17 Nov

roster watch

Colby White, whose meteoric rise in the Tampa Bay system was derailed by an arm injury last spring, has made the Rays’ 40-man roster. White, a Hattiesburg native drafted out of Mississippi State in 2019, had Tommy John surgery last April and missed the 2022 season. In 2021, the right-handed reliever rose through four levels of the minors, never missing a beat. He had a 1.86 ERA at Triple-A Durham and earned a non-roster invite to spring training. In 58 pro games, he has a 1.76 ERA and 12 saves. Look for him to debut with Tampa Bay sometime in 2023. … J.P. France, another ex-State standout, was added to Houston’s 40-man list after putting up a 3.90 ERA as a swingman at Triple-A Sugar Land. France, a right-hander, was drafted in the 14th round in 2018. He’ll try to earn a spot in the world champion Astros’ loaded bullpen in the spring. … Former Southern Miss star Kirk McCarty was designated for assignment by Cleveland, meaning he’s off the 40-man and available as a waiver claim by other clubs. The diminutive lefty made his MLB debut for Cleveland last season and went 4-3, 4.54. He was 4-1, 3.38, at Triple-A Columbus, bouncing up and down during the season. The Guardians actually lost him on waivers to Baltimore last summer but reclaimed him shortly thereafter. … Ex-MSU standout Jake Mangum was left unprotected by the New York Mets, who could potentially lose the switch-hitting outfielder in next month’s Rule 5 draft. Mangum hit .306 last season between Double-A and Triple-A and is a .284 career hitter in three pro campaigns. … Among Atlanta’s 40-man additions is shortstop Braden Shewmake, who played for the 2021 Double-A South champion Mississippi Braves. Shewmake, who goes 6 feet 4, 190 pounds, batted just .228 with 12 homers for the M-Braves but had several hot streaks and plays a good shortstop. He hit .259 at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2022 before going down with a knee injury in August. He is the Braves’ No. 5 prospect (MLB Pipeline). P.S. Silver City native and Ole Miss alum Jack Reed, who got World Series rings with the New York Yankees in 1961 and ’62, died on Nov. 10. Reed hit .233 in 129 big league at-bats from 1961-63 and frequently was used as a defensive replacement/pinch runner for Mickey Mantle. Reed’s one homer was a game-winner in a 22-inning contest in 1962.

16 Nov

select company

It’s a very exclusive club that Buck Showalter joined on Tuesday when the former Mississippi State standout claimed the National League Manager of the Year Award. He is one of just three managers to win the top manager award four times — and the first to do it with four different teams. “Very humbling, very honored,” he told mlb.com. Of course, four-time winners Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa have something that Showalter still lacks: a World Series ring. In his first season with the New York Mets, Showalter guided his club to 101 wins, a 24-win improvement over the previous season. However, they squandered a big division lead to Atlanta, lost a late showdown for first place in the National League East and made the postseason as a wild card, where they lost to San Diego. Showalter’s postseason record is 10-16 over six appearances. The BBWAA voting, which doesn’t take into account the postseason, was close in the NL race. Showalter got eight first-place votes, same as Los Angeles’ Dave Roberts and just one more than Atlanta’s Brian Snitker. Showalter’s total points were 77 to Roberts’ 57 and Snitker’s 55. Showalter became the first Mets manager to win the award; somehow, Davey Johnson, the ex-Jackson Mets skipper, did not prevail in 1986 despite winning 108 games with the team that went on to win the World Series. (Houston’s Hal Lanier won the ’86 award.) Showalter will be back with the Mets in 2023 for his 22nd season as an MLB manager.

07 Nov

just stuff

Rafael Palmeiro, one of seven players in MLB history with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, made the cut for the Contemporary Era Hall of Fame ballot. The former Mississippi State star is among eight finalists chosen by special committee. Also on the list are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens; like Palmeiro, their careers were tainted by PED allegations. The BBWAA will vote on these candidates on Dec. 4. Will Clark, Dave Parker and Frank White were among candidates who did not make the eight-man ballot… Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, Mississippi’s Gatorade player of the year in 2019, went 1-for-3 with a double and RBI in Saturday’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game. Keith is a highly rated Detroit prospect. … MSU alum Jake Mangum made the New York Mets’ Organization All-Star team, as selected by milb.com. Mangum, an outfielder, hit .306 with four homers, 35 RBIs and 14 steals in 2022, spending most of the year in Triple-A. … Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson, ex-Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton and MSU product Adam Frazier have elected free agency.

09 Oct

all in a day

When the postseason starts, you can turn the page on the regular season. Adam Frazier did precisely that in Seattle’s Wild Card Series sweep against Toronto. Flushing a disappointing regular season, the former Mississippi State star capped a jaw-dropping comeback by the Mariners on Saturday with a go-ahead RBI double in the ninth inning. “Those are the kind of moments you picture yourself in in the backyard when you’re a kid,” Frazier told The Associated Press. The M’s 10-9 victory sends them into the American League Division Series against Houston. Frazier hit just .238 in his first year in Seattle. But one thing he has always done well is put the ball in play, something of a lost art. He struck out just 73 times in 541 at-bats in 2022, one of the best contact rates in MLB. In the Toronto series, he went 4-for-9, never fanning once. He was 3-for-5 with two runs in the clincher, helping Seattle overcome an 8-1 deficit. … Southern Miss alum Nick Sandlin was the fifth of eight pitchers Cleveland used in its 1-0, 15-inning, series-clinching win against Tampa Bay. The sidearming right-hander got two outs in 10th inning, then left with “upper arm tightness.” His status for the next round is unclear. Fellow former Golden Eagles star Kirk McCarty, a rookie, was the only non-starter left in the Guardians’ bullpen when the game ended. … Corey Dickerson’s season is over, but Bobby Dickerson (no relation) is making plans for the next round. Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson went 2-for-6 for St. Louis as the Cardinals were bounced from the National League playoffs by Philadelphia. Laurel native Bobby Dickerson is the Phillies’ highly regarded infield coach; he got a shout-out Saturday from the ESPN broadcasters for his work with third baseman Alec Bohm. Philadelphia moves on to face Atlanta in the NLDS. … Trent Grisham, who played for the Biloxi Shuckers in 2018-19, homered for the second straight game and scored all of San Diego’s runs in a 7-3 loss to the New York Mets that evened their series. Game 3 is tonight at CitiField. Grisham, a .184 hitter this season with 17 bombs, took Max Scherzer deep in Friday’s win and got Jacob deGrom on Saturday. … Mets manager Buck Showalter, the MSU alum who has managed five different teams, won more than 1,600 games, claimed three manager of the year awards and appeared in six postseasons, has a 10-15 playoff record. He has yet to reach the World Series.

05 Oct

into the wild

Nine hits, two walks, seven runs in 2 2/3 innings — not what ex-Mississippi State standout Dakota Hudson was looking for in his last regular season outing for St. Louis. It remains to be seen what role Hudson might have in the Cardinals’ postseason, which begins Friday in the Wild Card Series against Philadelphia at Busch Stadium. But Tuesday’s outing against lowly Pittsburgh didn’t help his cause. Hudson had pitched quite well in his previous two outings after a stint in the minors. He now sits at 8-7 with a 4.45 ERA in 27 appearances. The Cardinals, National League Central champs, did rally to win Tuesday’s game, 8-7 in 10 innings. Chris Stratton, another former State star, pitched the final two innings and got the win. He has been outstanding as a middle reliever for the Cardinals, going 5-0 with a 2.78 since joining the club at the trade deadline. St. Louis also has Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson, a lefty-hitting outfielder, on its roster heading into the postseason. In fact, there is a Mississippi connection in each of the four best-of-3 Wild Card Series, which were officially set after Tuesday’s games. In the other NL series, New York Mets manager Buck Showalter, a former State standout, leads his club against visiting San Diego. In the American League, Cleveland, which hosts Tampa Bay, has former Southern Miss pitchers Nick Sandlin and Kirk McCarty on its current roster and MSU alum Konnor Pilkington in reserve. And Seattle, which travels to Toronto, suits up ex-Bulldogs standout Adam Frazier, a second baseman. P.S. Atlanta — and DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley — won its fifth straight NL East title on Tuesday and awaits the winner of Philadelphia-St. Louis. … USM alum Chuckie Robinson hit the second home run of his career for Cincinnati. Robinson, a catcher, is batting .136 in 25 games.

03 Oct

as the dust settles

Fortunes rose and fell for a handful of Mississippians on an eventful Sunday in the big leagues. In Atlanta, the Braves completed a stunning sweep of the New York Mets with former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley playing a key role in a pivotal third inning. In Milwaukee, Mississippi State alum Hunter Renfroe gave the desperate Brewers life in the ninth only to see their playoff hopes virtually crushed by Miami in the 12th. In San Diego, ex-Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn, playing a spoiler role for the Chicago White Sox, beat the Padres — but only after the Brewers’ defeat had locked up a playoff berth for the Pads. … Powered by homers from Mississippi Braves alum Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson, the Braves beat Buck Showalter’s Mets 5-3 to virtually clinch the National League East. “If I know these guys, they’ll rebound and look to make somebody feel their pain,” Mets manager Showalter, the former MSU star who is also feeling that pain, told mlb.com. The Mets had taken a 3-1 lead in the third and had runners at the corners with no outs when Mark Canha hit a roller down the third-base line. Riley charged and made a split-second decision to let the ball go. It hopped foul. Had Riley fielded it, the runner at third would have scored. Had it stayed fair, at least one run would’ve scored. None did. Charlie Morton, the veteran ex-M-Braves right-hander, retired Canha and the next two hitters. In the bottom of the third, Riley reached on an HBP that loaded the bases with two outs, and he ultimately scored the go-ahead run on a Travis d’Arnaud hit. Braves relievers locked down the win, reducing the defending world champs’ magic number to claim the East to one with three games left at Miami. “You come at the kings, you better not miss,” said Madison native Ben Ingram, the Braves radio voice. … The Brewers trailed 2-1 in the ninth when Renfroe doubled with one out and scored the tying run on a Kolten Wong knock. Alas, Milwaukee fell in the 12th. Coupled with Philadelphia’s win against Washington, the Brewers’ elimination number is now one. They’ll send ex-MSU standout Brandon Woodruff (13-4) to the bump today against Arizona. The Phillies face Houston on the road. One Brewers loss or one Phillies win in the final series eliminates Milwaukee from the NL wild card chase. … At San Diego, Lynn (8-7) pitched great (seven innings, one run) in the final outing of what as been a disappointing season for the big right-hander and his Chicago team. After the game, a 2-1 Chicago victory, the White Sox had to watch the Padres and their fans at Petco Park celebrate a wild card berth. P.S. Former Delta State star Dalton Moats celebrated a Triple-A championship Sunday after the Durham Bulls, Tampa Bay’s affiliate, beat Reno 10-6 in Las Vegas. The lefty reliever, who didn’t pitch in the finale, had a 3.60 ERA in 51 games this season, his sixth in pro ball.

01 Oct

a long-awaited party

They partied like it was 2001 in Seattle on Friday night when the Mariners clinched their first postseason berth since that storied season. Pause here for a brief trip down memory lane. The ’01 Mariners won a record 116 games with a team that included Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, Jamie Moyer and three former Jackson Generals who were part of a blockbuster trade in 1998. At the trade deadline that year, the M’s sent Randy Johnson to Houston for three players on the Double-A Generals’ roster: shortstop Carlos Guillen and pitchers Freddy Garcia and John Halama. In 2001 — by which time Johnson was in Arizona — those three were integral pieces in Seattle’s success. Guillen hit .259 as the regular shortstop, Garcia was 18-6 with a 3.05 ERA and Halama went 10-7. The ’01 Mariners went out with a whimper, losing to the New York Yankees in five games in the American League Championship Series. (The Yanks were later vanquished by Johnson and the Diamondbacks in the World Series.) The ’22 Mariners clinched with a walk-off 2-1 win against Oakland. Former Mississippi Braves shortstop Dylan Moore, who also played briefly in Biloxi, scored the M’s first run in the first inning after leading off with a single and stealing second, his 21st bag. Moore is batting .219 while playing seven different positions. Ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier, Seattle’s usual second baseman, didn’t play in Friday’s game. He has had a down year (.235, 38 points under his career average) but will be going to the postseason for the first time in his seven MLB campaigns. P.S. Another ex-M-Braves shortstop, Dansby Swanson, hit one of the three homers Atlanta got against Jacob deGrom in the 5-2 win on Friday that moved the Braves into a tie with the New York Mets atop the National League East. Swanson’s bomb was the 100th of his career. DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley hit his 38th homer of the season and third career against deGrom. … Former Biloxi Shuckers pitchers Corbin Burnes and Devin Williams combined on a five-hitter as Milwaukee beat Miami 1-0 and stayed a half-game back of Philadelphia in the battle for the third NL wild card. (San Diego, which has lost three in a row, hasn’t clinched a wild card, either.) Burnes (12-8) went eight innings, and Williams (15 saves) survived a wobbly ninth (a hit and two walks) by striking out the side.

30 Sep

eye on …

Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, has had a big year for Atlanta, but the MVP chatter surrounding the third baseman has diminished lately. He has a chance to revive it this weekend in the series that’s been circled on a lot of calendars seemingly for months. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock all summer, the New York Mets visit Truist Park for a three-game set that could decide the National League East title. The Braves are down a game in the standings. One of Riley’s main rivals for MVP is the Mets’ Pete Alonso, so that’s a subplot worth watching. Riley is batting .275 with 37 home runs and 92 RBIs. But over his last 15 games, he has hit just .200 with one homer and two RBIs. The Braves need better production this weekend. For the record, Riley is batting .294 with two homers and five RBIs career against Jacob deGrom, New York’s starter in tonight’s opener. … There will also be a spotlight on several other former Mississippi Braves. The immensely talented Ronald Acuna (.275, 15 homers, 28 steals) has hit just .214 in his last seven games. Michael Harris II, the likely NL rookie of the year, is batting .305 with 19 homers, 64 RBIs and 20 bags — but is at .267 with one homer in his last seven. And then there are the starting pitchers in three dream matchups. Max Fried (13-7, 2.50 ERA) faces deGrom tonight, followed by Kyle Wright (20-5, 3.18) against Max Scherzer on Saturday and Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) vs. Chris Bassitt on Sunday. The managerial matchup is also pretty sweet: Former M-Braves skipper Brian Snitker rolling the dice against ex-Mississippi State star Buck Showalter. P.S. The M-Braves, Atlanta’s Double-A club, will play an exhibition game against Jackson State next April 5 at Smith-Wills Stadium, it was announced on Thursday. Proceeds from the Hank Aaron Tribute Game reportedly will go to a fund to improve facilities at Jackson parks and schools. Smith-Wills was the longtime home of Jackson’s Double-A Texas League teams, the Mets and Generals, and now hosts the Hank Aaron Sports Academy. The Generals, a Houston affiliate, played JSU in an exhibition game at Smith-Wills in 1991.

15 Aug

farm to table

Time to take a moment to appreciate the quality of pitching talent that has been funneled through Double-A Mississippi and into Atlanta. If you’ve frequented Trustmark Park in Pearl in recent years, you know about these guys. It’s been quite a treat. The Braves take a six-game win streak into this week’s titanic National League East clash with the New York Mets. Five of those six games were started by M-Braves alums, including the last three at Miami, where young guns Kyle Muller, Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder — all just up from Triple-A — held the Marlins to five runs in 18 combined innings. Elder, 23, who went 7-1 for the 2021 Double-A South champion M-Braves, was brilliant on Sunday, allowing one run in seven innings with 10 strikeouts. Unfortunately, he got no support and a no-decision. All told, former M-Braves have 53 of Atlanta’s 70 wins this season. They’ve made 113 of the 116 starts. Spencer Strider (M-Braves ’21), a rookie of the year candidate, is 6-4 with a 3.11 ERA heading into tonight’s start against the Mets’ Carlos Carrasco. Graybeard Charlie Morton (M-Braves ’07), the Tuesday starter, is 5-5, 4.26. The Braves haven’t announced a starter for Thursday (vs. Jacob deGrom), but it’ll likely be either 14-game winner Kyle Wright (M-Braves ’18) or All-Star and 10-game winner Max Fried (M-Braves ’17-18). Anderson (M-Braves ’18-19), a postseason star for the world champion Braves last fall, has 10 wins despite not having his best stuff this year. And there’s this news: Erstwhile staff ace Mike Soroka (M-Braves ’17), who is 15-6, 2.86, in his injury-interrupted career, is slated for a rehab assignment on Tuesday at High-Class A Rome. (It also bears mentioning that the Braves have developed a slew of other pitchers now on other clubs, including Alex Wood, Mike Minor, Bryse Wilson, Sean Newcomb and Tucker Davidson.) Atlanta’s scouting and development personnel have done a helluva job in recent years. Brimming with young talent, the Braves put a World Series trophy on the shelf in 2021 and are well-positioned to add more. Pitching is always the key, and they’ve got it.

09 Aug

just stuff

There is a Mississippian on the roster of one of the two Iowa-based teams slated to play tonight in the minor league Field of Dreams Game in Dyersville, Iowa. Former Pascagoula High star Willie Joe Garry is an outfielder for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, Minnesota’s High-Class A affiliate. Garry, who recently came off the injured list, is batting .179 with 10 steals in his fourth pro season. Drafted out of ‘Goula in 2018, Garry is a .199 career hitter who stole 24 bases in 2021. (Listed on Quad Cities’ roster but on the season-long IL is ex-Mississippi State pitcher Eric Cerantola, drafted by Kansas City in 2021.) Tonight’s game will be televised by MLB Network at 6:30 CDT. … Ex-State standout Logan Tanner, the second-highest drafted Mississippi product this summer, made his pro debut on Monday with Cincinnati’s Arizona Complex League team. The Hattiesburg native, a second-round pick by the Reds, went 0-for-3. … The Mississippi Braves are at Tennessee this week for a six-game Southern League series in which they could encounter a couple of Magnolia State products. Ex-Southern Miss star Walker Powell is 2-2 with a 2.88 ERA in six games (three starts) for the Smokies, a Chicago Cubs affiliate. The 6-foot-8 Powell has nine wins over three levels in the Cubs’ system in 2022, his second pro season. Infielder Delvin Zinn, a Pontotoc native and Itawamba Community College alum, has played sparingly this season and is batting .095. He is a .237 career hitter. … The big league Cubs have announced that former M-Braves star Jason Heyward will be released after this season with a year left on his eight-year, $184 million contract. He is batting .174 with seven homers and is on the IL, probably for the remainder of this season. Heyward, 32, a key figure for the Cubs on their historic World Series winner in 2016, arrived in Mississippi as one of the top prospects in baseball in 2009. He hit .352 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 47 Double-A games. He famously homered in his first MLB at-bat with Atlanta the next year. The Cubs also have released former M-Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, a defensive whiz who was hitting just .173. Simmons, 32, hit .293 for the M-Braves in 2012 and carries a .263 career average in the big leagues. … In Atlanta’s deflating series against the New York Mets last weekend, there were good signs from ex-M-Braves star Ronald Acuna, who went 8-for-19 with two doubles and a home run. He also won the Chevrolet Electric Play of the Week award for a home run-robbing catch in right field in Friday’s game, the only one the Braves won. Acuna is batting .267 with nine homers, 28 RBIs and 23 steals. Atlanta, playing at Boston tonight, needs more from him.