11 Sep

crunch time

As the Milwaukee Brewers chased down a playoff berth in 2019, Brandon Woodruff became the ace of the pitching staff. The Brewers desperately need the former Mississippi State standout to reprise that role, starting tonight. Woodruff, 11-3 last year, has struggled in 2020, as have the Brewers, who are 19-22 and currently out of the National League playoff picture with less than three weeks to go. Woodruff (2-3, 3.91 ERA) takes the mound in a very meaningful game against the first-place Chicago Cubs at Miller Park. “These last few weeks are going to be a telltale sign of, are we going to do this thing or not?” Woodruff said in an mlb.com piece. “It’s going to be fun.” Well, maybe. Woodruff’s ERA has been climbing steadily over his last six starts. In only one of those starts has he gone more than five innings. He called his most recent outing, a 4 1/3-inning, 3-run stint in a no-decision against Cleveland, “a disgrace.” He could be positioned for a feel-good result against the Cubs. Collectively, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo are just 9-for-48 (.188) with no homers against Woodruff. P.S. Cody Reed, the Northwest Mississippi Community College alum from Horn Lake, went on the 10-day injured list for Tampa Bay with “left pinky finger irritation.” The left-hander has made two scoreless relief appearances since the Rays got him in a trade with Cincinnati.

09 Sep

that’s one

Brent Rooker, the latest in a string of sluggers Mississippi State has propelled to the big leagues, hit his first home run on Tuesday in Minnesota’s loss to St. Louis in Game 2 of a twinbill. He’ll likely hit a few more. Rooker has been rated one of the top power-hitting prospects in the Twins’ system since he was drafted out of Starkville in 2017. He has 54 minor league bombs in 259 games, and he blasted a tape-measure shot in Tokyo in a Team USA game last fall. Rooker hit 23 homers at State in his All-America junior season and 36 over his three-year career. So, yes, he’s got pop. The all-time leader in homers by a State alum is, of course, Rafael Palmeiro, who ranks 13th on MLB’s career chart with 569. Coincidentally, Palmeiro hit his first career homer on this date in 1986. He played 20 years. Second on the all-Bulldogs list is Will Clark with 284, followed by the active leader, Mitch Moreland, who has 174, including eight in 2020. Hunter Renfroe, who has six homers this year, stands at 95 career. Tyler Moore topped out at 30 after a promising start to his career. P.S. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his Chicago Cubs debut on Tuesday as a defensive replacement in center field, a role that figures to be his primary. The speedy Hamilton was a waiver claim from the New York Mets this week and reportedly would be eligible for the postseason.

08 Sep

delayed delayed gratification

On this date in 2010, in his 16th season in pro ball, at age 33, John Lindsey made his big league debut. The former Hattiesburg High slugger was announced as a pinch hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then the San Diego Padres changed pitchers, and Lindsey was called back. Another hitter took the turn. Lindsey did get his long-awaited first at-bat the next day and popped up, again as a pinch hitter. He would get 11 more ABs that season, delivering one hit, but that would be his only fling in the majors. Though he never hit a home run in the big leagues, Lindsey belongs in the conversation about the best mashers Mississippi has produced, right there with Dave Parker, George Scott, Luke Easter and the like. The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Lindsey bashed 377 homers in pro ball, according to numbers from baseball-reference.com, over a 22-year career that ended in the Mexican Pacific League in 2016. He hit his first homer for Colorado’s rookie league team in 1995 at age 18 and his last long ball for Novojoa in the MPL at age 38.

07 Sep

big league chew

First, the bad news from Sunday in MLB land. Anthony Alford, the former Petal High star, was placed on the 10-day injured list with a fractured elbow by Pittsburgh. He’s likely done for the season. It’s a cruel blow. A waiver claim by the Pirates on Aug. 28 from Toronto, Alford was getting regular duty in center field and was 3-for-12 with a homer and four RBIs. … For a bunch of Mississippians, Sunday was a good day. Former Mississippi State standout Dakota Hudson went five innings for St. Louis to beat Chicago at windy Wrigley Field; he improved to 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA. Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz threw another scoreless inning — his ERA is 0.00 over 13 appearances with six holds and four saves — in a win by San Diego. Ex-State standout Hunter Renfroe hit his sixth homer in Tampa Bay’s victory; Renfroe is batting just .155 but has 19 RBIs for the first-place Rays. DeSoto Central alum Austin Riley had a hit, two walks and a run in first-place Atlanta’s win; Riley’s average has climbed to .244. East Central Community College product Tim Anderson had a hit for the first-place Chicago White Sox and continues to lead the American League in batting at .351. Former State star Brent Rooker drove in two runs for Minnesota and is 3-for-11 in his first MLB stint. Surging Adam Frazier (.304 in his last 15 games, .234 for the year) went 2-for-4 for the Pirates, and fellow Bulldogs alum Chris Stratton worked a scoreless inning to trim his ERA to 3.79. Ex-Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers notched a win in relief for the Los Angeles Angels; he has a 2.93 ERA over 19 appearances for a bad team. MSU product Kendall Graveman worked a second straight scoreless inning for Seattle in his return from the IL with a neck problem (see previous posts). McComb native Corey Dickerson, scuffling of late, had a triple and scored twice for Miami. And, finally, former UM standout Henri Lartigue was added to Philadelphia’s 60-man roster and is in the alternate camp.

05 Sep

running on empty?

Wouldn’t it be strange if Billy Hamilton’s last act as a New York Met was a baserunning gaffe? The Taylorsville High product, who has made his living with his legs, was betrayed by his aggressiveness on Thursday, getting thrown out trying to steal third base with no outs in the bottom of the ninth and his team down a run. Hamilton was designated for assignment Friday, a move the Mets said was needed to add another pitcher to the active roster. But manager Luis Rojas also called Hamilton’s mistake on Thursday “not good baseball.” Hamilton, used mainly as a pinch runner and defensive replacement, was 1-for-22 at the plate this season and had three steals in four tries. He has 302 career steals, having been successful more than 80 percent of the time. But he has never gotten on base at a good rate. He has bounced from Kansas City to Atlanta to San Francisco to the Mets the last two seasons. Can he bounce back to the big leagues?

02 Sep

‘it stinks’

Former Richton High standout JaCoby Jones has played a significant role in the Detroit Tigers’ surprising 2020 season. Unfortunately, he’ll only be able to watch how the rest of it plays out. Jones’ left hand was broken by a pitch on Tuesday, and he is done for the year. Playing regularly in center field, Jones was batting .268 with five home runs, 14 RBIs and 19 runs for a Tigers team that is 17-16 with six straight wins. The worst team in baseball in 2019 is in contention for a playoff spot. “I’ve been waiting on that for my whole career,” Jones, in his fifth MLB season, told mlb.com prior to Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee. “It’s going to be a lot of fun for our guys and I’m looking forward to it.” It’s the second straight year Jones’ season has been ended prematurely by a hand injury. He has endured more than his fair share of injuries the last few years, having been hit in the face by a pitch in 2017 and spent time on the injured list with back, shoulder and hamstring issues. The Tigers may never miss him more than this month. “He’s been the spark plug to this team all year — his hitting, his defense, his leadership in the dugout. It stinks to lose a guy like that,” Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer told mlb.com. P.S. On the bright side: Former Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman was activated from the IL by Seattle. He has been out since Aug. 4 with neck problems stemming from a benign tumor on his spine. The veteran right-hander reportedly will shift from starter to the bullpen. Graveman, 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA in two starts for the Mariners, is in his first season with the team as he comes back from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him most of last season. … Ke’Bryan Hayes told reporters that his father, Hattiesburg native and ex-big leaguer Charlie Hayes, couldn’t stop crying when informed his son was getting called to the big leagues. In his debut for Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the younger Hayes, a third baseman like his pops, went 2-for-5 with a homer that likely brought more tears. “Even when I was in the minor leagues and I hit a home run, my mom said he would cry,” Ke’Bryan Hayes said. “I thank him for everything.”

01 Sep

that’ll work

With a boatload of makeup games ahead for the St. Louis Cardinals in September, the durability of their pitchers will be tested as they try to make a playoff push. Ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson gave them some length on Monday, working seven innings in a 7-5 win against Cincinnati that got the Cardinals to 13-13. The 25-year-old right-hander (1-2, 2.77 ERA in five starts) allowed just one earned run on four hits at the Reds’ so-called Great American Small Park. He struck out seven and walked none. While winning 16 games for St. Louis as a rookie in 2019, he led the majors in total walks (86 or 4.4 per nine innings), a stat that needs to improve. Through 26 innings in 2020, he has seven walks (2.4 per nine). He is reportedly throwing more curveballs and fewer sinkers this year. Hudson got a final swinging strike from three Reds batters on a different type of pitch in one inning. “It’s just me recognizing quality hitters that I’m facing and having a complete arsenal as a starter, rather than just being out there trying to overpower guys,” Hudson said in an mlb.com piece. P.S. Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of Hattiesburg native and longtime big leaguer Charlie Hayes, is slated for his big league debut tonight for Pittsburgh. The younger Hayes, one of the Pirates’ top prospects, is in the lineup at third base, batting seventh, against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. … Tampa Bay has recalled ex-MSU standout Nate Lowe from its alternate camp. Lowe batted .263 with seven homers as a rookie for the Rays in 2019. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, a second-round pick out of IMG Academy in Florida last year, has been traded from Toronto to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The right-hander was in the Blue Jays’ alternate camp.

31 Aug

game on

The stakes have been raised for three Mississippians who changed MLB teams in recent days. Jarrod Dyson, Cody Reed and Mitch Moreland have moved from losing clubs to contenders as the abbreviated 2020 season enters its final month. Dyson, the former McComb High and Southwest Mississippi Community College standout, went from lowly Pittsburgh to the Chicago White Sox. Dyson, a .245 career hitter with 254 stolen bases, was acquired primarily for his speed on the bases and in the outfield. He entered Sunday’s game as a pinch runner in the 10th inning and scored on Luis Robert’s walk-off homer; the win put the ChiSox in a tie for first in the American League Central. Reed, a Horn Lake High and Northwest Mississippi CC product, went from scuffling Cincinnati to Tampa Bay, which sits atop the AL East. Reed, a left-hander who worked as both a starter and reliever with the Reds, joins a Rays staff that has been hard hit by injuries. He was activated today, just in time for the Rays’ visit to the New York Yankees tonight. Moreland’s move from the struggling Boston Red Sox to surging San Diego was described by Padres manager Jayce Tingler as “impactful.” “Not only the bat, but somebody like Mitch with 80-grade makeup, a very, very tough man … that’ll blend in really well to this clubhouse,” the rookie skipper told mlb.com. Moreland, a former Amory High and Mississippi State star, is a .253 career hitter with 174 homers in 11 seasons; he was leading the Red Sox in homers and RBIs at the time of Sunday’s trade. Moreover, he has played in 48 postseason games and been in three World Series, winning a ring with Boston two years ago. That’s what the Padres appear all-in to do in 2020. … In other news, Lance Lynn did NOT get traded by Texas, a non-contender, though many in the media believed the Ole Miss product could have been a difference-maker for a contender, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Even though he went to Ole Miss, I still like him,” Buck Showalter, the ex-Mississippi State star and former big league manager joked today on MLB Network’s trade deadline show. Lynn is 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA for the 12-21 Rangers.

30 Aug

this just in

Mitch Moreland is moving from the last-place Boston Red Sox to playoff-contender San Diego. The ex-Mississippi State standout from Amory was traded by the Red Sox for two prospects and joins a Padres team that stands second in the National League West and has the third-best record in the league at 20-15. Moreland, in his 11th MLB campaign, is batting .328 with eight homers and 21 RBIs this season. The Padres have lefty-hitting Eric Hosmer at first base, so Moreland, also a lefty, might be ticketed for duty as a DH.

30 Aug

stuff

Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, facing a team he might be traded to, allowed a season-high four runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers and lost for the first time this season on Saturday. The Texas Rangers ace is 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA. … Ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson went 4-for-5 for the Chicago White Sox on Saturday and now leads the American League in batting at .361. He won the batting crown in 2019. … DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley, playing everyday at third base for Atlanta, has started to heat up, batting .360 over his last seven games and .283 in the last 15. He’s at .220 with five homers and 14 RBIs on the season. … Drew Pomeranz, the veteran lefty out of Ole Miss, was activated from the injured list Saturday by San Diego and made his 11th straight scoreless appearance in the Padres’ loss against Colorado. … Northwest CC alum Cody Reed was traded by Cincinnati to Tampa Bay (for a prospect). Lefty Reed has a 5.44 career ERA but is at 2.72 as a reliever. … Southwest CC product Jarrod Dyson, traded by Pittsburgh to the White Sox on Thursday, made his debut Friday night as a defensive replacement in left field. Dyson has been with five teams in the last five years. … Former Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff (2-2, 3.19) goes to the mound for Milwaukee today against Pittsburgh. On Monday, he’ll come home to Mississippi, where his pregnant wife, Jonie, is to be induced on Tuesday with the couple’s first child, a girl.