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.

21 Aug

every new beginning …

It may finally be time for the Toronto Blue Jays and Anthony Alford to part ways. Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, was designated for assignment by the Jays, who have had the outfielder in their system since 2012. Once their top-rated prospect, Alford has just 75 major league plate appearances spread over four seasons. He never won a regular job. He could wind up staying in the Toronto system, but it seems more likely he’ll move on. If, that is, at age 26, he can get an opportunity with another club. Alford was drafted by the Blue Jays in the third round in 2012, even though he had made it clear he wanted to play college football. After stints with Southern Miss and Ole Miss, he decided to focus on baseball in 2014. He has been playing catch-up ever since and dealing with injuries along the way. Maybe he just needs a good break.

17 Aug

big league chew

Pitching on 20 days “rest,” Mississippi State product Dakota Hudson went four innings for St. Louis on Sunday and allowed just two hits and a lone run. Hudson had last pitched on July 26; St. Louis’ season was interrupted three days later by COVID-19 issues. Hudson (0-2, 5.40 ERA) was the tough-luck loser as the Cardinals fell to the Chicago White Sox 7-2 in their third game back from the hiatus. Hudson’s replacement, rookie Roel Ramirez, gave up the record-tying four straight home runs in the fifth inning. … If anyone was wondering, no Mississippi-connected hitters have been involved in any of the 10 occurrences of the back-to-back-to-back-to-back blasts. But … on June 8, 1961, when the Milwaukee Braves became the first team to do it, Jackson native Marshall Bridges, pitching for Cincinnati, yielded the last two homers to Joe Adcock and Frank Thomas. (Bridges actually had a nice MLB career: 23 wins, 25 saves, a 3.75 ERA and a World Series ring over seven seasons.) … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz already has a career-best four saves for San Diego and may get even more opportunities now that Kirby Yates, the erstwhile closer, has gone on the injured list with an ailing elbow. Pomeranz has not allowed a run in nine appearances (7 2/3 innings) entering Monday’s play. … Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford hit his second career homer on Sunday in a rare start for Toronto. He is 2-for-10 this season. Alford’s first career homer was a memorable walk-off bomb last year. … Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson went on the bereavement list on Saturday, which means he’ll miss a minimum of three games for Miami. He is batting .208 in his first year with the Marlins. … Wondering what’s next for Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star who was designated for assignment by the New York Mets on Sunday. The veteran second baseman, who got only 15 at-bats with the Mets after joining the club on July 30, could be traded or claimed on waivers by another club, but it seems more likely he’ll become a free agent — again. Over a two-year span, the one-time All-Star has been with five different teams. He batted .238 with 20 homers for Washington last season.

05 Aug

buffalo hunting

Buffalo, N.Y., where the Toronto Blue Jays plan to play home games at Sahlen Field this season, has a rich baseball history, and a native Mississippian occupies a prominent place in it. The city actually hosted a major league club, the Bisons, from 1879-85 and has had a minor league team of the same name practically ever since. It has been Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate since 2013. From 1924-60, the Bisons played at Offermann Stadium, which was torn down in 1962. At the site now is a commemorative plaque that makes particular mention of a home run hit at the ballpark by Luke Easter, the Jonestown native and onetime big leaguer. “Luke Easter … did on July 14, 1957, what no other player, major, minor, semipro or Negro League, had been able to do. He hit a low, outside pitch delivered by Bob Kuzava of the Columbus Jets 550 feet over the scoreboard in center field,” wrote Joseph Overfield in a SABR article. Easter, who became in 1949 the first black Mississippian to play in the major leagues, was in his 40s when he played in Buffalo from 1956-58. A fan favorite, he hit 113 home runs during those three seasons. Overfield writes that Easter’s scoreboard-clearing homer wasn’t even the longest one he hit at Offermann: “That blow came during the same 1957 season when he caught a high, inside fast ball from Jerry Lane of the Havana Sugar Kings and pulled it directly to rightfield, across Woodlawn Avenue, over the houses and into the alley of a house on Emerson Place, the next street south.” Easter is one of only three former Bisons to have his number – 25 – retired.

04 Aug

feel good story

You kinda wanna root for Trent Grisham, even if you’re not a San Diego Padres fan. It’s kinda nice to see that the former Biloxi Shuckers star is off to a hot start in 2020. He hit his fourth home run on Monday night, helping the surprising Padres beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-4. Grisham, starting in center field for a 7-4 club, is batting .293 with seven RBIs and 11 runs. He seems to be in a good place, quite a contrast to where he was last October. You remember. Grisham, a rookie then with Milwaukee, in his first postseason game, misplayed a single in right field that allowed Washington to score the go-ahead run in the National League Wild Card Game. The Nationals won. The Brewers’ season ended. Grisham faced the media afterward and, appearing crushed, made no excuses for his error. You had to feel for him. It would be, coincidentally, his last game in a Milwaukee uniform. He was traded in November to the Padres, who were looking for a left-handed hitting outfielder and were willing to part with touted infield prospect Luis Urias to get Grisham. “He can do a lot of positive things on the baseball field,” Padres GM A.J. Preller told mlb.com at the time. Grisham, the 15th overall pick by Milwaukee in 2015, scuffled early in his pro career. He batted just .233 at Double-A Biloxi in 2018 but kept grinding. He hit .254 with 13 homers in 63 games for the Shuckers in 2019, got an All-Star nod and earned a promotion to Triple-A San Antonio, where he raked (.381, 13 homers in 34 games). He debuted for Milwaukee last Aug. 1, then found himself taking the place of the injured Christian Yelich in right field. No pressure there. Grisham, only 23, seems determined that the incident last October won’t define him. “Failing is not fun, and I like to have a lot of fun,” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune during spring training. “I play this game because I enjoy it. … That’s why I work, so when I get in the game it can be fun.” P.S. Ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford is slated for his first start of the season for Toronto tonight at Atlanta. Alford, who is 0-for-2 in 2020, has just 57 career at-bats (eight hits) since his MLB debut in 2017. He’s in left field batting ninth. DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley is starting at third base and batting sixth for the Braves. They were the top prep players in the state their senior year, Alford in 2012 and Riley in 2015.

27 May

starting point

After taking the road less traveled into affiliated ball – signing as an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss in 2015 – Jacob Waguespack arrived in the majors on this date — May 27 — in 2019. The Louisiana native originally signed with Philadelphia and moved to Toronto in a trade deadline deal in 2018. Despite a somewhat wobbly launch (three hits, three runs, three strikeouts in his first inning) in his MLB debut, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound right-hander fared pretty well for Toronto during several call-ups over the course of the season. Overshadowed by fellow rookies Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, Waguespack went 5-5 with a 4.38 ERA working primarily as a starter for a team that limped in at 67-95. After the Blue Jays added starters Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson in the off-season, Waguespack, now 26, was seen as a bullpen piece heading into spring training this year. Toronto could be a team on the rise, and Waguespack is positioned to ride that wave.

11 Mar

studying the options

As major league clubs begin to make cuts, there are a handful of Mississippians on 40-man rosters who are out of options, which essentially means they can’t be sent to the minors without passing through waivers and possibly being snatched by another club. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the player. Of particular interest is the case of ex-Petal High standout Anthony Alford, a longtime outfield prospect in Toronto’s system. Alford, 25, who has had limited big league time (33 games from 2017-19), has been inconsistent and injured over much of his minor league career. He is batting .167 in 24 at-bats with four steals this spring. Per milb.com, “(H)is plus speed and ability to cover plenty of ground on defense would be assets to the back end of the Blue Jays roster.” Alford is competing with several others for a backup outfield job. Three veteran pitchers are also on the roster bubble: Former Mississippi State standout Chris Stratton (Pittsburgh), Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers (Los Angeles Angels) and Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed (Cincinnati). Mayers has been the most effective this spring, with a 4.76 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. … Former George County High star Justin Steele was optioned out by the Chicago Cubs last week. The oft-injured Steele, 24, had allowed six runs on two hits and six walks in 2 2/3 innings this spring. He was 0-6, 5.59 at Double-A Tennessee in 2019, his sixth pro season. Those numbers notwithstanding, the Cubs reportedly really like the left-hander’s upside.

24 Sep

a piece of history

Your first big league home run is going to be memorable. When it’s a walk-off bomb, in the 15th inning, well, that qualifies as historic. Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford accomplished that feat for Toronto on Monday night, reportedly becoming just the second player in modern history to hit a walk-off in the 15th inning or later for his first career homer. “It couldn’t happen to a better kid. Everybody was so happy for him,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told mlb.com after the 11-10 win against Baltimore. Alford had entered the game in the ninth inning as a pinch runner. The homer came on what was Alford’s 21st at-bat of the season. He has had just 48 big league ABs spread over the past three seasons. “I really just try to enjoy the moment,” Alford told mlb.com. “Because honestly, you never know when it will happen again.” The 25-year-old former Mr. Baseball has been on the Blue Jays’ prospect charts since 2012, when he was drafted in the third round despite his commitment to play college football (first at Southern Miss, then Ole Miss). He turned to baseball fulltime in 2015. He is a .265 hitter – with 34 homers and 114 steals – in a minor league career full of ups and downs and various injuries. Currently ranked the No. 20 prospect in the Toronto system by MLB Pipeline, Alford is stuck in a crowd of young outfielders vying for opportunities with the Blue Jays.

23 Aug

odds and ends

From the Sometimes This Game Ain’t Fair Dept.: Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack shut out the best team in baseball for seven innings on Thursday night. He wound up with a no-decision as his team — the Toronto Blue Jays – lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 via a ninth-inning walk-off hit. Waguespack, pitching his 10th big league game, allowed one hit, one walk and one HBP in a 95-pitch outing. He was pulled — with a 2-0 lead — because of stomach cramps. The Jays’ bullpen gave up three runs in the ninth. Waguespack is 4-1 with a 3.63 ERA this season. … Former Southern Miss star Brian Dozier returned from paternity leave on Thursday and was back in the lineup for Washington. He went 0-for-3 in a win against Pittsburgh. … DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley is slated to begin a rehab assignment tonight for Class A Rome in the Atlanta system. Riley, coming back from a knee injury, has 17 homers with 45 RBIs in 66 games as a Braves rookie. … Ex-Mississippi State standout Nate Lowe is batting .375 over his last 10 games at Triple-A Durham, eagerly awaiting a recall by Tampa Bay. Lowe batted .295 with five homers during previous stints with the Rays this season. … Also hoping for a September call-up is Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central star now at Triple-A Columbus in Cleveland’s chain. Bradley is hitting just .138 over his last 10 games. He leads all Mississippians in the minors with 30 homers; he hit one during his 15-game big league tour. … Behind the pitching of Claudio Custodio, the Mississippi Braves beat Pensacola 3-1 on Thursday at Pearl’s Trustmark Park to conclude a 4-7 homestand. At 27-33 in the second half, the M-Braves have an elimination number of 1 in the Southern League South. They have 10 games left, including an Aug. 29-Sept. 2 homestand that will end the season. … Former M-Braves star Mallex Smith, now with Seattle, will wear WATER on the back of his jersey for Players Weekend (which starts today). Why? “Because I flow anywhere.”

06 Aug

rookie tales

The impact of rookies with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019 has been something to behold. First it was Vladimir Guerrero Jr., then Cavan Biggio and now Bo Bichette. Though he hasn’t generated the kind of buzz afforded those sons of former big leaguers, Jacob Waguespack also has had a solid debut season. The Ole Miss product picked up another win on Monday – boosted by a Bichette homer and an RBI hit by Biggio – as the Blue Jays topped Tampa Bay 2-0. Waguespack allowed just four hits and one walk in six innings, pitching in front of a bunch of family and friends assembled at Tropicana Field by an uncle who lives in the area. “Warms your heart, and it takes a village, to have those people in your corner. I’m pretty humbled,” Waguespack told the Toronto Sun. Now 3-1 with a 4.00 ERA in seven MLB appearances, Waguespack doesn’t have the legacy of those other rookies, but his story is interesting just the same. The Louisiana native was drafted out of high school (37th round, 2012) by Pittsburgh but chose to play at Ole Miss, where he had a largely unsung career. He wasn’t drafted out of UM, instead signing in June 2015 as a free agent with Philadelphia. The Phillies traded the 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander to Toronto last July. Though he never posted any eye-opening numbers in the minors, the Blue Jays put him on their 40-man roster last fall and called him up in May. He struck out a club rookie record seven batters in his debut. P.S. Madison Central High alum Spencer Turnbull, a rookie right-hander with Detroit, returned Monday from a stint on the injured list and worked three innings vs. the Chicago White Sox, yielding two runs but fanning seven. He wasn’t involved in the decision as the Tigers lost. Again. … Drew Pomeranz, the veteran lefty out of Ole Miss, pitched a scoreless inning for Milwaukee against Pittsburgh and got his first hold in his second Brewers appearance. Traded from San Francisco last week, Pomeranz (5.54 ERA) has strung together six straight scoreless relief outings after struggling as a starter.