Happy 44th birthday to Eli Whiteside, the former All-America catcher at Delta State who played parts of six seasons in the major leagues. New Albany native Whiteside, drafted in the sixth round by Baltimore in 2001, played in 216 MLB games, batting .210 with 10 homers, and got two World Series rings despite never playing in the postseason. Whiteside, backing up Buster Posey, hit .238 for the 2010 San Francisco Giants and was on their Series roster but didn’t get in a game as they beat Texas 4-1. He also spent part of the 2012 season with the Giants but didn’t make the postseason roster for a club that won another Fall Classic. After he retired in 2015, Whiteside served for a time as a bullpen catcher for the Giants and a roving instructor. Whiteside’s first career homer was a grand slam for the Giants in 2009, and he also caught a Jonathan Sanchez no-hitter that year. He is one of nine Delta State alums to have made The Show. Others on that list: Barry Lyons, Stewart Cliburn and Jim Miles (the first in 1968).
Watched a few innings of the Pacific Coast League game of the week on TV Thursday night. Eli Whiteside, the ex-Delta State star from New Albany, was catching for Iowa (Chicago Cubs) and Mississippi State product Ed Easley was behind the plate for Memphis (St. Louis Cardinals) at AutoZone Park. These are two guys who must really love the game. They are backup catchers in Triple-A. Both are scuffling in their limited time: Whiteside is batting .168, Easley .204. Whiteside, who’ll be 35 in October, is in his 15th pro season. He has 208 MLB games under his belt and won a World Series ring with San Francisco in 2010. The Cubs are the seventh organization Whiteside has played for. He last appeared in the majors — briefly — in 2012. Easley, 28, is in his eighth season. He has yet to play in a big league game. He hit .334 with six homers and 49 RBIs in Triple-A for Arizona in 2013, never got a call-up, then signed with St. Louis in the off-season as a minor league free agent. The chances that either Whiteside or Easley will get called to the big leagues this season are pretty slim. Yet they keep plugging away at the game’s most demanding position. There is something admirable about that kind of devotion. P.S. Tony Sipp has shown that he still has some gas in the tank. The Pascagoula native has not allowed a run in 9 2/3 innings over eight appearances with Houston. Sipp, given his release from a minor league contract with San Diego so that he could sign with the Astros, has yielded just one hit and one walk with 13 strikeouts for a club that is suddenly playing well. The Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum is in his 11th pro season.
The Chicago Cubs’ cast of outfielders is not exactly star-studded, including the likes of Junior Lake, Justin Ruggiano, Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney. Also in the mix this spring — as a non-roster invitee — is former Ole Miss standout Chris Coghlan. The former National League rookie of the year went 1-for-3 with an RBI today, but with only two hits in 16 at-bats for the spring, he hasn’t made a great impression. Coghlan, 28, is a .270 career hitter (spent entirely with the Miami Marlins) who has had bad luck with injuries. He hit .256 in 70 games last year for the Marlins, who elected not to bring him back. Eli Whiteside, the former Delta State catcher, is also in Cubs camp as a non-roster player. Whiteside, 34, is hitless in seven at-bats this spring as he bids for the job backing up Wellington Castillo. Whiteside, a good receiver, is a .215 career hitter who spent 2013 in Triple-A with Texas and batted just .187. At this stage, it appears both Coghlan and Whiteside will be left out in the cold when Chicago sets its opening day roster.