20 Apr

brewing arm talent

We’ve almost come to expect this kind of thing from Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State star now pitching for Milwaukee. Six innings, one hit, one run and — for the first time in 2021 – a win on his ledger. Woodruff and the Brewers (9-7) beat San Diego and Joe Musgrove 3-1 on Monday night at Petco Park. For Woodruff, it was his first decision in four starts despite posting a 1.96 ERA, among the best in the National League. It was also his 20th career win. After yielding a walk and a hit in a long first inning, Woodruff fairly cruised, finishing with seven strikeouts and three walks. “The credit goes to Woody for saying, ‘That’s it,’ (after the first inning),” manager Craig Counsell said in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story. “He got locked in and just pitched beautifully after that.” That’s what an ace does. Woodruff is among a crowd of pitchers who rose through Milwaukee’s system, including stops at Double-A Biloxi, and are now part of one of the best staffs in MLB. Closer Josh Hader, who got the save Monday, has not allowed an earned run in five appearances and has two saves and two wins. Setup men include Brent Suter, who has a 3.48 ERA and three holds in seven games, and Devin Williams, the 2020 NL rookie of the year. Corbin Burnes (1-1, 0.49), Freddy Peralta (2-0, 2.00) and Adam Houser (1-2, 3.14) – all Shuckers alums — are in the rotation with Woodruff. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, who pitched in relief for San Diego, allowed a run for the first time in six appearances in 2021 when Tyrone Taylor – another ex-Shucker – took him deep. … MSU product Kendall Graveman got five outs in Seattle’s win against the Los Angeles Dodgers and has yet to allow a run in his six games this season.

19 Apr

three stars

When you put the ball in play, something good might happen. Something did for Mitch Moreland and the Oakland A’s on Sunday. The Mississippi State product’s hard-hit liner in the bottom of the ninth got past Detroit’s third baseman and scored the game-winning run, notching the eighth straight win for the A’s, who began the season 1-7. Moreland hasn’t yet found his groove with the A’s, who signed the 12-year veteran as a free agent in the off-season. Used primarily as a DH, he is batting just .206 with five RBIs and has yet to homer or double. But A’s manager Bob Melvin felt confident in sending the left-handed hitter up as a pinch hitter against Tigers lefty Gregory Soto with the game on the line. “It was a little unorthodox with the left-on-left pinch hitter there, but Mitch has been around,” Melvin told mlb.com. “He’s smart in what he’s looking for. He was just trying to shoot it the other way where there were some holes open.” … Nate Lowe, another ex-State standout, got a walk-off hit for Texas in a 1-0, 10-inning win vs. Baltimore. It was the second walk-off RBI of Lowe’s career and gives him 16 RBIs, second in the American League. After a sizzling start, Lowe is hitting just .230 for the Rangers, who acquired him from Tampa Bay in the off-season. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson hit the first pitch of the first game of a twinbill out of Fenway Park, propelling the Chicago White Sox to a 3-2 win over Boston. It was the ninth career leadoff homer for Anderson, who is batting .310.

14 Apr

big league chew

Kendall Graveman, converted last season from starter to reliever, notched his first career save on Tuesday. The Mississippi State product pitched a clean inning in Seattle’s 4-3 win against Baltimore. He has not allowed run in four appearances in 2021. Graveman was sidelined for a time last season after suffering neck spasms caused by a benign tumor. A starter (with 25 career wins) since he arrived in the big leagues in 2014, he was moved to the bullpen when he returned to the team and pitched well in that role. The Mariners re-signed the right-hander in the off-season. … Former State standout Hunter Renfroe smacked his first homer as a member of the Boston Red Sox, a solo shot in the snow at Minnesota on Tuesday. Renfroe is batting .174 in six games for 7-3 Boston. … Anthony Alford needs a hit in a bad way. The ex-Petal High star is 0-for-19 with 15 strikeouts for Pittsburgh. This slump has to be a major concern for the Pirates, who expected Alford to be their regular center fielder. … Ocean Springs’ Garrett Crochet is 0-2 for the Chicago White Sox despite not allowing an earned run in four relief appearances. The hard-throwing left-hander has committed two errors that have led to unearned runs in his losses. … Brandon Woodruff, the MSU alum from Wheeler, has a 2.12 ERA in three starts for Milwaukee but doesn’t have a decision. He checked the Cubs on one run over six innings Tuesday in a game the Brewers lost 3-2. Adding to Woodruff’s frustration: a Ryan Tepera pitch thrown behind him that the big right-hander did not take kindly to. … JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High standout, may have hard time getting back in the regular lineup for Detroit in the wake of the stunning emergence of Akil Baddoo. Jones, the opening day center fielder, is just 3-for-20 in seven games for the 5-6 Tigers; he has made just two starts since April 6. … With Jake Bauers hitting .063 and Yu Chang .235 with zero homers between them, one has to wonder if Cleveland is considering recalling Harrison Central product Bobby Bradley from its alternate camp to play first base. Bradley had a good spring – and he has big-time power.

14 Apr

buckle up

If either Ole Miss or Mississippi State were looking ahead to this weekend’s main event in Starkville, it did not show on Tuesday. The Rebels, behind Cael Baker’s six RBIs, thumped Austin Peay 13-1 and the Bulldogs, blasting five home runs, dismissed Arkansas State 18-10 in midweek “tuneups” before the huge SEC clash set for Dudy Noble Field. Game 1 of the three-game series is Friday at 6 p.m. SEC Network will televise it. Both teams enter with 8-4 league marks, tied for second in the West, and top 10 national rankings. Kids on sandlots across Mississippi dream of playing in such a series. This weekend, some get that chance. On paper, this is the classic great pitching (State) vs. great hitting (UM) matchup. The Bulldogs are second in the SEC in ERA and tops in punchouts; the Rebels lead in runs and are second in batting. But Ole Miss’ pitching staff has its fair share of pro prospects, and State’s lineup has produced eight or more runs in a game 13 times. Chops are being licked on both sides. Anything can happen in this series – and probably will. … All eyes in the Magnolia State will not be trained on Starkville, however. Surging Southern Miss (21-10, 8-3 C-USA) has a four-game set at nationally ranked Louisiana Tech, which took three of four from the Golden Eagles in Hattiesburg last month. Jackson State, led by Chenar Brown (.379, eight homers, 39 RBIs), is an amazing 15-0 in SWAC play and welcomes rival Alcorn State for a three-game set at Braddy Field.

11 Apr

minor matters

Minor league camps are officially open in Florida and Arizona, and when the season finally cranks up in May, there are quite a few Mississippi-connected players who’ll be making delayed pro debuts, none more anticipated than right-hander J.T. Ginn’s. Ginn, the Mississippi State product from Brandon, is rated the No. 6 prospect in the New York Mets’ system though he has pitched in only one actual game since 2019. At State that year, the former two-way prep star posted a 3.13 ERA with 105 strikeouts and 19 walks in 86 1/3 innings and earned SEC freshman of the year honors. He made just one appearance for the Bulldogs in 2020 before sustaining an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery. Nevertheless, the Mets, impressed with Ginn’s three-pitch repertoire, took him in the second round as a draft-eligible sophomore and signed him for $2.9 million. He was invited to big league camp this spring (and worked out with Noah Syndergaard) but did not appear in any Grapefruit League games. Reports indicate it could be midsummer before Ginn officially debuts. … Other highly rated 2020 draftees who didn’t play last season (because there was no minor league ball) include State alum Justin Foscue (Texas’ No. 7 prospect), State product Jordan Westburg (Baltimore’s No. 7), ex-Ole Miss star Anthony Servideo (Orioles’ No. 27), former DeSoto Central standout Blaze Jordan (Boston’s No. 11), Biloxi High alum Colt Keith (Detroit’s No. 20) and UM product Tyler Keenan (Seattle’s fourth-round pick). Foscue and Westburg were in big league camp this spring and played in some exhibition games. P.S. Wyatt Toregas has been announced as the eighth manager of the Mississippi Braves. Toregas, who had a brief major league career as a catcher, had managed in Pittsburgh’s system for five years. He follows Chris Maloney, the Jackson native and ex-State standout who managed the M-Braves in 2018-19. The other skippers: Brian Snitker, Jeff Blauser, Phillip Wellman, Rocket Wheeler, Aaron Holbert and Luis Salazar. … Wellman will manage again in San Antonio, San Diego’s affiliate in the Double-A Central South Division. Former Jackson Mets star Al Pedrique will run the Jacksonville club, Miami’s affiliate in the Triple-A East Southeast Division.

08 Apr

now that’s prophetic

The San Francisco Giants made Will Clark the second overall pick in the 1985 June amateur draft. It didn’t take long for them to get the feeling they had chosen wisely. On April 8, 1986, former Mississippi State All-American Clark homered in his first major league at-bat, going yard against future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in the first inning at Houston’s Astrodome. Clark, 22 at the time, hit .287 with 11 homers as a rookie and .303 with 284 bombs over his decorated 15-year career. He hit .333 with five homers in the postseason. Clark was a five-time All-Star and finished in the top five in MVP voting four times during his eight years with the Giants, including the 1989 World Series club. MLB Pipeline recently rated Clark the Giants’ best-ever draft pick. Hard to disagree. P.S. Big league bits: MSU product Mitch Moreland’s sixth career walk-off hit on Wednesday delivered Oakland its first win of the season, 4-3 over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 10 innings. … Brandon Woodruff, another Bulldogs alum, threw six no-hit innings, gave up a single in the seventh (his final inning) but got a no-decision in Milwaukee’s 4-2, 10-inning win vs. the Chicago Cubs. … Ex-State star Brent Rooker (neck) of Minnesota and East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson (hamstring) of the Chicago White Sox have landed on the injured list.

07 Apr

have a day

Mississippi State product Nate Lowe hit two home runs and picked up four RBIs as Texas whipped Toronto 7-4 Tuesday night in the big leagues. Lowe is hitting .381 with three homers and 14 RBIs for his new club.
Itawamba Community College’s Lane Domino banged out seven hits, including three homers, to pace the 11th-ranked Indians’ sweep of a doubleheader against Coahoma in Fulton.
Northwest Rankin High’s Ryan Herbison hit two homers, including a grand slam, as the Cougars beat region rival Brandon 16-10 in Class 6A.
William Carey University’s Sloan Dieter homered, drove in six runs and scored four to spark the Crusaders to a twinbill sweep of Southeastern Baptist in Hattiesburg.
Pearl River CC’s Landon Gartman threw a seven-inning complete game, allowing three hits, no walks and fanning 12, to help the No. 2 Wildcats beat No. 7 Meridian 4-1 and earn a split of their MACCC doubleheader in Poplarville.
Nine MSU pitchers threw one inning each and struck out a combined 17 batters as the Bulldogs beat Southern University 15-1 in Starkville. Mikey Tepper and Eric Cerantola each K’d the side.

05 Apr

patience, patience

Spring training numbers often are misleading. Nate Lowe’s Cactus League stats were nothing to get excited about: .205, one home run, 15 strikeouts and eight walks in 44 at-bats for Texas. Was the Mississippi State product out of sync? Well, three games into the real season, Lowe is batting .357 with a homer and nine RBIs — most in the American League and a franchise record for the first three games of a season. Lowe’s 465-foot, three-run blast on Sunday propelled the Rangers’ to their first win of 2021, 7-3 at Kansas City. There were reports in the spring that Lowe was taking too many good pitches. As it turned out, that was part of a plan to work on strike zone discipline. “We have to consistently stay in the strike zone,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said in an mlb.com story. “Nate Lowe does as good a job of that as anybody.” Acquired from Tampa Bay in an off-season trade, the lefty slugger hit .251 with 11 homers in 71 games for the Rays in 2019-20. He batted .348 with five homers and 49 RBIs in his one season (2016) in Starkville. P.S. Ex-State star Brent Rooker, recalled from Minnesota’s alternate camp when Josh Donaldson went on the injured list, went 0-for-2 in his 2021 debut on Sunday. … Ex-East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson is considered day-to-day for the Chicago White Sox with a hamstring strain suffered Sunday. … Ocean Springs High product Garrett Crochet made his ’21 debut Saturday for the ChiSox and retired all seven batters he faced, touching 99 mph and fanning three. … Former State star Hunter Renfroe is 0-for-7 in his first two games for Boston, which is 0-3. Former Bulldogs standout Mitch Moreland is 1-for-9 for Oakland, which is 0-4.

02 Apr

arlington legacy

Nate Lowe became, on Thursday, the latest in a long line of former Mississippi State sluggers to suit up for the Texas Rangers. Acquired in an off-season trade with Tampa Bay, the lefty-hitting first baseman/DH went 2-for-6 and drove in four runs in his Texas debut. Ex-Bulldogs Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark, Jon Shave and Mitch Moreland also played in Texas. The Rangers-Mississippi connection goes way back — to the club’s second year in the Lone Star State. Donny Castle was the eighth overall pick in the 1968 MLB draft, taken out of Coldwater High by the Washington Senators, who moved to Arlington, Texas, in 1972. Castle, perhaps best known from his time as the coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College, was a Kokomo, Ind., native who grew up in Coldwater. He played pro ball for 11 years, getting a cup of coffee (four games) with the Rangers in 1973. A lefty-hitting first baseman/DH, Castle hit .268 with 115 homers in the minors. He coached at NWCC from 1998-2005, winning 271 games and a state title. P.S. The first hit by a Mississippian in 2021 was delivered by JaCoby Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High who stroked an RBI double in his first at-bat for Detroit. The first win by a Mississippian went to Ole Miss alumnus Mike Mayers, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Los Angeles Angels, who beat the Chicago White Sox. … A couple of former Mississippi State stars are closing in on significant milestones in their MLB careers. Hunter Renfroe, whose Boston debut was delayed by rain, needs three homers to reach 100. Moreland, who went 0-for-2 in his Oakland debut, needs 32 hits to reach 1,000.

01 Apr

no place like home

Brandon Woodruff gets the start today in Milwaukee’s home stadium, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its grand opening this month. Former Mississippi State star Woodruff delivered one of the greatest moments in the ballpark’s history three years ago, one Mississippi baseball aficionados surely remember. Miller Park, which opened on April 6, 2001, has a new name this season: American Family Field. (Ugh.) A writer for mlb.com recently ranked the top five games in Miller Park history, and coming in at No. 4 was Oct. 12, 2018, Game 1 of the NLCS, a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Woodruff, in his first MLB postseason, took a star turn that night, pitching two perfect innings in relief and hitting a 407-foot home run off Clayton Kershaw in the third inning. P.S. More stadium stuff: PNC Park in Pittsburgh also opened 20 years ago with three Mississippians in the starting lineups for Cincinnati and the host Pirates in Game 1 on April 9, 2001. Vicksburg native Dmitri Young, Cincy’s left fielder, scored the first run at the new yard. In the first inning, he was hit by a pitch and came around on Sean Casey’s homer. The Pirates’ leadoff batter was McComb’s Adrian Brown, the center fielder, who struck out to start a 1-for-4 day. Also in the Pittsburgh lineup was ex-Southern Miss star Kevin Young, who played first base and went 1-for-3. The Reds won the game 8-2. … Los Angeles Dodgers fans will finally get to experience the renovated Dodger Stadium this month. The team will be allowed to host fans at 20 percent capacity – about 11,000 people — at the onset of the regular season. The World Series champs’ home opener is April 9. Under the direction of Jackson native Janet Marie Smith (see previous post), the Dodgers spent $100 million renovating the stadium ahead of the 2020 season, which was delayed to July and played without fans because of the pandemic. Smith, a Mississippi State grad, previously oversaw stadium projects at Camden Yards, Fenway Park and Turner Field and has consulted on many others.