Kendall Williams, an Olive Branch native and Los Angeles Dodgers minor leaguer, made an appearance on MLB Network’s Hot Stove show today and spoke some words of wisdom about his chances of someday cracking the loaded Dodgers’ pitching staff. “If I do my job, there’ll be a job for me,” said the 23-year-old right-hander, who also talked about his rise to Triple-A in 2023 and about meeting Shohei Ohtani recently at Dodger Stadium. The 6-foot-6 Williams posted a 4-7 record and 3.73 ERA over four levels in 2023 and made the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game. He’s not on the 40-man roster and didn’t receive a non-roster invite to spring training, but he figures to get a look there at some point. Williams transferred from Olive Branch to IMG Academy in Florida during his sophomore year and was drafted in the second round in 2019 by Toronto, which traded him to LA the next fall. … Among the Mississippians to receive non-roster invites thus far are ex-Southern Miss standout Hurston Waldrep (Atlanta), Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington (Arizona), ex-Bulldogs standout Jonathan Holder (Texas), Ole Miss product Chad Smith (New York Mets) and UM alum Jacob Waguespack and ex-MSU stars Jake Mangum and Zac Houston (all with Tampa Bay). P.S. Ethan Small, a former first-round draft pick out of MSU, was designated for assignment by Milwaukee after the Brewers acquired two prospects from Baltimore in the Corbin Burnes trade. Left-hander Small likely will wind up with a new team. Also DFA’d on Thursday was Columbus native Michael Rucker by the Chicago Cubs, who signed free agent Hector Neris. Rucker, 2-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 35 MLB games in 2023, grew up in Washington and was drafted out of BYU. … William Carey University, ranked No. 4 in NAIA, lost its opener on Thursday, 5-3 to visiting Missouri Baptist, a 44-win team last year. Andrew Shirah, 10-1 for the Crusaders in 2023, yielded four hits, three walks and four runs in his three innings and took the loss. Preseason All-America pick R.J. Stinson went 1-for-5. … Belhaven University has scheduled an alumni game for Saturday (noon) at Trustmark Park in Pearl, the NCAA Division III Blazers’ home field for 2024. Andrew Gipson has taken the reins as BU coach. … Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley went 0-for-4 in Mexico’s 6-5 loss to Curacao on Thursday in the Caribbean Series in Miami. Mexico plays again tonight vs. Puerto Rico. Former Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. did not appear in Venezuela’s 3-1 victory over the Dominican Republic on Thursday. Acuna played for the Venezuelan Winter League champion Tiburones de La Guaira this season and was listed on the preliminary roster for the CS.
Obscured by bigger names making the MLB Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, Jonathan Papelbon certainly rates some attention. The former Mississippi State standout — who turns 41 today — pitched 12 years in the big leagues and stands 10th on the all-time saves list with 368. The glowering right-hander posted a 2.44 career ERA, made six All-Star teams and won a World Series ring with the 2007 Boston Red Sox, saving each of the last three games in the sweep against Colorado. That’s pretty impressive stuff. Four of the top seven on the career saves list are in the Hall, though one who ranks above Papelbon — Jackson Generals alum Billy Wagner — has yet to make the cut while being on the ballot since 2016. … Another ex-Gens star, outfielder/DH Bobby Abreu, is also back on the ballot for 2022 election. Abreu batted .291 career with 288 homers, 400 steals and eight 100-RBI seasons. Still, he is considered a long-shot candidate. … While several Mississippi-connected major leaguers are free agents looking for 2022 jobs, there are a bunch of minor leaguers doing the same. Baseball America’s list includes one-time big leaguers Jacob Waguespack (Ole Miss), Aaron Barrett (UM), Cody Carroll (Southern Miss) and Braxton Lee (UM). Former Mr. Baseball Ti’Quan Forbes (Columbia High), Ben Bracewell (MSU), Conor Fisk (USM) and Bradley Roney (USM) are also in the market. … Former Itawamba Community College standout Tim Dillard appeared on MLB Tonight on Monday and on MLB Network’s Hot Stove today. Dillard pitched in 624 pro games — almost 1,600 innings — from 2003-20 and spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues with Milwaukee. The engaging Dillard, who relishes weirdness (@dimtillard), is now a broadcaster with the Brewers. Among the things he discussed on air were following his dad, Ole Miss alum and ex-big leaguer Steve, around minor league clubhouses; converting from an over-the-top pitcher to sidearmer; converting from player to broadcaster; sleeping on friends’ sofas; and growing a scraggly beard.