leaguer Brent Rooker went 2-for-4, boosting his average to .281, for El Paso, San Diego’s Pacific Coast League team. … Former Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers, recently demoted by the Los Angeles Angels, made a rare start, yielding one run in four innings for Salt Lake in a PCL loss to Reno. Mayers has a 10.57 ERA in three Triple-A games. … MSU alum Jacob Robson, who made his MLB debut last year, went 0-for-2 but swiped his 12th base and scored a run for Toledo, Detroit’s IL affiliate, in a win against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Robson is batting .206. … Ex-Bulldogs star Jordan Westburg was 1-for-5 with an RBI for Norfolk and is batting .365 since his recent promotion to Triple-A by Baltimore. Ole Miss product Aaron Barrett notched a hold for Philadelphia’s Lehigh Valley club, which lost that game to the Tides in the ninth inning. … Rehabbing big leaguer Corey Dickerson, the former Meridian Community College standout, went 0-for-2 in his third game with St. Louis’ Memphis affiliate. Dickerson, 3-for-7 with the Redbirds, appears close to a return to the Cardinals’ roster.

22 Jun

not done yet

Another opportunity has arisen for Billy Hamilton, the 31-year-old former Taylorsville High standout who signed a minor league contract on Tuesday with Miami. He was assigned to Triple-A Jacksonville. This is the definition of peripatetic: Since 2018, his last season with Cincinnati, his original club, Hamilton has hooked up with nine different major league organizations. Hamilton, the all-time stolen bases leader (314) among Mississippians in the majors, is no longer an everyday player but still has value as a pinch runner and defensive replacement in the outfield. A .240 career hitter in 869 MLB games, Hamilton finished 2021 with the Chicago White Sox, signed a minor league deal with Seattle in the spring and hit .168 at Triple-A Tacoma before opting for free agency on June 1. P.S. Brent Rooker, the ex-Mississippi State star, keeps banging away at Triple-A El Paso, hoping for another big league shot with San Diego. After a 3-for-5 game on Tuesday, Rooker is batting .274 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs. Twice the Padres have recalled the outfielder only to option him back to El Paso without giving him an at-bat. He hit .212 with 10 homers in 2020-21 with Minnesota. … Southern Miss product Matt Wallner, hitting leadoff Tuesday for Double-A Wichita in the Twins’ system, had two homers among his three hits and now has 15 on the year to go with a .278 average and 47 RBIs. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound outfielder hit 15 homers in A-ball last year, his second as a pro. … Props to Drew Lugbauer, whose 15th homer of 2022 made him the Mississippi Braves’ career leader with 33 bombs. The lefty-hitting first baseman, in his second Double-A tour, broke a tie with Travis Demeritte and Connor Lein.

21 Jun

magic in the air

There was magic in Omaha, where Ole Miss dispatched Arkansas 13-5 Monday night and is, to borrow a phrase from Hall of Famer Red Barber, sitting in the catbird seat at 2-0 in its bracket of the College World Series. Another strong start from Hunter Elliott, another home run from Tim Elko and a four-hit, four-run game from Justin Bench carried the Rebels to their seventh straight postseason victory. They are riding a wave that began on Selection Monday, when the NCAA handed them a regional bid that was far from certain. As coach Mike Bianco recently said, “When our name was called — I’ve been there for 21 of these and 18 times our name was called — I don’t remember any of those 18 times ever seeing that type of emotion from our team.”
Former Rebels star Lance Lynn, perhaps drawing on the Omaha vibe, went five innings (three runs) to launch the Chicago White Sox to an 8-7 win over Toronto. It was Lynn’s second start of 2022 after a long stint on the injured list. Former Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman, who knows a little bit about Omaha (see 2013), also got in on the act for the White Sox, throwing a scoreless eighth inning for his 13th hold.
There was some magic, too, in Atlanta, where Orlando Arcia, one of the original Biloxi Shuckers, delivered a game-winning hit for the surging Braves, scoring pinch-runner Phil Gosselin, a Mississippi Braves star from 10 years ago, with the clincher in a 2-1 win against San Francisco. Arcia, the fill-in for Ozzie Albies at second base, is batting .338 this season with 13 RBIs and two walk-offs. Gosselin, called up when Albies was injured, was originally drafted by the Braves and bounced through six other organizations before returning this year.

20 Jun

something’s brewing

A three-game home run streak for Hunter Renfroe has coincided with the three-game win streak Milwaukee will take into a big four-game series against National League Central rival St. Louis starting tonight at American Family Field. The teams, both of which feature Mississippi products, are tied atop the division at 38-30. Former Mississippi State star Renfroe, whose 444-foot homer at Cincinnati on Sunday was his first on a Father’s Day since the death of his dad — his “best friend” — last summer, has 13 homers on the season and is batting .250 with 27 RBIs as the prime power source in the Brewers’ lineup. This series will feature some good pitching matchups, including Thursday’s between ex-State standout Dakota Hudson of the Cardinals and Jason Alexander, a 29-year-old Brewers rookie. Hudson, who beat Boston at Fenway on Saturday, is 5-3 with a 3.31 ERA in his first full season after Tommy John surgery. He has never faced Renfroe in the big leagues, and their careers at State did not intersect. Missing from this series, unfortunately, are State product Brandon Woodruff, one of the Brewers’ top starters, and ex-Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson, a St. Louis outfielder. Both are on the injured list and on rehab assignments. P.S. East Central CC alum Tim Anderson, out roughly three weeks with a groin injury, is expected to return to the Chicago White Sox’s lineup at shortstop today against Toronto. Anderson is batting .356. … Blaze Jordan, the 19-year-old slugger from DeSoto Central High, clubbed two homers as part of a three-hit game Sunday for Boston’s Low-Class A Salem team. Jordan, a second-year pro, is batting .291 with six homers and 37 RBIs in 57 games this season.