09 May

fun while it lasted

On paper, it was a mismatch. On the field, for three innings at least, it was not. George County High product Justin Steele, making just the 15th start of his big league career, cruised into the fourth inning Sunday at Wrigley Field with a 1-0 lead against the Los Angeles Dodgers and ace Walker Buehler. A wonky fourth — two infield hits, two walks, a wild pitch — cost Steele and the Chicago Cubs the lead, and the young left-hander couldn’t answer the bell for the fifth, departing with a thumb injury after his warmup tosses. The Dodgers, with Buehler going seven innings, won the game 7-1. Buehler entered the game, his 100th career start, with a 3-1 record and a 2.12 ERA. Steele was 1-3, 5.50, winless since beating Milwaukee (and fellow Mississippi native Brandon Woodruff) in his first start of 2022. Originally set for a Monday start, Steele found out only hours before ESPN’s Sunday night feature that he’d be getting the ball against the National League’s best team, the one with three MVPs in the lineup. He struck out Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman to start the game and yielded just a lone hit (to Cody Bellinger) through three. The wheels started to come off in the fourth. Steele, 26, battled long and hard — eight years — to reach the big leagues in 2021. He’s now battling to nail down a role with a rebuilding Cubs club, and there certainly have been encouraging signs. P.S. Two other Mississippians made Mother’s Day starts and experienced mixed results. Konnor Pilkington, former Mississippi State standout, made his first career start — fourth appearance — for Cleveland and lasted 3 2/3 innings (two runs allowed) in a game the Guardians won 4-3 against Toronto. Ex-State star Dakota Hudson, having an erratic season for St. Louis, went four innings, yielding five hits, four walks and three runs in a game the Cardinals lost 4-3 to San Francisco.

03 May

time to pitch in

The Mississippi Braves, who begin a six-game homestand tonight at Trustmark Park, are 8-13, and one doesn’t have to dig too deep into the numbers to uncover a reason for the poor start. The team ERA is 4.78, which ranks sixth in the eight-team Southern League. The WHIP is 1.46, second-worst in the league. This is highly unusual for the M-Braves, who ranked second, first and second in the league in ERA in the past three seasons. Maybe the ERA will improve as the team plays more games at the TeePee, one of the best pitchers’ parks in the minors. Maybe it starts this week against Pensacola, one of the weakest hitting and lowest scoring teams in the SL. Darius Vines starts tonight’s opener; he is a rated prospect who is better than his numbers: 1-1, 5.50 ERA. Wednesday starter Jared Shuster, Atlanta’s No. 10 prospect, has been outstanding: 2-2, 1.88, 28 strikeouts, five walks in 24 innings. But none of the other scheduled starters in the series has an ERA under 5.17. Closer Justin Maese is 3-for-3 in saves but has an ugly 7.27 ERA. Middle reliever Hayden Deal has a 1.06 and has been a key bullpen piece. The M-Braves have some hitters. Top prospect Michael Harris II has been as good as advertised: .333, four homers, 19 RBIs, 16 runs. Drew Lugbauer has slugged seven homers with 15 RBIs and 18 runs. Riley Delgado (.333), Luke Waddell (.296) and C.J. Alexander (.293) also have swung it well. … The World Series trophy won by the parent Braves last fall will make an appearance at the ballpark on Friday night. P.S. Anthony Alford, the ex-Petal High star, has signed a minor league deal with Cleveland and will report to Triple-A Columbus. Alford, previously with Pittsburgh, recently became a free agent (see previous posts).

02 May

not a surprise

It was easy to see this coming: Bobby Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star, was designated for assignment today by Cleveland. The once-touted power prospect had barely played for the Guardians this season, going 2-for-17 with nine strikeouts. Perhaps another club will make a waiver claim on the 26-year-old first baseman and give him a fresh start. Bradley had an uneven 2021 season in Cleveland (.208, 16 homers) but went into spring training as the expected starter at first base. But a poor spring and the emergence of Owen Miller and Josh Naylor relegated Bradley to the bench. He has 156 homers over seven minor league seasons, including 33 in Triple-A in 2019. That’s tantalizing power that some organization might take a chance on. … Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford, DFA’d last week by Pittsburgh, cleared waivers and elected free agency. The oft-injured Alford, 27, has batted .209 with eight homers over parts of six MLB seasons split between Toronto and the Pirates. His future looks cloudy at best.

23 Apr

denied

The anticipation was high. Kirk McCarty, the ex-Southern Miss star from Hattiesburg, was scheduled to make his big league debut today, starting on the bump against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. It’s not happening. Cal Quantrill has come off the COVID-19 list and will get the ball for Cleveland. McCarty, brought up from Triple-A earlier in the week, might still get in the game as a reliever, of course, but a start against Aaron Judge and Co. would have been so much cooler. (In Friday’s game, a Cleveland loss, Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington threw two scoreless innings in relief for the Guardians in his third big league game. He has yet to yield a run.) … In other MLB news: Former State standout Nathaniel Lowe extended his hit streak to eight games, raised his average to .412 — tops in the American League — and belted his first home run in Texas’ win against Oakland. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, made his 2022 debut for Pittsburgh, coming off a rehab assignment, and went 0-for-3 as the leadoff batter at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Pirates won the game over the Cubs 4-2, with ex-State star Chris Stratton getting the save. … Ex-East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson was handed a one-game suspension for flipping off the Cleveland crowd in a game on Wednesday. Anderson issued an apology, then appealed the suspension and played Friday. He went 0-for-4 and his eighth-inning throwing error — his sixth E in three games — proved costly in the Chicago White Sox’s 2-1 loss to Minnesota. MSU alum Kendall Graveman suffered the blown save and took the loss in that game.

20 Apr

three on a match

The Cleveland Guardians’ bullpen is well-stocked with former Magnolia State college stars for today’s doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox. Southern Miss product Kirk McCarty was added to the roster and joins former USM teammate Nick Sandlin and ex-Mississippi State standout Konnor Pilkington on the Guardians’ 28-man club. Hattiesburg native McCarty, a 5-foot-8 left-hander, was brilliant in three starts at Triple-A Columbus this season, posting a 0.79 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. A seventh-round pick in 2017, he is 19-26 with a 4.31 ERA in his minor league career. One report said McCarty is a candidate to start against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium this weekend. That would be quite the debut. Pascagoula native Pilkington debuted last weekend (see previous post). Sandlin, a Georgia native, debuted in 2021 and pitched well (2.94 in 34 games), though he has an 8.31 in 4 1/3 innings in 2022. Also on the Cleveland roster is Harrison Central High product Bobby Bradley, a first baseman who has seen limited playing time this season.

18 Apr

adding on

The lengthy list of Mississippi natives to play in the big leagues grew over the weekend when Konnor Pilkington debuted for Cleveland. The tall left-hander, a Pascagoula native who played high school ball at East Central, showed some staying power. He made his first appearance for the Guardians last Friday with a scoreless inning of work and pitched again on Sunday, tossing two perfect innings against San Francisco in an 8-1 loss. Pilkington is one of those players who seemed destined to make The Show. He was an All-American in high school, tossing an 18-strikeout no-hitter on one occasion. He signed with Mississippi State, where his stuff was better than his numbers (14-12 with a 3.47 ERA) over three years. He also pitched for the Collegiate National Team while in Starkville. The Chicago White Sox picked him in the third round in 2018, and he made steady progress in their system before being traded to Cleveland last July for big league second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Pilkington made the Guardians’ 40-man roster in the off-season and got into some big league spring games, pitching well enough to make the expanded opening day roster. He was optioned to Triple-A briefly before being recalled on Friday. He walked the first batter he faced — the Giants’ Brandon Belt — but got a strikeout, a ground out and a fly ball to end the inning. Pilkington was 12-16, 3.84 in the minors working primarily as a starter; he throws four pitches and has demonstrated durability. He can have an impact for Cleveland.

01 Apr

spring cleaning

It certainly looks as if Bobby Bradley will open the season as Cleveland’s first baseman. How long he’ll hold the job isn’t so certain. Bradley, the former Harrison Central High star, had a poor second half in 2021 and has not perked up in spring training. “He’s not swinging the bat very well,” Guardians manager Terry Francona told cleveland.com in a story published Thursday, before Bradley got a couple of hits against Seattle in a Cactus League contest. “I don’t know (if) that means he won’t.” Bradley, 25, is batting .200 with no homers or RBIs this spring. He hit .208 with 16 homers and 99 strikeouts in 245 at-bats last season, his second stint in the majors. His minor league power numbers were impressive; the strikeout totals not so much. “It’s too early to give up on Bradley,” writes Terry Pluto for cleveland.com. But that time may come if things don’t change. … In that same Thursday game in Peoria, Ariz., Mississippi State alum Adam Frazier banged out two more hits as the Mariners’ new leadoff batter. Acquired from San Diego in the off-season, the All-Star second baseman is batting .474 this spring. Frazier is optimistic that Seattle’s 20-year postseason drought will end in 2022. “Take care of business each day and I think we’ll be there at the end,” he told seattlesports.com. P.S. After punching out the only batter he faced, Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet left a Chicago White Sox game Thursday with an apparent arm injury. The flame-throwing lefty reliever has a 2.08 ERA this spring and registered 14 holds with a 2.82 as a key bullpen piece for the ChiSox last season. … Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State star from Crystal Springs, is getting work at first base with Milwaukee, his new team. Renfroe had 16 outfield assists with Boston in 2021. … Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, a lefty reliever recovering from elbow surgery, will start the season on the 60-day injured list for San Diego.