21 Nov

market report

The Brandon Woodruff situation is intriguing. It was reported Monday that the former Mississippi State star, a free agent, is attracting attention from “a majority” of MLB clubs. He is a 30-year-old two-time All-Star with a career record of 46-26 and a 3.10 ERA. Of course, he may not be able to pitch in 2024 because of recent shoulder surgery. For that reason, cost-conscious Milwaukee non-tendered the big right-hander from Wheeler, who was due a raise for next season from the $10.8 million he made in 2023. When he was healthy last season, Woodruff was good: 5-1, 2.28. He figures to be quite a catch for a club that can afford to wait for his return. Injuries also have impacted the future of two other Mississippi products. Dakota Hudson and Spencer Turnbull also became free agents when their 2023 clubs did not offer a contract for next season. Ex-State star Hudson, who is 38-20, 3.84, for his MLB career, missed most of the 2021 season after suffering an arm injury late in 2020. A 16-game winner in 2019, he has struggled to recapture that form. He had some good moments in 2023 but apparently not enough for St. Louis — which needs starting pitching — to keep him around. Hudson is only 28; he also could be a nice catch. Turnbull, the former Madison Central High standout, threw a no-hitter in May of 2021 and was 4-2, 2.88, for Detroit that season when he went down with an arm injury. He hasn’t been the same since. He missed all of 2022 and was ailing most of last season, when he posted a 7.26 ERA in limited MLB time. At 31, he may still have some value as a back-end starter. So many teams need starting pitchers. To wit: Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, 36 and coming off very uneven season with the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, has signed as a free agent with the Cardinals, his original club, for one year and $11M.

02 Oct

that’s a blow

Brandon Woodruff, the Mississippi State alum from Wheeler, will not pitch in Milwaukee’s National League Wild Card Series because of a capsular injury in his right shoulder, the team announced today. Woodruff was originally scheduled to start Wednesday’s Game 2 of the best-of-3 against Arizona at American Family Field. “It just popped up at the wrong time,” Woodruff said in a tearful press conference. “It sucks, man. We’ve got a good clubhouse and I want to be a part of that.” Woodruff returned in August from an early season shoulder issue and pitched very well. The 30-year-old right-hander finished 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA. He has a 3.18 ERA in eight career postseason games for the Brewers. It’s not clear if Woodruff will be able to return for the division series should Milwaukee advance. The Brewers, champs of the NL Central, have the pitching depth to get past Arizona but were surely counting on Woodruff for the long haul.

12 Sep

something special

Brandon Woodruff, a two-time All-Star who has made 113 starts in his big league career and won 46 times, did something Monday night he had never done before. The big right-hander from Wheeler via Mississippi State threw a shutout, dominating Miami in a 12-0 win by Milwaukee at American Family Field. “I’m not gonna lie,” Woodruff said in a postgame TV interview. “My heart was racing in the ninth inning.” There have been only 19 individual shutouts in MLB this season, and only Houston’s Framber Valdez has more than one. The Brewers have had only one other complete game shutout in the last six seasons. Woodruff threw 106 pitches — imagine that! — and allowed six hits, all singles, and one walk while striking out seven. He is 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA, having missed some four months of the season on the injured list. He’ll carry a 21-inning scoreless streak into his next start. “This is Brandon Woodruff,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said in an mlb.com story. The first-place Brewers (80-63) lead the Chicago Cubs by 3 games in the National League Central. Of note: Former Mississippi Braves catcher William Contreras was behind the plate for Woodruff’s gem. Ole Miss product Nick Fortes went 0-for-3 for the Marlins, who are currently tied for fourth in the NL wild card standings. P.S. Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin went 5-for-26 with three RBIs and five runs and made two pitching appearances for Team USA, which finished fourth in the U-18 World Cup at Taipei, Taiwan. LSU commit Griffin is a highly rated 2024 MLB draft prospect.

06 Aug

around the horn

The Milwaukee Brewers will get a jolt of energy today when Wheeler’s Brandon Woodruff takes the mound for the first time in four months. The Brewers, after a winning rally against visiting Pittsburgh on Saturday, are 60-52 and lead the National League Central by 1.5 games over Cincinnati and 2.5 over the Chicago Cubs. Woodruff, a two-time All-Star and a horse in the Brewers’ rotation since 2019, posted a 0.79 ERA in his first two starts this season before being shut down with a shoulder problem. Drafted out of Mississippi State in 2014, Woodruff is 42-25, 3.14, for his MLB career and typically gets deep into games. “I hold myself to a high standard and expect a lot of myself …,” he told reporters recently. “I’m happy to get to pitch.” He has dominated most of the hitters on the Pirates’ roster. Woodruff’s addition to Milwaukee’s active roster means there is a Mississippi product on every first-place club: Adam Frazier and Jordan Westburg in Baltimore, Matt Wallner in Minnesota, Nathaniel Lowe and Chris Stratton in Texas, Austin Riley in Atlanta and Lance Lynn with the Los Angeles Dodgers. P.S. Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College standout now with the White Sox, engaged in a fist fight with Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez on Saturday and incited a benches-clearing brawl. Anderson, having a tough year for a disappointing team, faces a certain suspension, as do several others. He has been involved in a number of kerfuffles over the years. … Trustmark Park in Pearl is supposed to be a tough place to hit a home run. Well, try telling that to Drew Lugbauer of the Mississippi Braves. He hit three bombs in a win against Montgomery on Saturday night, the first time anyone has done that at the TeePee. With five homers in his last three games, he has 20 on the year, tied for first in the Southern League. Thirteen of those homers have come at home. He holds the Double-A club’s career record for bombs with 66, 32 at home. Of note: Left-hander Luis De Avila, an emerging prospect in the Atlanta system, threw six shutout innings against the Biscuits and improved to 6-6, 2.95, this season. … Hurston Waldrep, Atlanta’s first-round pick this year and a former Southern Miss pitcher, threw three innings in his pro debut for Low-Class A Augusta. He struck out eight and yielded one run. … Ex-Ole Miss star David Parkinson improved to 4-0 in his last five starts for Double-A Reading (Philadelphia system), going six innings (no earned runs) against Hartford. Left-hander Parkinson (6-4, 4.30) was the Phillies’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2018 before his career got off track. … Stuck in A-ball since 2018, former Pascagoula High standout Willie Joe Garry Jr. got a promotion last week to Double-A Wichita in the Minnesota chain and has looked right at home. Garry, 23, a lefty-hitting outfielder, belted a grand slam Saturday night and is 2-for-7 with six RBIs in two games. He was a .205 career hitter in 294 games in the low minors.

30 Jul

bring the wood

Since coming off the injured list in late June, Brandon Woodruff has been putting the hurt on opposing batters. The Mississippi State product from Wheeler, now working for the Milwaukee Brewers, beat Boston at Fenway Park on Friday night, his fourth win (against no losses) in six starts since his IL stint. Woodruff (9-3, 3.55 ERA, on the season) checked the Red Sox on four hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run and punching out nine in the 4-1 win that kept the first-place Brewers 3 games up on St. Louis in the National League Central. “If I can get ahead and mix it up a little bit …,” he told mlb.com in casually explaining his success. Over his last six starts, Woodruff has a 2.06 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and 48 strikeouts in 35 innings. “Very happy to hand him the ball every five days,” manager Craig Counsell told Sportsnaut before Friday’s game. Woodruff has matched his win total from a hard-luck 2021 and seems certain to surpass his career-high 11 wins in 2019. He was an All-Star in both of those seasons. The big right-hander was an 11th-round draft pick in 2014 after an uneven career at State; it might rank as one of Milwaukee’s shrewdest picks ever. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn, who started this season on the IL, allowed three homers in the Chicago White Sox’s 7-3 loss at home to Oakland. Lynn is 1-4, 6.42 ERA, in nine starts. He was an 11-game winner and an All-Star in 2021. The White Sox fell to 49-50 and might lose Tim Anderson to a suspension. The East Central Community College alum appeared to bump the home plate umpire in Friday’s game while arguing his ejection for protesting a strike call. … Former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley, who homered and doubled twice in Atlanta’s 5-2 win vs. Arizona, is batting .427 with 11 homers, 13 doubles, 21 runs and 24 RBIs in July. … Southern Miss left-hander Dalton Rogers, the third player picked from the state in this year’s draft (third round), has signed with Boston for a reported $447,500, according to mlb.com. USM pitcher Landon Harper (14th round) reportedly has signed with Atlanta.

27 May

bark in the park

There will be a Dog-fight, of sorts, in St. Louis tonight when the Cardinals send Dakota Hudson to the bump to face Milwaukee and Brandon Woodruff. The big right-handers were teammates at Mississippi State in 2014. Neither had much of an impact on that Bulldogs club — combining for two wins — but are now key pieces of the rotation for their respective MLB teams, keen rivals in the National League Central. Woodruff, from Wheeler, is 5-2 with a 4.76 ERA for the Brewers, who lead the division at 29-16. He is coming off his best start of 2022. Hudson is 3-2, 3.60 for the Cardinals, second at 24-20, and is coming off a shaky start. Woodruff was an 11th-round pick out of Starkville in 2014 and has blossomed in pro ball, making two All-Star teams and putting up a 33-23 overall record in Milwaukee. Hudson went 34th overall in 2016 and rose quickly, making his MLB debut in 2018. He missed most of last season after Tommy John surgery and is 27-12 overall. P.S. Konnor Pilkington, another former MSU star, went 3 1/3 innings on Thursday in his second big league start for Cleveland. The rookie lefty gave up three runs in a game the Guardians eventually won 4-3. … George County High product Justin Steele was charged with seven of the 20 runs Cincinnati scored against the Chicago Cubs in a 20-5 win and fell to 1-5, 5.40. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers, who has a 5.40 ERA as a middle reliever, has been designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels. He was an effective pitcher for the club in 2020 and ’21.

22 Sep

all too familiar

One run allowed on two hits and a walk over six innings. Ten strikeouts. An excellent day’s work for a big league pitcher — but not quite good enough for Milwaukee’s starter on this particular day. Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State standout from Wheeler, hung up that pitching line against St. Louis on Tuesday night but suffered a loss. Woodruff has seen this movie before. Despite a 2.52 ERA, one of the best in MLB, Woodruff’s record is 9-10. He surpassed 200 strikeouts on the season but had no reason to celebrate. The Brewers’ lone run in the 2-1 loss came after Woodruff had departed. They have scored an average of 2.82 runs in his 29 starts. That’s the worst run support for any qualified pitcher in the majors. “It’s a hard game, man,” Woodruff told mlb.com postgame. “We’re doing everything we can.” Milwaukee has clinched a playoff berth but not the National League Central title. The magic number remains 3 to put away the Cardinals, who have won 10 in a row. The two meet again today in Milwaukee. P.S. DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley’s 30th home run of the season propelled Atlanta to a 6-1 win over Arizona and kept the first-place Braves 3 games up on Philadelphia in the NL East. … Another former Mississippi Braves standout, Tommy LaStella, led off the game with his sixth homer to help San Francisco beat San Diego 6-5 and stay a game up on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

25 Aug

hangry for a w?

Brandon Woodruff, 2021 All-Star, ranks fifth in the majors in ERA, third in WHIP, 13th in punchouts. The 6-foot-4, 243-pound, red-bearded right-hander from Wheeler can be an intimidating presence on the mound for Milwaukee. But lately, he hasn’t been himself. Woodruff is 0-3 in his last seven starts. On June 29, he was 7-4 with a 1.87 ERA. Today, as the Mississippi State product prepares to face division rival Cincinnati, he is 7-7, 2.48. In his most recent outing, he gave up six runs in five innings against St. Louis. He lasted just three innings in a laborious start before that. Both of those games were on the road. Woodruff draws Cincinnati at American Family Field in Milwaukee, where he is 3-1, 2.26. After a loss on Tuesday, the Reds are 8.5 games back of the first-place Brewers in the National League Central but are very much in the wild card hunt. It’ll be interesting to see how Woodruff performs. It’ll be interesting also to see if he gets support from the Brewers’ hitters. That’s been an issue in many of his 10 no-decisions. Key matchup for Woodruff: Joey Votto, who is batting .318 with two home runs against him.

31 May

cy young watch

The competition is stiff for the Cy Young Award in the National League, home to Jacob deGrom, Trevor Bauer, Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, et al. If Brandon Woodruff wasn’t in the conversation entering 2021, he certainly is now. Woodruff beat Scherzer head-to-head on Sunday, allowing just two hits while fanning 10 in a 3-0 win by Milwaukee over Washington. The former Mississippi State star from Wheeler is 4-2 with a 1.27 ERA — second in MLB only to deGrom — and has racked up 10 straight quality starts. Batters are hitting .138 against him — that’s second-best in MLB — and he is tied for seventh in the majors with 83 strikeouts. He toyed with the Nationals’ hitters on Sunday, utilizing three effective pitches. “I was mixing it up and getting ahead and moving the ball around to different quadrants of the zone. That’s what helps out,” Woodruff said in a classic understatement in an mlb.com article. What’s more, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound right-hander just exudes confidence on the mound. The only Mississippi-connected pitcher to win a Cy Young is Cliff Lee, the Meridian Community College product who claimed the American League honor in 2008 with Cleveland. (BTW, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn — 6-1 with an AL-best 1.37 ERA — is off to a Cy Young-caliber start with the Chicago White Sox.)

01 Apr

no place like home

Brandon Woodruff gets the start today in Milwaukee’s home stadium, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its grand opening this month. Former Mississippi State star Woodruff delivered one of the greatest moments in the ballpark’s history three years ago, one Mississippi baseball aficionados surely remember. Miller Park, which opened on April 6, 2001, has a new name this season: American Family Field. (Ugh.) A writer for mlb.com recently ranked the top five games in Miller Park history, and coming in at No. 4 was Oct. 12, 2018, Game 1 of the NLCS, a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Woodruff, in his first MLB postseason, took a star turn that night, pitching two perfect innings in relief and hitting a 407-foot home run off Clayton Kershaw in the third inning. P.S. More stadium stuff: PNC Park in Pittsburgh also opened 20 years ago with three Mississippians in the starting lineups for Cincinnati and the host Pirates in Game 1 on April 9, 2001. Vicksburg native Dmitri Young, Cincy’s left fielder, scored the first run at the new yard. In the first inning, he was hit by a pitch and came around on Sean Casey’s homer. The Pirates’ leadoff batter was McComb’s Adrian Brown, the center fielder, who struck out to start a 1-for-4 day. Also in the Pittsburgh lineup was ex-Southern Miss star Kevin Young, who played first base and went 1-for-3. The Reds won the game 8-2. … Los Angeles Dodgers fans will finally get to experience the renovated Dodger Stadium this month. The team will be allowed to host fans at 20 percent capacity – about 11,000 people — at the onset of the regular season. The World Series champs’ home opener is April 9. Under the direction of Jackson native Janet Marie Smith (see previous post), the Dodgers spent $100 million renovating the stadium ahead of the 2020 season, which was delayed to July and played without fans because of the pandemic. Smith, a Mississippi State grad, previously oversaw stadium projects at Camden Yards, Fenway Park and Turner Field and has consulted on many others.