29 Nov

keep on sluggin’

Hattiesburg native John Lindsey will play on in 2013, having re-signed as a minor league free agent with the Detroit Tigers. Lindsey, who’ll turn 36 in January, hit .270 with 15 home runs and 47 RBIs in 65 games for the Tigers’ Triple-A Toledo club in 2012. He began 2012 playing in Mexico, hitting 21 bombs for Laguna. Lindsey has been slugging away in pro ball since 1995 and has logged only 12 at-bats (one hit) in the majors, all with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010. He has 249 career minor league homers. P.S. Delta State product Eli Whiteside, who signed a split contract with the New York Yankees, has been designated for assignment (taken off the big league roster). … Former Mississippi Braves shortstop Brandon Hicks, DFA’d by Oakland last week, was traded to the New York Mets. … Ex-M-Brave Brent Lillibridge, who finished last season with Cleveland, has elected free agency.

28 Nov

return of a hero

During his playing days, Bobby Thigpen was a great fit in the Chicago White Sox’s bullpen, posting a team-record 201 career saves. Maybe he’ll find success there again. The former Mississippi State standout has been hired as bullpen coach by the ChiSox. “This is something I am looking forward to,” he told ESPNChicago.com. Thigpen, who has been managing and coaching in the White Sox’s system for several years, spent last season as pitching coach for Double-A Birmingham in the Southern League. Thigpen spent the majority of his nine-year playing career with the White Sox and in 1990 set an American League record for saves with 57, a mark that stood for 19 years. Thigpen and ChiSox manager Robin Ventura were teammates for several years. Thigpen was a member of some of the great MSU teams of the 1980s, teaming with Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro and Jeff Brantley.

24 Nov

transaction watch

Some noteworthy names have popped up on the MLB transaction report in recent days. T.J. House, the former Picayune High ace, was added to Cleveland’s 40-man roster, as was former Mississippi Braves pitcher Brett Oberholtzer by Houston. Delta State product and onetime big leaguer Dusty Hughes was re-signed by Atlanta; the left-handed reliever spent 2012 at Triple-A Gwinnett. Also signing minor league deals were a host of ex-M-Braves: Matt Young and Jo-Jo Reyes with the Los Angeles Angels; J.C. Boscan with the Chicago Cubs; Erik Cordier with Pittsburgh; and Juan Abreu with the L.A. Dodgers. Former M-Braves shortstop Brent Lillibridge was put on the Triple-A roster by Cleveland, and Brandon Hicks, another ex-M-Braves shortstop, was designated for assignment by Oakland.

20 Nov

moving on up

Some familiar names were added to Atlanta’s 40-man roster today. Catcher Christian Bethancourt and right-handers Zeke Spruill, David Hale and Cory Rasmus — all 2012 Mississippi Braves — were protected from the Rule 5 draft and will go to spring training with the big league club. Bethancourt hit just .243 last year before a hand injury ended his season early, but he is regarded as a strong defensive catcher. Spruill was 9-11 with a 3.67 ERA, Hale 8-4, 3.77 and Rasmus put up a 3.68 in 50 games in relief. It’s likely all four will start at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2013. … How many former M-Braves now on the Atlanta roster? Try 22.

20 Nov

back in the saddle

John Gibbons, the former Jackson Mets catcher, is getting a second chance as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, and this time the expectations will be greater. Gibbons went 305-305 in his previous stint (2004-08); his best team, the 2006 club, finished 87-75 and ran second — missing the playoffs — in the American League East. The Blue Jays have added Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Melky Cabrera to their roster for 2013, and Gibbons himself said in his press conference that he expects to contend (with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays) in the beastly AL East. Wish him luck. He’ll need it. Gibbons, now 50, was one of the Mets’ three first-round picks in 1980 — Darryl Strawberry and Billy Beane were the others — and reached Double-A Jackson in 1982. He was a star for Our Jackson Mets in 1983, batting .298 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs. Gibbons joins quite a crew of former JaxMets players or skippers in leadership positions in MLB: Beane is the GM in Oakland, and Davey Johnson, Clint Hurdle, Ron Gardenhire and Ned Yost are managing in Washington, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Kansas City. P.S. Billy Hamilton suffered nothing more than back spasms in his crash into the outfield wall in Saturday’s Arizona Fall League title game, according to various reports. The Taylorsville High alum and Cincinnati prospect, still learning the ropes in center field, had a triple and a bunt single in the game.

17 Nov

center of attention

With any luck, we’ll get to judge how Billy Hamilton’s adjustment to center field has gone when Peoria meets Salt River in today’s Arizona Fall League championship game (2 p.m., MLB Network). Hamilton, the speedy Taylorsville High product, is expected to start in center for Peoria, with Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson possibly in left or right for Salt River. Cincinnati converted Hamilton from shortstop to outfield in the AFL. “People say outfield is easy,” he told mlb.com in late October, “but once you get out there, you’ve got to know the hitters, how much power they’ve got and the angle of the bat when the ball comes off it. It’s been a little hard.” Hamilton certainly has the speed and a strong enough arm to make this work, and he seems to have bought into it. “Whatever gets me to the big leagues, I’m down with it,” he told mlb.com. He hit just .234 in the AFL but did steal 10 bags, drive in nine runs and score 11. He hit .311 in the regular season and stole a pro record 155 bases between high-A and Double-A. Dickerson, a Colorado prospect and more of a power hitter, batted .364 with three doubles, two triples, a homer, 11 RBIs and eight steals.

15 Nov

worth a look

Take a break from football on Saturday and check out the Arizona Fall League championship game (2 p.m. on MLB Network). Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson will be in the game; he went 4-for-4 on Wednesday as Salt River clinched the East Division title. Dickerson, a rising Colorado outfield prospect, has a current 12-game hit streak and is batting .387 with a home run and 11 RBIs. Former Taylorsville High standout Billy Hamilton’s Peoria club is in first place in the West. Hamilton (Cincinnati) is batting .250 with 10 stolen bases. P.S. Former Ole Miss star and current Florida Marlins minor leaguer Chris Coghlan (.224) hit his fourth homer for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League on Wednesday. … 2012 Mississippi Braves catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis hit homer No. 6 for Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League. Gattis, who could be back in Pearl for 2013, is batting .275 with 20 RBIs and has earned the nickname El Oso Blanco (White Bear). … Itawamba CC had three players sign with NCAA Division I schools on Wednesday: Right-hander Ben Hudspeth (remember that name) with Mississippi State, shortstop Tyler Tipton with Kentucky and lefty Dylan Earnest with Southeastern Louisiana.

14 Nov

resume building

In addition to winning the National League Manager of the Year award, Davey Johnson bolstered his Hall of Fame credentials in 2012. The former Jackson Mets manager (Texas League champions, 1981) led the Washington Nationals to 98 wins — most in the majors — and a division title, which is the sixth Johnson’s teams have captured. Johnson, who now has two manager of the year awards (Baltimore, 1997), has won only one World Series ring as a manager (New York Mets, 1986). But those can be hard to come by. Just ask Bobby Cox. Johnson has won 2,283 games as a big-league skipper for five different organizations. He has posted an outstanding .564 winning percentage. Fast approaching 70, he’ll give it a go again with the Nats in 2013. They’ll be good, a World Series contender. Count on that. And don’t be surprised if Johnson gets a Cooperstown call a few years down the road. P.S. Yunel Escobar, the onetime Mississippi Braves shortstop, apparently wore out his welcome in Toronto just as he did in Atlanta. He is a key piece in the blockbuster Toronto-Miami trade. Escobar batted just .253 this year (after a .290 mark in 2011) and created more off-field distractions. He lives in the Miami area, so maybe he’ll be happy there, though considering the plight of the Marlins, probably not so much on the field. … 2012 M-Brave Todd Cunningham (.254) went 3-for-4 with an RBI for Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific League on Tuesday, and ex-M-Brave Matt Esquivel (.206) blasted his third homer, a game-winner, for Navojoa in the MPL. … Atlanta has one catcher, ex-M-Braves star Brian McCann, on its current roster, and McCann is expected to miss the start of the 2013 season after recent shoulder surgery. Might the Braves rush 2012 M-Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt to The Show next spring? They’ve fast-tracked a number of players recently.

10 Nov

not to be overlooked

Billy Hamilton is getting lots of attention in the Arizona Fall League, but there’s another Mississippi native out there who is actually playing better. McComb’s Corey Dickerson, a former Meridian Community College star, is hitting .340 with a homer, eight RBIs and seven stolen bases in the AFL. (Hamilton, the blazer from Taylorsville, has nine steals and a .275 average.) Dickerson was drafted (for the second time) by Colorado in 2008 after a monster season (.459, 21 home runs) at MCC. The Mississippi State commit signed and launched what has been a very impressive pro career. He reached Double-A Tulsa this past season and hit .274 with 13 homers in 67 games. He is carrying a .307 career average and has 67 bombs. Dickerson, 6 feet 2, 210 pounds, is a lefty-hitting corner outfielder who can’t be far off from his first big-league shot. His power seemingly would be a great fit at Coors Field. P.S. Kudos to former Jackson Mets outfielder Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s GM, on his executive of the year award, and to ex-OJMs skipper Davey Johnson on his new deal to manage Washington again next season.

07 Nov

scatter shots

Todd Cunningham, the switch-hitting center fielder who starred for the Mississippi Braves this past season, is getting more seasoning in the Mexican Pacific League. He belted a three-run homer for Hermosillo on Tuesday night and is hitting .250 in 44 at-bats. Cunningham hit .306 for the M-Braves, contending for the Southern League batting title, and added 23 doubles, 51 RBIs, 77 runs and 24 stolen bases. He’s one to keep an eye on. … The New York Yankees have claimed former Delta State star Eli Whiteside off waivers from San Francisco. Whiteside, a catcher, spent most of 2012 in the minors, going 1-for-11 in big league games. He didn’t play in the postseason as the Giants won the World Series. … Remember Zach Penprase? The former Mississippi Valley State standout is still plugging away, six years after Philadelphia drafted him out of Itta Bena. He is currently playing for Sydney in the Australian Baseball League. The Californian, an infielder, has played the past four seasons in independent ball after stalling at the Class A level in affiliated ball.