30 Jun

that’ll work

The Toronto Blue Jays surely like what they’re seeing from Anthony Alford, who is 6-for-22 in his first five games in the high Class A Florida State League. The former Mr. Baseball from Petal began his first full pro season in the Midwest League, hitting .293 with 14 doubles, 16 RBIs, 12 steals and 49 runs in 50 games at Lansing. The righty-hitting outfielder, a third-round pick in 2012, already has two doubles, a triple, a homer, three RBIs and four runs for Dunedin. … The Los Angeles Angels surely like most of what they’ve seen from Alex Yarbrough in his last five games. The switch-hitting second baseman out of Ole Miss is 9-for-19 (.473), lifting his average at Triple-A Salt Lake to .247. He has 19 doubles, 29 RBIs and 36 runs in 73 games. However, Yarbrough has struck out six times in his last five games, giving him 81 in 299 at-bats. That’s an area where the 2014 Texas League player of the year needs to improve. P.S. Jacob Taylor, the Pearl River Community College alum from Picayune, pitched two scoreless innings (no hits, three walks, two strikeouts) in his pro debut today. Taylor, a fourth-round pick by Pittsburgh and the second Mississippian drafted this year, is with the Gulf Coast League Pirates.

30 Jun

flipping the script

Seems sorta silly now. Mitch Moreland was projected to hit 13 home runs for Texas this season while batting .243, according to Rotowire.com. Speculation was that the former Mississippi State star would wind up in a platoon situation at DH. He had off-season ankle surgery after playing only 52 games (and hitting two homers) in 2014, and then underwent elbow surgery in late April. He had one homer at the time. When the Rangers reacquired Josh Hamilton, it was assumed Moreland’s playing time would drop. Flash to Monday. Moreland hit two homers in the Rangers’ 8-1 win against Baltimore, giving him 12 for the season, which is not yet half over. A career .258 hitter, he is batting .300 (and his average has been as high as .321). He plays every day, almost always at first base. (Prince Fielder is the regular DH; Hamilton has been injured.) Moreland, 29, is looking like the star the Rangers thought they had found when he broke in in 2010 with nine homers in 47 games for a team that made it to the World Series. P.S. Former Taylorsville High standout Billy Hamilton stole four bases and scored three runs on Monday, leading Cincinnati to an 11-7 win over Minnesota. Hamilton has a major league-best 40 steals and 37 runs in 67 games. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier homered for the 16th time for the Twins. … MSU product Kendall Graveman threw seven shutout innings as Oakland beat Colorado 7-1. Graveman is 5-4 with a 3.47 ERA. … Ex-Ole Miss star Chris Coghlan is MLB’s active leader in consecutive games played at 138 going into the Chicago Cubs’ game today against the New York Mets. Coghlan is batting .259 with eight homers in 74 games this season.

29 Jun

the only day

On this date in 1905, Archibald Graham, better known as “Moonlight,” made his one and only major league appearance, an otherwise obscure event immortalized by the film “Field of Dreams.” There have been hundreds of players who got into only one major league game, but the list of those who, like Graham, never got to bat or make a play in the field is considerably shorter. On that list is John Howard “Lefty” Merritt, a Tupelo (or Plantersville) native. Eight years after Graham’s one appearance, Merritt made his, also for the New York Giants. A successful pitcher in the minors, Merritt played right field, same as Graham, in his one big league game. A year earlier, in 1912, Meadville native Pat McGehee made his one big league appearance, as a starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. McGehee faced two batters, allowed a walk and a hit, then left the game. In 1963, Hattiesburg’s Mickey Harrington made his lone MLB appearance as a pinch runner for the Philadelphia Phillies. Never got to bat, never played in the field. But he was, for that brief moment, a major league player. And that’s still pretty cool.

28 Jun

coming attraction

Chris Ellis, one of the stars on Ole Miss’ 2014 College World Series team, is now glowing brightly in the Los Angeles Angels’ system. Promoted to Double-A in early June, he is 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts at Arkansas of the Texas League. He goes again today against Springfield. Ellis was drafted in the 50th round by the Dodgers out of an Alabama high school in 2011. After three years in Oxford, he came out last summer as a third-round pick by the Angels. He already is rated their No. 9 prospect by mlb.com and Athlon. The 6-foot-4 right-hander, 22, started 4-5 with a 3.88 ERA this year at Class A Inland Empire, where he had 70 K’s in 62 2/3 innings. He pitched only 15 2/3 innings in his first pro season.

28 Jun

looking (way) back

Eighty years ago, they ruled the Earth. Well, in 1935, the Pittsburgh Crawfords ruled a segregated part of the Earth. The ’35 Crawfords are widely regarded as the greatest Negro Leagues team of all-time, and — wait for it — a pair of Mississippians were part of the club. Owned by the legendary – and deep-pocketed — Gus Greenlee, the Crawfords trotted out five future Hall of Famers, including Starkville native Cool Papa Bell. The lightning-quick Bell, one of just two Mississippi natives enshrined in Cooperstown, was the leadoff batter in a lineup that also featured Josh Gibson, player-manager Oscar Charleston, Judy Johnson and Sam Bankhead. The brilliant Satchel Paige pitched for that Crawfords team for a time, though their ace was Leroy Matlock, who, according to one source, went 18-0 that season. The team went 26-6 in the first half of the Negro National League season, 39-15 overall and beat the second-half champion New York Cubans in the league championship series. A lesser known star on that Pittsburgh team was Bill “Lefty” Harvey, a Clarksdale native who pitched and occasionally played first base and pinch hit. Harvey famously beat Bob Feller in a head-to-head matchup in a California winter league game in 1939 and also hit three home runs in a game at Yankee Stadium, according to the Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. Good as he was, Harvey was just a bit player on the ’35 Crawfords team that validated its greatness by winning a thrilling seven-game championship series over the Cubans. The Crawfords, down 3-2 in games and three runs in the ninth, rallied to win Game 6 on the road, then got homers from Gibson and Charleston to take the pennant in Game 7 at home at Greenlee Field. When the conversation turns to greatest teams, remember the Crawfords.

27 Jun

rough seas ahead

Ned Yost’s Royals are in first place, and Buck Showalter’s Orioles, John Gibbons’ Blue Jays and Clint Hurdle’s Pirates have winning records and are contending in their respective divisions. The fifth Mississippi-connected manager in the big leagues, Dan Jennings, is running a club much closer to the cellar than first place. And things just took a turn for the worse for his Marlins. Already hindered by injuries, Miami has now lost star slugger Giancarlo Stanton for 4-6 weeks with a hand injury. Jennings, a Southern Miss and William Carey alum, was mocked when he was hired and still is drawing criticism from Miami fans. The team was 16-22 when the “shocking” decision was made to replace Mike Redmond with Jennings, a longtime scout and front office exec whose only experience running a team came at the high school level. The Marlins started 0-5 under Jennings, then went 14-13 over a stretch but have now lost five straight. At 30-45, Miami is 11.5 games out in the National League East. With pitcher Jose Fernandez and some others due back from the DL soon, there was cause for optimism for a team that was expected to contend for a playoff berth. “We’re not jumping off the ship, no doubt about that,” Jennings told a writer for CBS Sports last week. But with the loss of Stanton, the waters have become very choppy.

26 Jun

early returns

Year 2 is going better for Blake Anderson, the first Mississippian picked (36th overall) in the 2014 MLB draft. The catcher from West Lauderdale High is batting .364 (8-for-22) with three RBIs in five games for Miami’s Batavia club in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League. Anderson hit just .108 in 26 games in the rookie Gulf Coast League last year. Meanwhile, Austin Riley, the first Mississippian picked this year (41st overall by Atlanta) out of DeSoto Central, is 0-for-8 in three games for the Gulf Coast League Braves. Other starts of note: LaDarious Clark, who played at Southeast Lauderdale and East Mississippi Community College, went 4-for-5 (with two triples) on Thursday, boosting his average to .360 in seven games at Spokane in the short-season Class A Northwest League. Clark was picked in the 12th round this year by Texas. Ti’Quan Forbes, the 2014 Mr. Baseball from Columbia and a second-rounder last summer, is also playing on that club, hitting .227 to date. … Ole Miss alum Scott Weathersby, picked in Round 10 this year by Houston, yielded two runs in two innings in his debut at Tri-City in the short-season New York-Penn League. … Ex-Rebels star Sikes Orvis (17th round, Chicago White Sox) is 2-for-20 at Great Falls in the rookie Pioneer League. … Northwest Mississippi CC product Dalton Dulin (17th round, Washington) is 5-for-11 for Auburn in the NYPL. P.S. Former Ole Miss ace Lance Lynn, back on the bump Thursday for St. Louis after 18 days on the disabled list, allowed two hits in six shutout innings to beat Miami. He is 5-4 and lowered his ERA to 2.84. ”That was a good one to come back to,” he told The Associated Press after the Cardinals’ 5-1 win.

25 Jun

starting over

Minus their sparkplug, the Mississippi Braves start the second half of the Southern League season tonight against Pensacola at Trustmark Park. Mallex Smith, the All-Star center fielder who was batting .340 with a team-best 35 runs, has been promoted – and deservedly so — to Triple-A Gwinnett. Even with Smith at the top of the lineup, the M-Braves faded from contention late in the first half and wound up with a 33-35 record, a distant 10 games behind South Division champion Biloxi. It would certainly help the M-Braves’ cause if Rio Ruiz could get it going. The highly rated prospect, acquired in the trade that sent Evan Gattis to Houston, hit .211 in the first half with no homers and 12 RBIs. A lefty-hitting third baseman, Ruiz batted .293 with 11 homers and 77 RBIs in the high Class A California League in 2014 and hit .260 with 12 homers in low A ball in 2013. The M-Braves rank ninth in the 10-team league in runs and last in homers. Smith had 23 of their 38 steals. First baseman Seth Loman, the club’s home run leader with four, was released today. Where is the offense going to come from? Somebody needs to step up. P.S. The M-Braves have added an outfielder: Sean Godfrey, who was batting .304 with five homers, 22 RBIs and 10 steals at Class A Carolina. He was a 22nd-round pick last year out of Ball State, where he was the Mid-American Conference player of the year.

25 Jun

big league chew

He ranks first in runs, first in home runs, first in RBIs and second in slugging percentage among American League second basemen. Brian Dozier’s 56 runs are tied for the most in the entire AL, and he is second in the league in doubles. Surely, the ex-Southern Miss standout will make his first All-Star Game this year. He had two hits against Chris Sale on Wednesday, scoring a run and knocking in another to help Minnesota to a 6-1 win against the Chicago White Sox. Dozier is batting .261 with 14 homers and 36 RBIs for a good Twins club. … Kendall Graveman, the Mississippi State alum pitching for Oakland, beat Texas to square his record at 4-4 and trim his ERA to 3.86. Graveman is 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA in seven starts since returning from a stint in the minors. … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, back in the leadoff spot for Cincinnati, drew a first-inning walk, stole second and third and scored to start the Reds on their way to a 5-2 win at Pittsburgh. Hamilton was hitless in his other four at-bats, dropping his average to .223, but he has 35 steals and 33 runs in 62 games. … Ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star Jarrod Dyson, whose speed may rival Hamilton’s, stole his eighth bag (in 34 games) for Kansas City in a win over Seattle. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn (4-4, 3.07) is slated to come off the disabled list and start today for St. Louis against Miami. The Cardinals are 47-24, best record in MLB. … Worth remembering: Wednesday (June 24) was the 53rd anniversary of Silver City native Jack Reed’s only big league homer. It came in the 22nd inning of the New York Yankees’ 9-7 win at Detroit. Reed played parts of three seasons (1961-63) with the Yanks.

24 Jun

it’s a first

Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout, achieved a career first on Tuesday night. The left-hander earned career save No. 1 by getting the last five outs in Oakland’s 8-6 win at Texas. He induced ex-Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland to hit into a double play in the ninth and then ended the game with a strikeout. Pomeranz might be best suited for a bullpen role. He began this season in the A’s rotation and was 2-3 with a 4.40 ERA when he went on the disabled list in mid-May. In only two of his eight starts did he go more than 5 1/3 innings. He has worked exclusively in relief since returning and has yielded just two runs in 10 appearances, picking up four holds. Used mostly as a starter in pro ball since Cleveland drafted him fifth overall in 2010, Pomeranz is 11-21 with a 4.20 ERA for his MLB career. P.S. East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson was named MVP of Tuesday’s Southern League All-Star Game. On his 22nd birthday, the Chicago White Sox prospect went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run to pace the North stars to a 9-0 victory at Montgomery, Ala.