20 Oct

the right stuff

The Arizona Fall League has been described as an All-Star game every night, and Mississippi State product Rowdey Jordan is showing that he belongs among the highly rated prospects in the league. Jordan — who isn’t among the New York Mets’ Top 30 prospects — had a three-hit game for Glendale on Thursday night, raising his average to .275 in 11 games. The switch-hitting infielder/outfielder scored twice and picked up his sixth double, which is tied for the AFL lead. He has eight runs and three RBIs. Alabama native Jordan batted .323 with 10 homers for State’s national championship team in 2021 and was drafted, as a senior, in the 11th round by the Mets. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Jordan reached Double-A Binghamton late in 2022 and spent all of 2023 there, hitting .230 with 13 homers, 63 RBIs and 30 steals. P.S. Jordan’s teammate on the ’21 Bulldogs, College World Series star Will Bednar has had a rocky go in the AFL as he attempts to get his pro career on track. Bednar, the 14th overall pick in 2021 by San Francisco, has a 9.82 ERA in four appearances for Scottsdale. The right-hander, beset by injuries since he was drafted, has allowed four runs on three hits and seven walks in 3 2/3 innings. He does have six strikeouts. Once the Giants’ No. 4 prospect (by MLB Pipeline), Bednar is now listed 26th. He went 1-2, 4.22, in four games in rookie ball this season.

02 Oct

into the mist

In what was probably — probably — the last game of Buck Showalter’s managerial career, the New York Mets’ disappointing season ended with a blowout loss — 9-1 to Philadelphia at CitiField. Former Mississippi State star Showalter announced before Sunday’s game that he would not be returning for a third season with the Mets. He was greeted with a standing ovation from Mets fans when he took out the lineup card pregame. A 101-win playoff team in 2022, the Mets suffered some key injuries and tumbled to 74-87 this year. “It’s not the ending I wanted, but I still love the city and the players,” Showalter told The Associated Press. He has won 1,726 games (.509 win percentage) over 22 years with five different clubs, claiming four manager of the year awards, including in 2022. His teams went 0-for-6 in postseason series, bowing out last year in a wild card series against San Diego. … The question about Showalter’s future in New York was one of several involving Mississippians in the majors headed into the off-season. To wit: Will East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson be back with the Chicago White Sox? The team holds an option on his contract, but the combustible former batting champ hit just .245 with one home run and scuffled on defense at shortstop. … Will ex-Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe and Meridian CC product Corey Dickerson land jobs for 2024? Renfroe, who belted 20 homers in 2023, was waived in August by the Los Angeles Angels, claimed by Cincinnati and then released before season’s end. Dickerson, who hit .250 in 50 games, was released by last-place Washington in August. … What’s next for Spencer Turnbull? The former Madison Central High standout, who threw a no-hitter for Detroit early in 2021, missed all of 2022 after elbow surgery and endured more injury issues this season, which he finished in the minors. He was 1-4 with a 7.26 ERA for the Tigers, 0-1, 6.23, in the minors, pitching just twice in September. … Is Drew Pomeranz done? The Ole Miss product, 34, who has a 3.91 career ERA and a World Series ring, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2021 because of injuries and made just seven minor league appearances this year. He is a free agent for 2024. … Two players who finished strong and possibly solidified their jobs for 2024: Ex-MSU star Brent Rooker and former Ole Miss standout James McArthur. Journeyman Rooker, an All-Star in his first year with Oakland, belted his 30th homer on Sunday; he hit. 306 with six bombs over his last 15 games. McArthur, a rookie in his first year in Kansas City’s system, notched a two-inning save against the Yankees on Sunday. In his last seven appearances, the tall right-hander went 1-0 with four saves and did not allow a run in nine innings.

22 Sep

tough times in ‘the town’

Thursday’s game represented Brent Rooker’s season in a nutshell. The ex-Mississippi State star blasted a two-run homer — his fifth in eight games and 28th of the year — for Oakland. Yay. It came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game the A’s would lose 7-3 to Detroit, the eighth straight loss for the worst team (46-107) in baseball. Ugh. Rooker also struck out three times, giving him 160 on the year in 432 at-bats. That’s not a good ratio. On top of that, he made a throwing error in right field, one of three Oakland misplays. Perhaps it was a good thing only 6,160 people were there to see all this. Rooker, in his fourth MLB season with his fourth team, made the All-Star Game this season. But he isn’t guaranteed a job with the A’s for 2024, when the Las Vegas-bound team will be a lame duck at Oakland Coliseum. Rooker, 28, is batting .241 this year with a .324 on-base percentage and 64 RBIs. P.S. In Triple-A, former MSU star Justin Foscue hit a grand slam and drove in six runs all told for Round Rock in the Texas system. Foscue, the 14th overall draft pick in 2020 and a highly rated Rangers prospect, is batting .265 with 17 home runs, 79 RBIs and 14 steals for the Express, which is contending for a playoff berth in the Pacific Coast League. He has played first, second and third base this season. … In Double-A, Southern Miss product Walker Powell worked five inning (three hits, one run, six strikeouts) to boost Tennessee (Chicago Cubs) past Chattanooga and into the Southern League Championship Series. Powell won a league-high 11 games for the Smokies during the regular season. MSU alum Rowdey Jordan, a .230 hitter with 13 bombs this year, had a 1-for-4 night as Binghamton (New York Mets) beat Somerset and reached the Eastern League finals.

29 Aug

that’s pretty big

The Texas Rangers have won 74 games this season, rapped out an MLB-best 1,226 hits and scored an American League-leading 731 runs. So when manager Bruce Bochy says that Nathaniel Lowe’s ninth-inning single on Monday was “as big a hit as we’ve had this year,” he is saying a lot. Former Mississippi State standout Lowe’s two-out, two-RBI knock gave the slumping Rangers a 4-3 lead over the New York Mets, and they held on to win for just the second time in 11 games. The Rangers, recently passed in the AL West standings by red-hot Seattle, remained a game back of the Mariners and tied with Houston. With a 3-2 lead in the ninth, Mets manager Buck Showalter, another State product from way back, elected to walk Corey Seager and load the bases ahead of Lowe. Lowe, who had previously extended his hit streak to 10 games, smacked a 2-1 pitch from Trevor Gott into right field to put Texas ahead. Lowe called it a “team win.” It was the team’s first win in 48 games this season in which they trailed after eight innings. While many of the Rangers have slumped of late, Lowe — a Silver Slugger winner in 2022 — has not. He is batting .297 over his last 15 games and is at .282 with 15 home runs and 70 RBIs for the year. P.S. In what passes as a showdown in the AL Central, first-place Minnesota beat second-place Cleveland 10-6, getting a 438-foot homer from Southern Miss alum Matt Wallner, his 10th. The Twins’ lead is 7 games. … Other than that bizarre and somewhat scary incident involving several so-called “fans,” former Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna enjoyed an MVP-caliber night at Colorado. Acuna went 4-for-5, hit his 29th homer, stole his 60th and 61st bases, drove in five runs and scored four to power Atlanta to a 14-4 win. No player in MLB history has hit 30 homers and swiped 60 bags in the same season.

22 Aug

going places

Coming soon to the Mississippi Braves’ lineup: Brandon Parker. The former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star from Saucier, just off the injured list, has been promoted to Double-A, though he is not starting tonight at Montgomery. A 2019 draftee by Atlanta, after winning NJCAA Division II player of the year honors at Perk, Parker was hitting .250 with five homers, 21 RBIs and 10 steals for the High-Class A Rome Braves. He has been on the injured list since July 25 and just completed a rehab assignment in rookie ball. The 6-foot, 205-pound outfielder has 26 career homers in 231 minor league games. … Parker might get a chance during the six-game series against the Biscuits to face former Mississippi State standout Colby White, whose journey back from arm surgery has led him back to Montgomery, where he spent part of the 2021 season en route to reaching Triple-A in Tampa Bay’s system. White, on the Rays’ 40-man roster, has a 1.86 career ERA in 74 minor league games since 2019. … Also moving up today is ex-MSU standout Kellum Clark, a 20th-round pick by the New York Mets in July. He was hitting .308 in rookie ball, earning a promotion to Class A St. Lucie.

05 Aug

a clash at camden

Buck Showalter had some good times in Baltimore. Friday night was not one. Ex-Mississippi State star Showalter’s fading New York Mets lost to the surging Orioles 10-3 as another ex-Bulldogs star played a big role for the winners. Jordan Westburg, Baltimore’s rookie second baseman, went 2-for-3 with two walks, a homer, three RBIs and two runs. Since his June 26 call-up, Westburg is batting .276 with a pair of homers and 11 RBIs. His homer Friday was his first at Camden Yards. It was a three-run shot in the bottom of the seventh that turned a 6-2 game into a 9-2 rout. “It was cool, pretty cool,” Westburg said in a postgame interview. The Orioles moved to 68-42, 2 games up on Tampa Bay in the American League East. Showalter managed the O’s from 2010-18, posted four winning seasons, made three playoff appearances and won a manager of the year award before the roster was gutted the last two seasons. He was welcomed back Friday with a pregame video tribute and got a standing ovation from Baltimore fans. He won a manager of the year award — his fourth — with the Mets last year and made the postseason. But things have gone sideways in 2023. The roster — with the highest payroll in the game — was gutted at the trade deadline. Friday’s loss dropped the Mets’ record to 50-59, fourth in the National League East, 21 games back of Atlanta. They managed just four hits Friday, and their bullpen was awful in the sixth and seventh innings, when the O’s scored eight times. “We have to play better, and some people that are getting an opportunity have to take advantage of it,” Showalter said in an Associated Press story.

21 Jul

on this date

Hal Lee was 0-for-16 in his big league career when he came to the plate on July 21, 1930, as a pinch hitter for the Brooklyn Robins. The Ludlow native hit a three-run bomb, a big hit for him but not enough to help the Robins beat St. Louis, which won 17-10 at Ebbets Field. Lee hit just .162 in 37 at-bats in his rookie season but would go on to hit .275 with 33 homers and 323 RBIs in a career that ended in 1936. A Mississippi College alum and Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer, Lee hit .303 with 18 homers — eighth in the National League — and 85 RBIs for Philadelphia in 1932, easily his best season. He had a three-homer game in 1934, one of just seven Mississippi natives to accomplish that feat. Some history buffs might contend that Lee is most famous as the player who replaced Babe Ruth in the outfield for the Boston Braves on May 30, 1935, when the Sultan of Swat left the field for the final time. P.S. Mississippi State product Kellum Clark apparently has signed with the New York Mets, who drafted him in the 20th round. That signing has not been reported by mlb.com.

19 Jul

random numbers

7 — Austin Riley’s career-high RBI total from Tuesday night’s game, which Atlanta lost 16-13 at home to Arizona. DeSoto Central High product Riley hit two home runs — both go-ahead bombs — and now has 18 on the year with 52 RBIs.
3 — Hits by Tim Anderson in the Chicago White Sox’s 11-10 loss to the New York Mets. The ex-East Central Community College standout might finally be heating up. With seven hits in his last four games, he has lifted his average to .234. (He did, however, make the last out of the game with the go-ahead run at second base.)
197 — Total runs scored in MLB games on Tuesday, a season-high; there were four games in which both teams scored double-digits, a modern era record. Riley scored three of those runs, Anderson two and Nathaniel Lowe, Mississippi State alum now with Texas, scored once. No other Mississippians contributed a run.
1.54 — Tyler Stuart’s ERA, which — as of Tuesday a.m. — led all qualified minor leaguers, per mlb.com. The ex-Southern Miss star, a 2022 draftee by the Mets, was 4-0, 1.55, at High-Class A Brooklyn and allowed one run in six innings in his Double-A debut for Binghamton last Saturday. The 6-foot-9 Stuart pitched mostly in relief in two seasons at USM. The Mets made him a starter this spring. “I feel like I get better as the game goes on,” he said in an mlb.com piece.
8 — Wins by Derek Diamond, the former Ole Miss standout now at Low-A Bradenton in Pittsburgh’s system. The right-hander, a 2022 draftee, threw seven innings on Tuesday, allowing four hits, a walk and a lone run to beat Fort Myers 5-2. He is 8-3 with a 3.98.
6 — Appearances in the Florida Complex League by Colby White, who is on a rehab assignment with Tampa Bay. White, an ex-MSU star, blew through four levels of the minors in 2021 (4-3, 11 saves, 1.44 ERA all told) and went to spring training with the Rays in 2022 before an arm injury cost him the entire year. He has a 1.59 ERA in the FCL this season and may be close to making his big league debut.
16 — Number of 2023 Pearl River Community College players bound for four-year schools this fall. It’s a program record, according to a release from the school. Of note: Gabe Broadus and Landen Payne are USM signees, Will Passeau is off to MSU, Tristan Hickman to Delta State, Blaise Breerwood to Mississippi College, Bobby Magee to William Carey and Alex Perry to Tennessee. PRCC won the NJCAA Division II national title in 2022 and was the preseason No. 1 this year.

06 Jul

show of arms

Mississippi State alum J.P. France was at it again on Wednesday, producing a sixth straight quality start for Houston and picking up the win in the surging Astros’ 6-4 victory over Colorado. The rookie right-hander (4-3, 3.26 ERA in 11 starts) yielded three runs in six innings as Houston moved within 2 games of first-place Texas in the American League West. France led a parade of Magnolia State products who delivered outstanding pitching performances on Wednesday. All-Star Justin Steele, the former George County High star, gave up three runs in six innings but got a no-decision in a game the Chicago Cubs would win 4-3 at Milwaukee; Columbus native Michael Rucker got the win in relief. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, ex-Jackson Prep standout Will Warren tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings for the New Yankees’ top farm club and improved to 4-3, 4.37, in eight starts there. The Southeastern Louisiana alum — the Yankees’ No. 7 prospect — was 3-0 in Double-A this season. In Double-A, former Southern Miss standout Walker Powell surrendered three runs (three solo homers) in six innings and got a no-decision in a game Tennessee (Cubs) would win 4-3 in 10 over Birmingham. The 6-foot-8 Powell is 4-4, 4.16, in 14 games for the Smokies. Topping that performance in High-A was Tyler Stuart, another USM product, who allowed two runs over six innings for Brooklyn (New York Mets) in a 4-3 win against Wilmington. Stuart, a 2022 draftee, is 4-0 with a 1.55 in 14 starts for the Cyclones. P.S. Houston’s rookie catcher Yainer Diaz hit two homers on Wednesday. The last two rookie catchers with a multi-homer game for the Astros were former Jackson Generals Mitch Meluskey (2000) and Tony Eusebio (1994). … St. Louis recalled ex-MSU star Dakota Hudson from the minors, but his second MLB appearance this season did not go as well as his first (two runs, two hits, three walks in 2 2/3 early relief). .. Oakland has designated Ole Miss alum Chad Smith for assignment; he had a 6.75 ERA in nine games.

10 Jun

sudden impact

On this date in 2002, Marcus Thames, a New York Yankees rookie, stepped to the plate in Yankee Stadium for his first big league at-bat and, on the first pitch he saw, blasted a home run off Randy Johnson, then pitching for Arizona. It was the first of 115 homers for Thames, a Louisville native and ex-East Central Community College star who had a nice MLB career. It’s a cool memory, for sure, but Thames no doubt has other things on his mind today, namely the five-game win streak by the Los Angeles Angels that has pushed their record to 35-30, within 6.5 games of first place in the American League West. Thames is in his first year as the Angels’ hitting coach, and he has had a positive impact. The Angels’ offense was a mess in 2022, despite the presence of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. They went 73-89 and finished 26th in the majors in on-base percentage, 25th in runs and first (as in worst) in strikeouts. Under Thames’ direction, their OBP (.333) as well as batting average (.256) are up, and they are averaging more runs per game (4.8) and fewer strikeouts (8.7). Thames, widely regarded as a good coach, was the victim of staff purges by the Yankees and Miami the last two years. He quickly found work with Phil Nevin’s Angels and promised an “aggressive in the zone” approach. It appears to be working, much like it did for him on that memorable first AB 21 years ago. … Things are not going so well for Buck Showalter’s New York Mets, who have lost seven in a row and tumbled to 30-34, 9.5 games out in the National League East. They’ve also lost slugger Pete Alonso to the injured list. Showalter, the ex-Mississippi State star in his second season as manager of the Mets, is already rumored to be on the hot seat despite winning manager of the year honors with a playoff team in 2022. He said he remained proud of his current club after they blew late leads and lost three times to the archenemy Atlanta Braves. They then lost to the low-budget Pittsburgh Pirates 14-7 on Friday. (Ke’Bryan Hayes — son of Hattiesburg native Charlie — went 5-for-5 with four RBIs for the Bucs, who are 33-29.) The Mets have the largest payroll in baseball; owner Steve Cohen can’t be happy with what has happened this season.