31 Jul

summer session

There’s a touch of Ole Miss-Mississippi State rivalry in the championship series of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. Ole Miss’ Will Golsan, Nic Perkins and Will Stokes play for the Baltimore Redbirds and Mississippi State’s Cody Brown and Blake Smith for the Bethesda Big Train. The Redbirds and Big Train begin a three-game series today at Cockeysville, Md. Golsan is hitting .234, Perkins .278 (with 16 RBIs) and Stokes has a 2.12 ERA for Baltimore. Brown is batting .233 with 33 runs for Bethesda, and Smith has put up a 1.62 ERA. … Mississippi products were all over the highlights from Thursday’s Cape Cod League games. Errol Robinson of Ole Miss had three hits and three runs for Hyannis; he is still among the summer league’s batting leaders at .319. Mississippi State’s Jacob Robson, batting .318, got two hits and scored three runs for Bourne, which also got an RBI double from State’s Reid Humphreys. J.B. Woodman, another Bulldog, hit his first home run for Falmouth. And Bulldog tracks are all over the CCBL pitching stats. Dakota Hudson (1.08) and Vance Tatum (1.92), both with Hyannis, and Daniel Brown (2.13) of Cotuit rank among the league ERA leaders. … Southern Miss’ Daniel Keating, playing for Acadiana in the Texas Collegiate League, ranks second in the loop with 26 steals and fifth with a .303 average. He also has 17 RBIs and 27 runs.

31 Jul

target practice

Seth Smith likes to hit at Target Field in Minnesota. On Thursday, the Ole Miss alum from Jackson belted his fourth home run in 11 career games there, a first-inning blow that gave Seattle a lead on the Twins. Of course, Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star, likes to hit at Target Field, too. He smacked his 33rd career homer there, a leadoff shot that propelled the Twins to a five-run first inning and a 9-5 victory. Dozier, the All-Star, now has 22 homers for the season (10 at home) for Minnesota, which appears headed for an American League playoff berth that no one predicted in preseason. Seattle, on the other hand, was pegged by many to win the AL West but has had a rough go of it. At 46-57, the Mariners are a distant fourth in the division. Smith, in his first season with the M’s, has played well enough: His .263 average is right at his career mark, and he’s got nine homers and 28 RBIs in 270 at-bats. Wonder if he is on the trading block? … On a small ball note: Billy Hamilton, the Taylorsville Tornado, swiped two more bases on Thursday, running his season total to 49, 16 more than the next best in baseball. He also scored three times in Cincinnati’s 15-5 win against Pittsburgh, but his runs total of 47 ranks just 68th in MLB.

30 Jul

’round and ’round

This trade deadline stuff will make your head spin: Former Mississippi Braves Alex Wood, Luis Avilan and Jose Peraza are gone from Atlanta’s roster, shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade that brought in Cuban third baseman Hector Olivera – and his $37M contract. Hard to figure where Atlanta is going with all of this, isn’t it? … Also joining the Braves organization is former Murrah High star Zack Bird, a ninth-round pick by the Dodgers in 2012 who has a 16-35 record and 4.74 ERA in four years in the low minors. The 6-foot-4 right-hander was in the Class A California League at the time of the deal. He could make it to the Double-A M-Braves sometime in the near future. … One small save for Washington, one giant (well, sorta) save for Mississippi State product Jonathan Papelbon. In his first appearance for the Nationals today, Papelbon worked a 1-2-3 ninth, punching out Michael Morse for the final out in a 1-0 win over Miami. It would have been a thing had Papelbon blown his first save try with the Nats, don’t you think? … Meanwhile, ex-M-Braves ace Matt Harrison, trying to battle back this season from injuries (see previous posts), is off to Philadelphia as part of the blockbuster deal that sent Cole Hamels to Texas. “He’s got a long track record of great success. It’ll be huge for us,” Rangers first baseman and MSU alum Mitch Moreland told mlb.com about Hamels. … And this just in, former Richton High star JaCoby Jones has been dealt from Pittsburgh to Detroit in exchange for closer Joakim Soria. Jones, 23, a shortstop, was just recently promoted to Double-A, which had sparked speculation a deal might be in the works with him.

30 Jul

off the table

Anthony Alford has played so well this season in the low minors, his name surfaced with some big ones today in trade talks. Early reports of the David Price deal had former Petal High star Alford included in the package Toronto was sending Detroit for the ace left-hander. But the Blue Jays held onto Alford, who is now rated their No. 4 prospect by mlb.com. The 21-year-old outfielder, 6 feet 1, 205 pounds, is batting .300 with a pair of homers, 25 RBIs and 19 steals at two levels of A-ball. He has hit .311 in 30 games at high Class A Dunedin. Drafted in the third round by Toronto in 2012, when he was Mr. Baseball, Alford had played only 25 minor league games before 2015 as he focused on football, first at Southern Miss, then at Ole Miss. He quit football last fall and played in the Australian Baseball League before getting an invite to the Blue Jays’ major league spring camp. His stock seems to be rising.

30 Jul

a kind of hush

The Washington Nationals’ clubhouse did not explode on Wednesday. Jonathan Papelbon showed up in the visitors’ digs at Miami’s Marlins Park, and everybody said all the right things, at least publicly, about the team’s addition of a new closer. “To me it’s all about winning and being in a place I’m happy,” former Mississippi State standout Papelbon said in a Washington Post story. Papelbon wasn’t happy in Philadelphia, where he was 17-for-17 in save chances for a last-place club. The Nationals’ former closer, Drew Storen, did not sound happy in comments he made on Tuesday after the trade news broke. But he pitched — and pitched well — in the eighth inning of a 7-2 win over the Marlins that boosted the first-place Nats to 53-46, 2 games ahead of the New York Mets in the National League East. Papelbon did not get in the game. Washington GM Mike Rizzo said Tuesday that the Nationals aren’t worried about the possible side effects of adding the sometimes prickly Papelbon to their clubhouse, calling him “a winner.” “He excels in pressure situations, and that’s his personality,” Rizzo told espn.com. So … all was quiet on the Papelbon front, which was a theme for the day among Mississippians in the majors. Eight hitters went a combined 3-for-19 with one run. And Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz, making a relief appearance for Oakland, faced three batters and didn’t retire any of them. All three scored, and his ERA jumped to 4.08.

29 Jul

field notes 3

Mason Robbins produced a four-hit game on July 22, and the ex-Southern Miss star has been raking ever since for Class A Kannapolis. Robbins, drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 25th round in 2014, is 11-for-34 (.324) during his seven-game hit streak, boosting his average to .260. A left-handed hitting outfielder, Robbins has three homers, 34 RBIs and 35 runs in 89 games. The George County High product, the state’s Mr. Baseball in 2011, has three four-hit games this season in the South Atlantic League. … Jonathan Holder, Mississippi State’s all-time saves leader, made his first relief appearance of the season on Monday for Class A Tampa, working 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Holder’s first 12 appearances for the New York Yankees’ Florida State League club were starts. The right-hander from Gulfport made three starts of just nine total innings during a brief stay with the rookie Gulf Coast League Yankees before returning to the Tampa club. Holder, a sixth-round pick in 2014, is 5-2 with a 2.44 ERA. He started eight of 12 games last year. … Ole Miss alumnus Chris Ellis continues to shine at Double-A Arkansas in the Los Angeles Angels’ system. He’s 4-1 with a 3.61 ERA in eight starts for the Travelers, striking out 35 and walking 22 in 42 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander says command, not power, is key to his success. “When you can locate four different pitches, it’s easy. When you only locate two, it’s a little harder. When you locate one, it’s impossible,” Ellis, a 2014 third-round pick, told milb.com. … Alcorn State product Earl Burl III has experienced lots of ups and downs in his rookie season. The outfielder is batting .240 with 13 RBIs, 15 runs and eight steals over 33 games for rookie-level Vancouver in the Toronto organization. Burl, an outfielder, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs in his first game on June 18 and has six other multi-hit games. But he hasn’t been able to get his average above .268 since that debut effort.

28 Jul

clear a space

Former Richton High star JaCoby Jones got his first taste of Double-A ball on Monday and apparently liked it very much. Jones, a Pittsburgh prospect (No. 13 by mlb.com) at shortstop, went 3-for-4 with an RBI, a run and a stolen base to spark Altoona to a 3-2 win over Richmond in the Eastern League. Jones, the state’s Mr. Baseball in 2010 and a third-round draft pick out of LSU in 2013, was batting .253 with 10 homers and 58 RBIs at Class A Bradenton. Ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier also plays for Altoona and has started 26 of his 64 games for the Curve at short. He also has played the outfield and started Monday in center, hitting leadoff. He is batting .357.

28 Jul

the launch pad

Will Clark famously homered in his first at-bat as a pro and went on to hit .309 with 10 bombs that season in the Class A California League. Of course, the transition from college to pro ball doesn’t flow as seamlessly for everyone as it did for the ex-Mississippi State star in 1985. Typically, there are adjustments to be made. Sikes Orvis was a fearsome hitter at Ole Miss this past season. He belted 16 homers, drove in 53 runs, scored 41 and slugged .587. The Chicago White Sox picked the big first baseman in the 17th round of the draft, and 20 games into his rookie campaign, he is batting .224 and slugging .366 with two homers at Great Falls in the Pioneer League. James McMahon was the ace of the Southern Miss staff in 2015, going 11-1 with a 1.56 ERA and winning the Ferriss Trophy. The Colorado Rockies picked the right-hander in the 24th round, and eight games into his rookie campaign, he is 1-2, 8.41 with Grand Junction of the Pioneer League. For Orvis and McMahon, and others who recently launched pro careers, adjustments are required if they want to survive and advance. It can be tough – but it can be done. Aaron Barrett came out of Ole Miss in 2010 and went 0-5, 9.43 in his first pro season. Four years later, he made the big leagues and currently has a career 3.26 ERA as a key piece in the Washington Nationals’ bullpen. Ex-Rebels star Zack Cozart hit .239 and made nine errors in 46 games at shortstop in his pro debut in 2007. A regular for Cincinnati since 2012, he is now considered one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball and was on course for his best season at the plate before suffering a knee injury in June. P.S. Itawamba Community College alum Desmond Jennings, who hasn’t played for Tampa Bay since April (knee injury), has been working out for several days with the Rays’ Class A Port Charlotte club but there has been no report on when he might return to the big leagues. The veteran outfielder was batting .222.

27 Jul

off the beaten path

One of the hottest hitters in the independent Atlantic League is Fred Lewis, the former Stone County High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star. The 34-year-old Lewis is hitting .389 over his last 10 games and is up to .264 for the year. Playing for Jackson native Stan Cliburn’s Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, Lewis has three homers, 30 RBIs, 42 runs, six steals and a league-best six triples in 77 games. Lewis played parts of seven years (2006-12) in the majors, hitting .266. … Gulf Coast CC product Roy Corcoran, 35, has 17 saves and three wins (despite a 5.11 ERA) in 35 games for Aguascalientes in the Mexican League. The last of his 82 MLB games came in 2009 with Seattle. … Former Mississippi State standout Luis Pollorena is 5-1 with a 2.06 ERA for the Laredo Lemurs of the indy American Association. Pollorena, a 5-foot-8 lefty who won 17 games over three seasons at State, spent the previous two years in the Texas Rangers’ organization. … Ole Miss’ Errol Robinson rapped out three hits on Sunday to boost his average to .314 for Hyannis in the Cape Cod League. He is among the league leaders with 20 runs. … Also in the Cape on Sunday, Reid Humphreys of MSU blasted his fourth homer of the summer for Bourne. Humphreys is batting .239 with 11 RBIs. … Southern Miss’ Dylan Burdeaux hit a pair of homers on Saturday in the New England Collegiate League, giving him six for the season. His USM and Ocean State teammate Chuckie Robinson also has six homers, tied for fourth in the league behind another teammate, Tim Lynch, who has nine, which equals the league-best. … Delta State’s Will Robertson is hitting .479 with a homer, 13 RBIs and 24 runs in 18 games for the Tippah Tribe in the Cotton States League.

26 Jul

trade winds

Cody Reed made one big move this season when he rose from A-ball to Double-A. Now he’s making another, this one from the Kansas City system to Cincinnati’s. Reed, a left-hander from Horn Lake, was one of the three pitchers the Royals sent to the Reds in their trade today for ace right-hander Johnny Cueto. The main piece for the Reds is Brandon Finnegan, a hard-throwing lefty who made a name for himself in the 2014 postseason. But Reed may prove to be much more than a throw-in. The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder, a second-round draft pick in 2013 out of Northwest Mississippi Community College, is in the midst of a strong season. He went 5-5 with a save and a 2.14 ERA in 13 appearances at Class A Wilmington and earned a promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he was 2-2, 3.45 in five starts. Reed may well land in Pensacola in the Southern League.