12 May

in other news …

It wasn’t the debut everyone was talking about on Saturday, but it was significant just the same. J.T. Ginn, the former Mississippi State standout from Brandon, struck out 10 batters and allowed one run in six innings in his first start for Triple-A Las Vegas in the Oakland system. The 24-year-old right-hander, in his fourth pro season, threw 99 pitches, allowed just four hits and two walks and finished his outing with a punchout. The lone run scored with two outs in the sixth, when former Mississippi College star Blaine Crim delivered an RBI knock for Round Rock, which went on to win the game 4-3. Ginn was 4-1 with a 4.15 ERA in six Double-A starts this season. Drafted by the New York Mets in the second round in 2020 (and later traded to Oakland), Ginn has been limited by injuries to 45 pro games. It appears he has regained the form that made him such a prized amateur prospect. (BTW: Ginn’s alma mater, Brandon High, knocked out Northwest Rankin on Saturday and advanced to the MHSAA Class 7A championship series.) P.S. Kudos to the state’s Big 4 Division I schools: Southern Miss walloped Arkansas State 19-3 as Slade Wilks hit two big homers; Mississippi State whipped third-ranked Arkansas (and ex-Lewisburg High star Brady Tygart) 8-5 with Dakota Jordan homering again; Ole Miss crushed No. 2 Texas A&M 10-2 behind the arms of Liam Doyle and Josh Mallitz; and Jackson State knocked off Bethune-Cookman 5-0 as Erick Gonzalez and two relievers combined on a five-hitter. … Belhaven University bowed out of the CCS Tournament in Tennessee with a pair of losses on Saturday. The Blazers, who finished second in the league in the regular season, are 25-17. The NCAA Division III Tournament selections will be made on Monday.

07 May

what a relief

Emmanuel Clase is the headliner in the vaunted Cleveland Guardians bullpen. Nick Sandlin plays an “Also Starring” role — and plays it very well. The former Southern Miss standout got four outs in the sixth and seventh innings on Monday and picked up the win in a 2-1 victory against Detroit. Sandlin is 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA and a save in 19 appearances for the Guardians, who lead the American League Central with a 23-12 record. Clase (0.49 ERA) pitched the ninth for his 11th save. The side-arming Sandlin stranded a runner in the sixth inning on Monday and has allowed just two of 14 inherited runners to score. He has a 0.62 WHIP. A second-round pick by Cleveland in 2018 after a sensational career at USM, Sandlin has a 2.95 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP over 160 career MLB appearances. At USM, he had 20 saves over his first two seasons, moved into the rotation as a junior and went 10-0 with a 1.06, earning All-America honors and the state’s Ferriss Trophy. He went back to the bullpen in pro ball. … Filling in for regular closer James McArthur, ex-Mississippi State star Chris Stratton weathered a shaky ninth inning to notch his second save in Kansas City’s 3-2 win vs. Milwaukee. The surprising Royals are 21-15, tied for second in the AL Central. Stratton, in his first season with KC, is 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 14 games; five of the nine earned runs he has yielded came in one appearance. McArthur, the Ole Miss alum who has seven saves this season, was down Monday, so Stratton — 14 career saves — got the call in the ninth. Aided by a double play, he got through the Brewers’ 3-6 hitters despite walking two. Stratton was also a Ferriss Trophy winner back in 2012, when he was the SEC’s pitcher of the year (as a starter) and later a first-round pick by San Francisco. … It’s “official” in Philadelphia: Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull will move to the bullpen. In his first season with the Phillies, Turnbull is 2-0 with a 1.67 in six starts. But Philadelphia now has five other healthy starters, making a move necessary. Turnbull, who has started all but one game in his 67 career MLB appearances, reportedly would prefer to remain in the rotation. “He can do a lot of different things, because he gives you length, obviously,” Phils manager Rob Thomson told mlb.com. P.S. MSU product Brent Rooker won the AL player of the week award after batting .438 with three homers — two in one inning — and seven RBIs for Oakland in the week ending May 4. Rooker also won a POW award in 2023.

05 May

blast from past

Joining a list that includes Mark McGwire can be pretty impressive, at least when it comes to hitting dingers. Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker blasted two home runs in one inning on Saturday, becoming the first Oakland player to do so since McGwire in 1996. Rooker, born in 1994, told mlb.com he grew up a St. Louis Cardinals fan in Germantown, Tenn., and followed McGwire during the slugger’s time with the Redbirds. “Being able to do anything the same as him is a huge accomplishment, and something that’s really cool for me,” Rooker said. Rooker’s bombs came in a 10-run third inning that propelled the surprising A’s to a 20-4 win over visiting Miami. Oakland is 17-17 with six straight victories. Rooker, a 2023 All-Star who also homered on Friday, is batting .240 with eight homers and 20 RBIs in 22 games, having spent 10 days on the injured list last month. As a BTW: Ex-Ole Miss standout Nick Fortes hit his first homer of the year for the lowly Marlins, 9-26. Also overshadowed by Rooker’s exploits was a four-hit game by another former Bulldogs masher, Nathaniel Lowe, who led Texas to a 15-4 rout of Kansas City. Lowe started the season on the IL and is batting .333 with a homer and four RBIs in 13 games since his return. He picked up two of those RBIs on Saturday. “I’m three weeks late to the party,” he told mlb.com, “so I have to get going.” The Rangers, 18-16 and second in the American League West to Seattle, visit division rival Oakland for a four-game series beginning Monday. P.S. William Carey University beat Blue Mountain Christian for the SSAC Tournament championship, the third tourney title in the last four years for coach Bobby Halford, who has a shelf full of trophies over his 39-year career. The Crusaders (34-14 with eight straight wins) will host an NAIA Opening Round tourney next week. BMC also gets an NAIA bid. … Delta State won an elimination game in the GSC Tournament and will play again today against Lee in Oxford, Ala. … Hinds Community College swept host Northwest Mississippi CC in their MACCC playoff series and advances to next week’s NJCAA Division II Region 23 Tournament in Poplarville. No. 1-ranked East Central, No. 13 Jones and Meridian all won their best-of-3 series openers on Saturday and will play again today.

07 Apr

on the road again

J.T. Ginn’s road to the big leagues has been filled with emergency stops. The former Mississippi State standout from Brandon, who has spent much time parked on the injured list in Oakland’s minor league system, got off to a clean start on Saturday night for Double-A Midland. In his 2024 debut, Ginn allowed one run on four hits and two walks in five innings to register the win for the RockHounds against Corpus Christi. Having made some tweaks in his mechanics, the right-hander, 24, reportedly had a good spring. Though he has dropped off the prospect charts, the A’s brass seems encouraged as Ginn enters his fourth pro season. “It’s just a matter of health and maturity,” Ed Sprague, Oakland’s farm director, told Baseball America in March. Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round out of Brandon High in 2018, two-way star Ginn opted for MSU, where he was the SEC’s freshman of the year as a pitcher in 2019. He suffered an elbow injury and had Tommy John surgery early in 2020, but the New York Mets picked him in the second round that summer as a draft-eligible sophomore. He had a nice debut season in the Mets’ system, then was traded to the A’s in March of 2022 for big leaguer Chris Bassitt. Various ailments limited Ginn to 20 appearances the past two seasons. He was 1-3 with a 7.43 ERA in 2023. P.S. Former Southern Miss star Tanner Hall is slated to make his pro debut today for Minnesota’s Low-A Fort Myers club. A fourth-round pick last year, Hall was a two-time All-America, a two-time conference pitcher of the year and the 2022 Ferriss Trophy winner while at USM. He posted a 22-8 record and 2.92 ERA in three seasons. … MSU alum Tanner Allen, another former Ferriss winner, is 6-for-8 with five RBIs and two runs in two games, both wins, for Double-A Pensacola (Miami system) against the Mississippi Braves. … USM product Nick Sandlin, yet another former Ferriss winner now in MLB, worked a clean inning for Cleveland in a Saturday win over Minnesota and has yet to allow a hit or run in five appearances for the 7-2 Guardians.

22 Mar

in a better place

A year ago at this time, Brent Rooker was with his fourth team in four years and was battling for a big league roster spot with the Oakland A’s. Fairly secure in 2024 as the team’s designated hitter, the Mississippi State product has focused this spring on honing his swing and is starting to get results. Rooker has crushed two home runs and a double in his last three Cactus League games and has bumped his average to .227 with three homers and eight RBIs in 44 at-bats. “It’s always good to be feeling your best the week before (the season starts),” he told mlb.com. A first-round draft pick back in 2017, Rooker landed with Oakland as a waiver claim last year after brief stints with Minnesota, San Diego and Kansas City. After making the A’s roster at the 11th hour in 2023, Rooker made the American League All-Star team, belting 30 homers and hitting .246 for the year for an awful (50-112) team. He told mlb.com that he has enjoyed a “different mindset and approach” this spring, though it figures to be another tough year for his club in what apparently will be the A’s last year at Oakland Coliseum. P.S. Down in the Grapefruit League on Thursday, former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith hit his first homer for Detroit. Keith, 22, the $66 million rookie second baseman expected to make his MLB debut on opening day for the Tigers, is batting .273 with eight RBIs in 44 at-bats this spring. The lefty hitter hit .306 with 27 homers and 101 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

07 Nov

next stop, chi-town

Marcus Thames’ whirlwind tour of MLB’s big markets reportedly will resume. The Louisville native reportedly has been hired as hitting coach for the Chicago White Sox. Thames, who hit 115 homers over a 10-year big league career that ended in 2011, was the hitting coach with the New York Yankees for several years, took a detour to Miami’s staff in 2022 and then spent 2023 with the Los Angeles Angels, who fired manager Phil Nevin after the season. Thames is a well-respected hitting coach, and the Angels’ offensive numbers in many categories improved under his watch. He will not get a chance to work in 2024 with fellow East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson. The White Sox recently declined an option on the veteran shortstop’s contract, making him a free agent. Anderson signed a seven-year deal ($37.5 million) after a promising rookie campaign in 2016, won a batting title and made two All-Star teams before suffering a dreadful 2023 season, batting .245 with one home run, 25 RBIs and a negative WAR. The outspoken Alabama native is also a lightning rod for controversy. P.S. Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter, dismissed by the Mets after his second year as manager, reportedly is a candidate for the Angels job, as is former Jackson Generals star Ray Montgomery. … Lance Lynn, the veteran pitcher out of Ole Miss, became a free agent after the Dodgers declined an option in his contract. Lynn had a tough year (5.73 ERA) that ended when he gave up four home runs in one inning in a playoff game against Arizona. … Kudos to ex-Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe on winning a Gold Glove at first base for world champion Texas. Mauricio Dubon, who passed through Biloxi on his way to The Show, earned a Gold Glove as a utitity player for Houston. … Oakland outrighted Ole Miss product Chad Smith to Triple-A; he had a 6.59 ERA in 10 games for the A’s. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, a Dodgers prospect, pitched in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game on Sunday and yielded a 433-foot home run to Kyle Manzardo.

22 Sep

tough times in ‘the town’

Thursday’s game represented Brent Rooker’s season in a nutshell. The ex-Mississippi State star blasted a two-run homer — his fifth in eight games and 28th of the year — for Oakland. Yay. It came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game the A’s would lose 7-3 to Detroit, the eighth straight loss for the worst team (46-107) in baseball. Ugh. Rooker also struck out three times, giving him 160 on the year in 432 at-bats. That’s not a good ratio. On top of that, he made a throwing error in right field, one of three Oakland misplays. Perhaps it was a good thing only 6,160 people were there to see all this. Rooker, in his fourth MLB season with his fourth team, made the All-Star Game this season. But he isn’t guaranteed a job with the A’s for 2024, when the Las Vegas-bound team will be a lame duck at Oakland Coliseum. Rooker, 28, is batting .241 this year with a .324 on-base percentage and 64 RBIs. P.S. In Triple-A, former MSU star Justin Foscue hit a grand slam and drove in six runs all told for Round Rock in the Texas system. Foscue, the 14th overall draft pick in 2020 and a highly rated Rangers prospect, is batting .265 with 17 home runs, 79 RBIs and 14 steals for the Express, which is contending for a playoff berth in the Pacific Coast League. He has played first, second and third base this season. … In Double-A, Southern Miss product Walker Powell worked five inning (three hits, one run, six strikeouts) to boost Tennessee (Chicago Cubs) past Chattanooga and into the Southern League Championship Series. Powell won a league-high 11 games for the Smokies during the regular season. MSU alum Rowdey Jordan, a .230 hitter with 13 bombs this year, had a 1-for-4 night as Binghamton (New York Mets) beat Somerset and reached the Eastern League finals.

03 Sep

hustle pays off

It looked like an inning-ending double play when the shortstop snagged the ball, but Hunter Renfroe charged hard down the first-base line and, by a whisker, beat the relay throw from the second baseman. The game-winning run scored from third, giving former Mississippi State star Renfroe his first RBI with Cincinnati and the Reds a huge 2-1 victory Saturday night against the Chicago Cubs. “I was doing everything I could to get there as fast as I can,” the 230-pound Renfroe said in a postgame TV interview, adding that he was surprised Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson reached the hard-hit grounder deep in the hole in the ninth inning. Renfroe is 0-for-9 since the Reds claimed him off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels, but his hustle on Saturday contributed mightily to the Reds’ ninth walk-off and 43rd comeback victory of 2023. Renfroe — “glad to be here” — was swarmed by his teammates. The so-called “Rally Reds” are in a three-way tie for the third wild card in the National League, 2 games back of the Cubs. P.S. Ex-State standout Adam Frazier had an RBI double and scored a run in the middle of a seven-hit, six-run, fourth-inning barrage by Baltimore, which kept its grip on first place in the American League East with a 7-3 win against Arizona, an NL wild card contender. Frazier has 54 RBIs and 53 runs in 119 games for the O’s. … MSU product Brent Rooker’s 23rd homer accounted for all of Oakland’s runs in a much less meaningful 2-1 win over the Angels. … Ronald Acuna continues to put up jaw-dropping numbers: The former Mississippi Braves star’s 32nd homer left the bat at 121.2 mph and went 454 feet, helping Atlanta beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2 in 10 innings, for the third straight night. … In the minors, Kemp Alderman, the 2023 Ferriss Trophy winner out of Ole Miss, belted his first homer as a pro for Low-Class A Jupiter in the Miami system. Alderman, a second-round pick, is batting .181 with 10 RBIs in 28 games. … Southern Miss product Matthew Etzel went 3-for-6 with a double, two RBIs and a steal in a doubleheader for Low-A Delmarva in the Orioles’ chain. Etzel, a 10th-round pick in July, is batting .318 with two homers, 19 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 20 games for the Shorebirds. … USM alum Hurston Waldrep, Atlanta’s first-round pick, threw three shutout innings with four strikeouts and three walks in his Double-A debut for the M-Braves at Trustmark Park.

22 Aug

great timing

Brent Rooker hit a milestone home run on Sunday, his 20th of the season accounting for Oakland’s lone run in a 12-1 loss to Baltimore. On Monday, the ex-Mississippi State star hit a much more significant home run, No. 21 producing a walk-off 6-4 victory for the A’s over Kansas City at Oakland Coliseum. Not only that, the homer came just in time for Rooker and some teammates to scurry over to the Oakland Arena and catch the show by Rooker’s favorite country music star, Zach Bryan. Rooker even made an appearance on stage with Bryan, who was performing before a crowd quite a bit larger than the 3,095 who watched the two worst teams in baseball fight to the finish on Monday. It has been a roller coaster of a season for Rooker, who joined the A’s as an off-season waiver claim from the Royals. He ht .358 with nine homers in April, which earned him an appearance on MLB Network’s MLB Central show and propelled him to his first All-Star Game nod. There have been a lot of struggles since then, but Rooker’s bat has perked up recently. He is hitting .346 over his last seven games. “Swing and approach-wise, I feel pretty solid,” he said. Rooker, batting .245 with 53 RBIs, and many of his teammates may be vying for 2024 jobs with the lowly A’s, who are 35-90. … Rooker stands second on the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby chart to Austin Riley, who has 29 this season. Hunter Renfroe is at 18, Nathaniel Lowe at 15, Adam Frazier at 13 and Matt Wallner at nine.

30 Jul

present arms

Stars must have been aligned on Saturday night. By some cosmic coincidence, five Magnolia State college products got the ball as starting pitchers in minor league games, scattered from Double-A to Low-Class A. Collectively, they pitched pretty darn well, allowing five runs and striking out 21 batters over 25 innings all told. Only one got a decision, however, and that was a loss. Most impressive among the bunch was former Ole Miss star Gunnar Hoglund, who delivered four perfect innings, fanning three, for Low-A Stockton (Oakland system). The 19th overall pick in the 2021 draft (by Toronto), Hoglund spent several weeks on the injured list this season and has scuffled (6.32 ERA in nine starts) since his return. Saturday’s outing certainly was a good sign. The hard-luck loser on Saturday was Southern Miss alum Dalton Rogers. He threw 5 2/3 innings for High-A Greenville (Boston), allowing just two runs. He dropped to 1-3 with a 5.11 ERA; he had a 2.49 ERA in Low-A to start the season. Ex-Ole Miss star David Parkinson, in pro ball since 2017, worked 6 2/3 for Double-A Reading (Philadelphia), allowing a lone run with six strikeouts. He trimmed his ERA to 4.61. Former USM standout Hunter Stanley tossed 4 2/3 innings for Double-A Akron (Cleveland), giving up a lone run with four strikeouts. He trimmed his ERA to 5.02. Houston Harding, a Mississippi State and Itawamba Community College product, made his first start for Double-A Rocket City (Los Angeles Angels) in the Southern League and went four innings, allowing one run (a home run). Harding had a 1.32 ERA in A-ball this season but has not been as effective (12.42) in nine Double-A appearances. Saturday’s start was a positive step. P.S. A pair of Mississippians in the majors hit noteworthy homers: Tim Anderson belted his first in over a year and Brent Rooker hit his first since appearing in the All-Star Game. East Central Community College product Anderson, who has 98 career bombs, hit a leadoff shot for the Chicago White Sox, his first in 327 at-bats this season. Slumping for much of the season, Anderson is 20-for-57 (.351) since the All-Star break. Ex-MSU star Rooker’s homer was his 17th for Oakland but first in 20 days. His bomb at Colorado went 462 feet, longest by an A’s player this year. He is batting .269 since the break, .248 on the year.