12 Sep

hot and cold

Mississippi State alumnus Nate Lowe took part in an historic event on Friday night, and he took advantage of the opportunity to have one of the best games of his young MLB career. Lowe was part of Tampa Bay’s all-left-handed hitting lineup — the first in big league history — and delivered two homers and four RBIs in an 11-1 rout of Boston. Lowe, who batted .263 with seven homers as a rookie in 2019, was 1-for-14 since being recalled by the Rays on Sept. 1. “I’m pretty thankful for the opportunity and I hope (the bat) gets hot from here. Like, super hot from here,” he told mlb.com. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash, who’ll seemingly try anything, went with all lefties to try to snap the first-place Rays out of an offensive funk. … Ex-Bulldogs star Brandon Woodruff stepped up in a time of need for Milwaukee (see previous post), throwing seven shutout innings at the Chicago Cubs. He yielded one hit, no walks and fanned 12. The Brewers won 1-0 on a walk-off sac fly. … Austin Riley’s bat has cooled off after a recent surge. The former DeSoto Central star is 5-for-29 (.174) in his last seven games for Atlanta and went 1-for-7, leaving nine runners on base, in Friday’s loss to Washington. The Braves left 22 on base as a team in the 8-7, 12-inning defeat. … Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack was recalled from Toronto’s alternate site on Friday, but his return didn’t go well. The right-hander allowed six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings in an 18-1 loss to the New York Mets.

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.

04 Sep

clearing the bases

Brent Rooker, the former SEC Triple Crown winner from Mississippi State, got some dents in his fender today in his first MLB game. He became the first Mississippian (native or college alum) to debut in the big leagues in 2020 when he started in left field for Minnesota against Detroit in Game 1 of a twinbill at Target Field. In his first career at-bat, vs. lefty Matthew Boyd, Rooker was hit by a pitch on a 1-2 count. He then collided with the Tigers shortstop on a force play. In his second AB, he lined out, after which he was replaced in the field. He was back in the lineup, batting cleanup, for Game 2 and got his first hit and RBI. Rooker, an outfielder/first baseman, was a first-round pick by the Twins in 2017. He has batted .267 with 54 homers and 178 RBIs in 259 minor league games, reaching the Triple-A level last summer. He was a Southern League All-Star in 2018. … Seven players with Mississippi ties are among the 30 nominees, one from each team, for the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award. The award is “an annual recognition of the MLB player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” The honored players include Mississippi State product and Amory native Mitch Moreland (now with San Diego, nominated by Boston); Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz (San Diego); ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson (Chicago White Sox); Mississippi Braves alumni Charlie Morton (Tampa Bay), Freddie Freeman (Atlanta) and Jason Heyward (Cubs); and Biloxi Shuckers alum Brent Suter (Milwaukee). … Former Biloxi Shuckers star Josh Hader is Milwaukee’s bullpen ace, the hard-throwing lefty with the scraggly mane. Everyone knows this. The Brewers’ secret bullpen weapon is Devin Williams, another Shuckers alum who has been lights-out in 2020, his second MLB season. He has a better ERA than Hader, more strikeouts per inning and fewer walks. One analyst has called Williams “the most dominant reliever in baseball.” Featuring a great changeup, he has a 0.60 ERA and 31 punchouts and six walks in 15 innings. The right-hander, 25, pitched for Biloxi in 2019, posting a 7-2 record, four saves and a 2.36 ERA in the Double-A Southern League. He struck out 76 in 53 1/3 innings. He was also an All-Star Futures Game participant last summer before getting his first call-up in August. … Whatever happened to: Ernesto Mejia, who had a monster season with the Mississippi Braves back in 2011, is still swinging it for the Seibu Lions in the Japanese Pacific League. The 34-year-old Venezuela native hit a walk-off home run earlier this week and has seven bombs in 24 games. He has hit 340 homers in pro ball. Mejia had one of the best seasons ever by an M-Brave, batting .297 with 26 homers and 99 RBIs for the 2011 club. He reached Triple-A but never got to The Show. He has been in Japan since 2014.

15 Aug

good, bad and ugly

Good: OK, this was more like great. Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander out of Ole Miss, threw a complete-game two-hitter — at Coors Field, no less — to pace Texas to a 3-2 win Friday night against Colorado. Lynn (3-0, 1.11 ERA) struck out the side in the eighth inning and reportedly told manager Chris Woodward as he arrived in the dugout, “I’m finishing it.” He got Trevor Story (fly out), Charlie Blackmon (ground out) and Nolan Arenado (fly out) to end it, notching just his third career complete game and first since 2014 with St. Louis. Lynn threw 110 pitches, walked none and fanned six.
Bad: Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State standout, was pulled in the fifth inning of Milwaukee’s game at Wrigley Field after allowing six straight batters to reach as Chicago bolted to a 3-1 lead. Woodruff took a no-hitter into the fifth but suddenly lost command, yielding four hits, two walks and the three runs in the inning. It was the second straight abbreviated outing for Woodruff, who saw his ERA rise to 3.16. He got a no-decision as the Brewers’ bullpen and a three-run bomb by Christian Yelich bailed him out in a 4-3 Milwaukee victory.
Ugly: Southern Miss product Cody Carroll was recalled from Baltimore’s alternate site on Friday and was called on for mop-up duty in the regularly scheduled half of the twinbill against Washington. He got five outs but gave up six runs in the 15-3 loss. His ERA now stands at 54.00 in three appearances; he didn’t record an out in his 2020 debut last month and was charged with four runs. Oh, and he was sent back to the alternate site today.

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.

29 Jul

something familiar

There was a case of Bulldog on Rebel crime on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier belted a go-ahead, two-run home run off Ole Miss product Bobby Wahl in the eighth inning at PNC Park, lifting Pittsburgh to an 8-6 win against Milwaukee. It was the first homer – and just the third hit – of the season for Frazier, the Pirates’ leadoff batter. “First ball I’ve driven all year, so I kind of forgot what it felt like,” Frazier said in an mlb.com story. “It felt pretty good.” It was the second homer allowed in 2 1/3 innings this season by Wahl, who missed the 2019 season because of a torn ACL. For Frazier and Wahl, there may have been something familiar about their encounter. The two had never faced each other in an MLB game before, but they did cross paths during their college careers. Wahl left the field disappointed each time then, too. In 2011, when both were freshmen, Wahl took the loss in relief in a game won by the Bulldogs 7-6. Frazier struck out in his one appearance vs. Wahl. In 2012, State – and Chris Stratton, who pitched in relief for the Pirates on Tuesday – beat UM and Wahl 4-0. Frazier went 1-for-3 with a run against Wahl. And on May 12, 2013, in Oxford, Frazier and the Bulldogs rallied from an early six-run deficit to beat the Rebels 7-6. Frazier had a single and a walk against Wahl, who started but wasn’t in the game in the seventh when Frazier delivered a two-run single that put State ahead. Both were drafted that June, Wahl by Oakland in the fifth round, Frazier by the Pirates in the sixth. Both were in the New York-Penn League that summer as they began their climb to the majors, Frazier arriving in 2016, Wahl the next year. On Tuesday, they met up again, much to Wahl’s chagrin. P.S. Frazier will face a former State teammate tonight when Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff gets the start in Game 3 of the series between the National League Central rivals. Frazier is 4-for-10 career vs. Woodruff.

28 Jul

one step forward

The pitching line from Monday’s game wasn’t pretty for Kendall Graveman: 4-plus innings, 6 hits, 3 walks, 7 runs (6 earned), 7 strikeouts. But, as Seattle manager Scott Servais told The Seattle Times, “I thought he threw the ball a lot better than what his line will look like. It was his first time out in 800 some days.” Indeed, just being healthy and back on a big league mound for the first time since May 2018 was a measure of success for Graveman, the Mississippi State alum who made his Mariners debut in an 8-5 loss at Houston. Graveman, 29 and entering his sixth MLB season, had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and made only a couple of minor league appearances in the Chicago Cubs’ system last summer. He signed with Seattle as a free agent in the off-season and reportedly had been sharp both in spring training and summer camp. After posting two scoreless innings Monday, he ran into trouble in a four-run third, giving up a three-run homer to Alex Bregman. Graveman was lifted after a fifth-inning homer by Jose Altuve, disappointed but not discouraged. “It was a blessing and a privilege to be back out there, but, man, I wanted the outcome to be better as I’m sure many people did,” he told The Seattle Times. Drafted out of MSU by Toronto in 2013, Graveman spent four years (2015-18) with Oakland, going 23-29 with a 4.38 ERA. Houston, defending American League champion, might not be the team you’d want to make your comeback against, but it won’t get any easier for Graveman. His next start will come next weekend against the A’s, another AL West power. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl, who also last pitched in the majors in 2018, has made two appearances for Milwaukee to date. He got a one-pitch out vs. the Cubs last Friday, then yielded a homer in his one inning of work on Sunday.

17 Jul

big league chew

Having passed a physical on Thursday, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made an appearance at San Francisco’s summer camp, but it appears unlikely he’ll be active for the Giants’ opener next week. “I don’t see that as a realistic expectation right now,” manager Gabe Kapler said in a San Jose Mercury News story. Hamilton, who could play a valuable role on defense and as a pinch runner, is with the Giants on a minor league deal. The veteran outfielder was placed on the injured list last week for undisclosed reasons. … The Boston Red Sox have formally signed DeSoto Central High product Blaze Jordan, their third-round draft pick. Jordan, 17, received a reported $1.75 million bonus, much higher than the slot value of $667,900 for the 89th pick. … If Freddie Freeman, currently on the COVID-19 injured list, is unable to answer the starting bell for Atlanta, ex-DeSoto Central star Austin Riley appears to be the leading candidate to man first base. Riley made six appearances (three starts) at first last season as a rookie, when he hit 18 homers in 80 games. … Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff has displayed lights-out stuff in Milwaukee’s camp. “I’ve had probably seven to eight at-bats against him,” Brewers outfielder Ben Gamel told mlb.com. “His fastball is just different. He’s got a different gear to him. And me, just playing behind him, his changeup’s filthy.” Woodruff struck out Christian Yelich three times in an intrasquad game this week. … Brent Rooker, another former State standout, saw a lot of duty behind Marwin Gonzalez at first base in Minnesota’s camp while Miguel Sano was in COVID-19 quarantine. Sano, transitioning from third to first this season, returned to camp Wednesday. Rooker, who has 54 homers in 259 minor league games, could make the 30-man active roster if Sano isn’t ready for opening day. … The Chicago White Sox reportedly are thrilled with Tim Anderson’s work at shortstop in summer camp. “Defensively, his jumps have been amazing getting off the ball,” coach Joe McEwing said of the former East Central Community College star in an mlb.com story. “We have been really focusing on keeping his head in there and staying through it and finishing his throws.” The American League batting champ led league shortstops in errors the last three years. … Ex-MSU standout Chris Stratton, vying for a role on Pittsburgh’s pitching staff, says he is well-equipped for the new three-batter minimum rule for pitchers. “I just think that I’m capable of getting multiple outs,” he told mlb.com. “If that’s at the beginning of the game, if it’s opening, if it’s starting, whatever, if it’s in the middle of the game, hopefully I can help the team as best as possible with the things that I have.”

10 Jul

there and here

San Francisco has placed Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High star, on the injured list for what was described only as “medical purposes.” Hamilton is in the Giants’ camp on a minor league deal but was expected to make the active roster before the season begins. Reports were unclear on when he might be able to come off the IL. The 29-year-old outfielder is a .242 career hitter with 299 steals over seven big league seasons. … Milwaukee has added former Mississippi State star Ethan Small and Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard, both 2019 draft picks, to its 60-man pool of eligible players for summer camp. Small, a left-hander picked in the first round, is the Brewers’ No. 2 prospect; he made seven appearances in the low minors last summer. Dillard, a catcher and a fifth-rounder, batted .249 with seven homers in his first pro season. … Adam Moncure is among the hottest hitters in the Cotton States League, batting .400 (.581 on-base) with two homers and a league-best 12 RBIs in nine games for the Black Prairie Mudcats. Moncure, from Clinton, hit .341 as a freshman at Meridian Community College in 2020. Blue Mountain native Sam McMillin, a left-hander at Union University, is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 19 innings for the CSL’s DeSoto Xplorers. … Luther Woullard, a former Jones (Junior) College star from d’Iberville, is playing for the Macon Bacon of the Coastal Plain League, a high-level college summer circuit. As a senior at New Orleans in 2020, Woullard batted .381 with 14 RBIs before the season was halted. He’ll have a year of eligibility left at UNO. Woullard was an All-MACJC outfielder who put up big numbers on some outstanding Jones teams in 2017-18. … Aiden Moffett of Taylorsville High has committed to LSU, per the Laurel Leader-Call. Though he was not highly recruited during his abbreviated sophomore year, Moffett has turned heads with his summer team. Playing for the Louisiana Knights, a travel team based in Mandeville, right-hander Moffett reportedly received offers from Southern Miss, Texas A&M and LSU over the course of just one weekend. … Former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker, who’ll be deploying a DH in every game as Atlanta’s skipper this season, told espn.com that he once asked Bobby Cox about managing with the DH. “Get a bag of balls and sit on it, watch the game,” Cox told him.

05 Jun

here and there

On this date five years ago, the Biloxi Shuckers ended the 54-game road trip that launched their inaugural season with a victory at Birmingham. They stood at 33-21 when they won their first game at MGM Park, which had been under construction, the next night. The Shuckers went on to clinch the first-half championship in the Southern League South on June 14 with a win over the Mississippi Braves at Trustmark Park. That Shuckers team, a Milwaukee affiliate, featured Josh Hader, Orlando Arcia (who hit the first homer at MGM), Adrian Houser and Brent Suter, among others, and reached the SL Championship Series before falling to Chattanooga. … On June 5, 1992, Pete Young, the ex-Mississippi State and McComb High star, made his MLB debut for Montreal, throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Young posted a 3.86 ERA in 17 games over two years with the Expos. … Among the big wave of minor league players released in recent days by major league clubs are: Southern Miss alum Luke Reynolds (by the Chicago Cubs), ex-Mississippi State standout Jacob Billingsley (Houston), MSU product Hunter Stovall (Philadelphia), former Ole Miss star Chris Ellis (St. Louis), George County High alum Walker Robbins (St. Louis) and ex-MSU standout Daniel Brown (Milwaukee). Ellis, also a former M-Braves pitcher, made his big league debut last summer, appearing in one game for Kansas City. … Looking ahead to next week’s draft: If State’s Justin Foscue goes in the first round (as widely projected), the second baseman will be the 13th Bulldogs player to be picked in the opening round since the draft started in 1965. That’s more than all but 14 other schools, according to mlb.com. Stanford leads the way with 23 first-rounders, followed by Arizona State with 21. Six schools have had 13 first-round picks. … The Cotton States League is slated to open its season tonight with three games at two different fields at BNA Bank Park in New Albany. The wood-bat college summer league is in its 12th year. The new Southeast Collegiate League, based in Jackson, Hattiesburg and Baton Rouge, La., starts play next week. … New coaches are settling in at two state junior colleges. Luke Stanley, former Delta State player from Oxford, is the new Mississippi Delta CC coach, replacing Dan Rives, who moved into the AD chair. Longtime Holmes CC coach Kenny Dupont retired and is succeeded by Scott DeLoach, a former Mississippi State player from Madison.