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.

13 Apr

worth the wait

Seven years ago, the Chicago Cubs selected Justin Steele in the fifth round of the amateur draft out of George County High. On Monday, the left-hander from Lucedale made his big league debut, completing a long journey full of ups and downs. Steele, 25, came on in relief at Milwaukee and struck out the first batter he faced to end an inning. He then battled through the next frame, escaping a base-loaded jam without yielding a run. Steele was twice an organization All-Star in the Cubs’ system and has a career ERA of 3.62 in the minors. He also made a lot of trips to the injured list, which limited him to 80 appearances from 2014-19. He spent last season at the Cubs’ alternate site. Steele was recalled from that camp on Monday when the Cubs placed three pitchers on the COVID-19 list. How long he’ll remain on the active roster isn’t certain, but after seven years, he is officially in the MLB books. That in itself is quite an achievement.

09 Apr

according to plan

Lance Lynn and the Chicago White Sox could not have scripted it any better. In the team’s home opener, in the former Ole Miss star’s first start at Guaranteed Rate Field with his new club, Lynn threw a five-hit shutout, striking out 11 in a 6-0 win Thursday against Kansas City. He capped the performance with a punchout. “He was just nails,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said in an mlb.com story. It was the second career shutout and fourth complete game for the veteran right-hander, acquired by the White Sox from Texas in an off-season trade. The White Sox surely are thrilled with what they’ve seen from their No. 3 starter, who slots in behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. Lynn, now 105-71 in his career, has not allowed a run in 13 2/3 innings this season. P.S. The White Sox placed ex-Taylorsville High standout Billy Hamilton on the injured list with a hamstring injury. He joins East Central Community College product Tim Anderson (hammy) on the 10-day IL.

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.

31 Mar

still in the game

Longtime Jackson-area fans looking for a nostalgia fix should peruse the lists of MLB coaches. Dave Magadan, the skinny hitting machine who passed through Smith-Wills Stadium with the Jackson Mets back in 1985, is the hitting coach for the Colorado Rockies. Ron Gideon, another former JaxMets star, is the Rockies’ first-base coach. Alan Zinter, who played on the last JaxMets team in 1990, is Cincinnati’s hitting coach. Washington’s staff includes bench coach Tim Bogar, a shortstop at Smith-Wills, and pitching coach Jim Hickey, who served in that role for the Jackson Generals way back when. Bobby Magallanes, who played for the Generals, is an assistant hitting coach for Atlanta, where former Mississippi Braves skipper Brian Snitker is the manager. Chris Holt, a former Gens pitcher, is Baltimore’s pitching coach, and onetime Generals hitting coach Dave Hudgens fills that role for Toronto. Eric Duncan, who played for the M-Braves in 2010, is Miami’s hitting coach, and M-Braves alum Antoan Richardson coaches first base for San Francisco. Other Mississippi connections on big league staffs: Louisville native and former East Central Community College star Marcus Thames (New York Yankees hitting coach); Laurel native Bobby Dickerson (San Diego third base coach); Biloxi native and Mississippi State alum Chris Young (Chicago Cubs bullpen coach); former Biloxi Shuckers pitching coach Chris Hook (Milwaukee pitching coach); and Jackson native Donnie Veal (Chicago White Sox rehab pitching coach). P.S. The Los Angeles Angels still list Ole Miss product Mickey Callaway as their pitching coach, but he is currently suspended and under investigation for inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment. It’s highly unlikely he’ll return to that job. … Former Southern Miss standout Kevin Young has joined the Pittsburgh Pirates’ broadcast team. He spent 11 of his 12 MLB seasons with the Bucs.

31 Mar

connect four

Excluding all the former Mississippi Braves in Atlanta, the most Mississippi-flavored team in the big leagues is the Chicago White Sox, a loaded club that will start the season with four familiar names on its roster. East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson is the blossoming star at shortstop, former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn is in the starting rotation, ex-Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet is in the bullpen and former Taylorsville High standout Billy Hamilton has made the team as a reserve outfielder. Hamilton, now with his eighth club, is one of the fastest players in the game and factors in as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. Anderson, who won a batting title in 2019, is entrenched as the leadoff batter and unofficial team spokesman. Lynn, 33 and entering his 10th MLB campaign, was added in an off-season trade and brings a 3.57 career ERA and bulldog mentality. And then there’s Crochet, the 6-foot-6 left-hander who debuted last September just weeks after being drafted (11th overall out of Tennessee) and absolutely lit it up. He allowed three hits, one walk, no runs and fanned eight in six innings of work. Of his 85 pitches, 45 were 100 mph or faster. In nine frames this spring, he allowed two earned runs on six hits and four walks while striking out eight. Crochet’s velocity has been down a little this spring, but he says that’s of no real concern. “Everybody wants to see 100,” he told mlb.com last week. “I want to see 100, too, but my arm is feeling good. I’m competing out there as best as I can. Everything is feeling in sync. All my pitches are starting to get better every time I go out there.” Keep an eye on the ChiSox. P.S. In a bit of a surprise move, Minnesota assigned Mississippi State product Brent Rooker to its alternate site. The rookie outfielder had played well in camp, but the Twins have opted to go with 29-year-old journeyman Kyle Garlick on the 26-man roster. … Spencer Turnbull, the ex-Madison Central standout, will start the season on Detroit’s injured list. The right-hander is in COVID-19 protocol and has yet to be cleared to return. He reportedly is doing fine and eager to get back with the club, though it may be mid-April before that happens. … Other notable 40-man roster members currently on the IL: Jonathan Holder (Cubs), Bobby Wahl (Milwaukee), Dakota Hudson (St. Louis, out for the year) and Demarcus Evans (Texas).