01 Aug

smooth sailing

The San Diego Padres gave free agent Drew Pomeranz a nice chunk of change — $34 million over four years – to bolster their bullpen. They have to be pleased with the investment. The 6-foot-6 lefty out of Ole Miss is almost perfect in five appearances for a team that has won six of its first eight games. Pomeranz, nicknamed “Big Smooth,” has allowed one hit, one walk and no runs in 4 1/3 innings, notching two holds and two saves. He got the final out Friday night in a crazy 8-7 win at Colorado. After struggling as a starter in San Francisco early in 2019, Pomeranz moved to the pen and then to Milwaukee in a trade and was outstanding as a reliever for the Brewers. He had a 2.39 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings for the playoff-pound club, parlaying that success into a nice contract with the Padres. This is his second stint in San Diego, one of the six MLB teams the former first-round pick has pitched for since making the majors in 2011. He was an All-Star as a starter with the Padres in 2016 and won a ring with Boston in 2018, though he had a rough time that year. It’ll be interesting to watch how the Padres deploy the 31-year-old Pomeranz, who has a 4.02 career ERA as he has bounced between starter and reliever. He’s never been a closer, per se. P.S. Kudos to Madison Central High product Spencer Turnbull, who notched his first victory since May 31, 2019, going six innings (3 hits, 2 runs, 6 K’s) for Detroit to beat Cincinnati 7-2. Turnbull, now 1-0 in two starts, went 3-17 in 2019 and lost his last 13 decisions.

30 Jul

numbers game

Fast starts have been deemed vital in this truncated, long-delayed MLB season. A check of the stat sheets reveals a handful of Mississippi-connected players who have come out with their engine running hot. To wit: JaCoby Jones, the ex-Richton High standout, is hitting .421 after a 3-for-3 performance for Detroit on Wednesday and is tied for the big league lead with three home runs, two of which have been game-winners. … Mitch Moreland, the Mississippi State product from Amory, is batting .357 after a 2-for-4, two-RBI effort for Boston on Wednesday that included his 200th career double. … Brandon Woodruff, the MSU alum from Wheeler, allowed two baserunners and punched out 10 batters in 6 1/3 innings for Milwaukee on Wednesday, retiring 17 straight at one point. … And Lance Lynn, the ex-Ole Miss star, yielded one hit and two walks with eight K’s in six innings for Texas on Wednesday and remains unscored upon in 2020. Details, details: Jones was starting to put things together last summer when he was hit by a pitch and suffered a broken wrist, ending his year. He was hit in the faceguard of his helmet by a Kansas City pitcher on Tuesday night, a scene scarily reminiscent of April 2017, when he was hit in the face by a pitch and went on the injured list for a long spell. He bounced back with a vengeance on Wednesday with a homer and two doubles. “I’m just trying to be smooth, nice and easy, just letting my hands work. It’s paid off,” Jones told mlb.com. He’s also made some big plays in center field. … The veteran Moreland, 34, who also missed a chunk of the 2019 season with injuries, has two home runs and five RBIs for a scuffling Red Sox team that was 1-4 entering Wednesday’s game against Jacob deGrom and the New York Mets at CitiField. Moreland’s fourth-inning double ended deGrom’s 31-inning scoreless streak. Moreland picked up another RBI in the eighth on an infield hit, helping Boston rally to a 6-5 win. … Woodruff, mixing a fastball that hit 99 mph and a devastating changeup against Pittsburgh, got 20 swings-and-misses. The one hit he yielded was an infield dribbler. Said Brewers manager Craig Counsell in an mlb.com piece: “Overpowering, I think, is probably the word that best describes it.” Woodruff is 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA, 15 K’s (tied for fourth-most in MLB) and two walks in 11 1/3 innings on the season. … Lynn actually has been more dominant than Woodruff. His 0.00 ERA is tied for the majors lead, and he’s the only pitcher with two starts at that number. His 17 strikeouts rank third in MLB, and he has allowed just three hits in 12 innings of work. Lynn (1-0) is stuck on 99 career wins after taking a no-decision on Wednesday against Arizona, though the Rangers won the game late. “(I)f you give your team a chance to win every day, that’s what I’m about. So far I’ve done that,” Lynn told the Dallas Morning News. P.S. Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier, making his New York Mets debut tonight, has now been with five MLB teams in three years: Minnesota, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington, San Diego and now the Mets. The 33-year-old second baseman has been an All-Star, won a Gold Glove and earned a World Series ring. … USM product Cody Carroll and UM alum Bobby Wahl have been sent to the alternate camp by Baltimore and Milwaukee, respectively.

29 Jul

something familiar

There was a case of Bulldog on Rebel crime on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier belted a go-ahead, two-run home run off Ole Miss product Bobby Wahl in the eighth inning at PNC Park, lifting Pittsburgh to an 8-6 win against Milwaukee. It was the first homer – and just the third hit – of the season for Frazier, the Pirates’ leadoff batter. “First ball I’ve driven all year, so I kind of forgot what it felt like,” Frazier said in an mlb.com story. “It felt pretty good.” It was the second homer allowed in 2 1/3 innings this season by Wahl, who missed the 2019 season because of a torn ACL. For Frazier and Wahl, there may have been something familiar about their encounter. The two had never faced each other in an MLB game before, but they did cross paths during their college careers. Wahl left the field disappointed each time then, too. In 2011, when both were freshmen, Wahl took the loss in relief in a game won by the Bulldogs 7-6. Frazier struck out in his one appearance vs. Wahl. In 2012, State – and Chris Stratton, who pitched in relief for the Pirates on Tuesday – beat UM and Wahl 4-0. Frazier went 1-for-3 with a run against Wahl. And on May 12, 2013, in Oxford, Frazier and the Bulldogs rallied from an early six-run deficit to beat the Rebels 7-6. Frazier had a single and a walk against Wahl, who started but wasn’t in the game in the seventh when Frazier delivered a two-run single that put State ahead. Both were drafted that June, Wahl by Oakland in the fifth round, Frazier by the Pirates in the sixth. Both were in the New York-Penn League that summer as they began their climb to the majors, Frazier arriving in 2016, Wahl the next year. On Tuesday, they met up again, much to Wahl’s chagrin. P.S. Frazier will face a former State teammate tonight when Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff gets the start in Game 3 of the series between the National League Central rivals. Frazier is 4-for-10 career vs. Woodruff.

28 Jul

one step forward

The pitching line from Monday’s game wasn’t pretty for Kendall Graveman: 4-plus innings, 6 hits, 3 walks, 7 runs (6 earned), 7 strikeouts. But, as Seattle manager Scott Servais told The Seattle Times, “I thought he threw the ball a lot better than what his line will look like. It was his first time out in 800 some days.” Indeed, just being healthy and back on a big league mound for the first time since May 2018 was a measure of success for Graveman, the Mississippi State alum who made his Mariners debut in an 8-5 loss at Houston. Graveman, 29 and entering his sixth MLB season, had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and made only a couple of minor league appearances in the Chicago Cubs’ system last summer. He signed with Seattle as a free agent in the off-season and reportedly had been sharp both in spring training and summer camp. After posting two scoreless innings Monday, he ran into trouble in a four-run third, giving up a three-run homer to Alex Bregman. Graveman was lifted after a fifth-inning homer by Jose Altuve, disappointed but not discouraged. “It was a blessing and a privilege to be back out there, but, man, I wanted the outcome to be better as I’m sure many people did,” he told The Seattle Times. Drafted out of MSU by Toronto in 2013, Graveman spent four years (2015-18) with Oakland, going 23-29 with a 4.38 ERA. Houston, defending American League champion, might not be the team you’d want to make your comeback against, but it won’t get any easier for Graveman. His next start will come next weekend against the A’s, another AL West power. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl, who also last pitched in the majors in 2018, has made two appearances for Milwaukee to date. He got a one-pitch out vs. the Cubs last Friday, then yielded a homer in his one inning of work on Sunday.

16 Jul

milestone watch

Mitch Moreland earned the nickname “2-Bags” a couple of years ago during a stretch when he was banging out doubles at a high rate for the Boston Red Sox. As he enters his 11th major league season, Amory native Moreland is on the brink of a career doubles milestone. The Mississippi State alum has 199 2-baggers. Two hundred doubles is not an astounding total by MLB standards, but it is a milestone just the same. And tracking milestones is what baseball aficionados do. So, watch for Moreland’s 200th double this season; don’t be surprised if it comes in the Red Sox’s opener vs. Baltimore at Fenway Park on July 24. Other Mississippi-connected players in the majors have notable (if modest) milestones in their sights in this 60-game season, including:
600 hits – Jarrod Dyson, the former McComb High and Southwest Mississippi Community College standout, has 573.
400 hits – Adam Frazier, the Mississippi State alum, has 398.
400 RBIs – Corey Dickerson, the Meridian CC alum from McComb, enters 2020 with 370.
300 runs – Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central CC star, has scored 287.
300 steals – Billy Hamilton, the Taylorsville High product, is sitting on 299, already the most ever by a Mississippi native.
100 home runs – Hunter Renfroe, the former MSU star from Crystal Springs, has 89.
100 wins – Lance Lynn, the Ole Miss product, has piled up 98 over eight seasons.
20 wins – Both Brandon Woodruff, an MSU product from Wheeler, and Chris Stratton, a State alum from Tupelo, have 16 career W’s.
200 strikeouts – Spencer Turnbull, the ex-Madison Central High standout, has fanned 161 in 34 career outings.
500 innings – Kendall Graveman, former MSU star, sits at 446 as he tries to bounce back from arm surgery.

15 Jul

call to arms

Three Mississippians, all left-handed pitchers, were added to MLB 60-man rosters on Tuesday. The Chicago White Sox invited 2020 first-round draftee Garrett Crochet of Ocean Springs and onetime big leaguer Jacob Lindgren of Biloxi to their satellite camp in Schaumberg, Ill. Justin Steele, a former George County High star from Lucedale, was added to the Chicago Cubs’ pool of 2020 eligible players and will report to their secondary camp in South Bend, Ind. Crochet, who signed for $4.5 million as the 11th overall pick out of Tennessee, isn’t likely to make his big league debut this summer, but nothing is out of the question in this most unusual season. “Garrett is a talented player, but the focus is truly just to get his foot in the door here and get around our guys, and we’ll go from there,” White Sox farm director Chris Getz told reporters. “With talented players like himself, I hate to rule anything out.” Lindgren, a former Mississippi State star, was a second-round pick in 2014 by the New York Yankees and reached the majors in 2015. He has battled arm injuries ever since, though he put up a 1.53 ERA in 12 games in high-A ball last season. Steele, a fifth-round pick by the Cubs in 2014 and a member of their 40-man roster, also has had arm troubles. He has a 3.62 career ERA but posted a 5.59 in 11 starts at Double-A in 2019. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison, a 2018 first-rounder who is on Colorado’s 60-man list, drew praise from Rockies manager Bud Black after an outing in the main summer camp last weekend. “This guy knows how to pitch; he can change speeds,” Black told mlb.com. “He’s got two secondary pitches that I think will play in the big leagues, (and) he’s got enough fastball.” Rolison, a lefty, pitched in high-A last season.

10 Jul

there and here

San Francisco has placed Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High star, on the injured list for what was described only as “medical purposes.” Hamilton is in the Giants’ camp on a minor league deal but was expected to make the active roster before the season begins. Reports were unclear on when he might be able to come off the IL. The 29-year-old outfielder is a .242 career hitter with 299 steals over seven big league seasons. … Milwaukee has added former Mississippi State star Ethan Small and Ole Miss alum Thomas Dillard, both 2019 draft picks, to its 60-man pool of eligible players for summer camp. Small, a left-hander picked in the first round, is the Brewers’ No. 2 prospect; he made seven appearances in the low minors last summer. Dillard, a catcher and a fifth-rounder, batted .249 with seven homers in his first pro season. … Adam Moncure is among the hottest hitters in the Cotton States League, batting .400 (.581 on-base) with two homers and a league-best 12 RBIs in nine games for the Black Prairie Mudcats. Moncure, from Clinton, hit .341 as a freshman at Meridian Community College in 2020. Blue Mountain native Sam McMillin, a left-hander at Union University, is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 19 innings for the CSL’s DeSoto Xplorers. … Luther Woullard, a former Jones (Junior) College star from d’Iberville, is playing for the Macon Bacon of the Coastal Plain League, a high-level college summer circuit. As a senior at New Orleans in 2020, Woullard batted .381 with 14 RBIs before the season was halted. He’ll have a year of eligibility left at UNO. Woullard was an All-MACJC outfielder who put up big numbers on some outstanding Jones teams in 2017-18. … Aiden Moffett of Taylorsville High has committed to LSU, per the Laurel Leader-Call. Though he was not highly recruited during his abbreviated sophomore year, Moffett has turned heads with his summer team. Playing for the Louisiana Knights, a travel team based in Mandeville, right-hander Moffett reportedly received offers from Southern Miss, Texas A&M and LSU over the course of just one weekend. … Former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker, who’ll be deploying a DH in every game as Atlanta’s skipper this season, told espn.com that he once asked Bobby Cox about managing with the DH. “Get a bag of balls and sit on it, watch the game,” Cox told him.

08 Jul

a certain symmetry

In the Texas Rangers’ final game at their former stadium, Globe Life Park, Lance Lynn beat the New York Yankees with a fairly dominating performance. It seems appropriate that the former Ole Miss standout would be picked for the first start at the Rangers’ new stadium, Globe Life Field, when their 2020 season begins on July 24. In a rehearsal for that plum assignment on Tuesday, Lynn worked six shutout innings in an intrasquad game, recording eight strikeouts and no walks while yielding just two hits. “It gets me ready for what I want to do to be ready for Opening Day and be full-go with no restrictions,” he said in an mlb.com piece. “I am right where I want to be.” In his first year with Texas in 2019, the right-hander went 16-11 with a 3.67 ERA and finished fifth in the American League Cy Young voting. At 6 feet 5, 250 pounds, he is a hard-throwing horse. He worked over 200 innings for the Rangers last year and finished fourth in the AL with 246 punchouts. A first-round supplemental draft pick by St. Louis in 2008, he left Ole Miss as the school’s all-time strikeout leader. In an eight-season MLB career – during which he has won a World Series ring and made an All-Star Game – the 33-year-old Lynn is 98-68 with a 3.59 ERA. Lynn is expected to get a couple more intrasquad starts before the July 24 main event against Colorado. “He’s in a great spot to let him hit the ground running and let him go,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward told the Dallas Morning News.

08 Jul

whatever happened to …

T.J. House, the former Picayune High star and MLB veteran, is pitching for the Eastern Reyes del Tigre, one of the four clubs in the newly formed Constellation Energy League in Texas. The league was created by the Sugar Land Skeeters, a member of the independent Atlantic League, which is shut down for 2020. House, 30, pitched in 29 big league games from 2014-17. The left-hander held a spot in Cleveland’s rotation for part of 2014, going 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA. He spent last season in the independent American Association. The Constellation Energy League will be based at Sugar Land’s Constellation Energy Field and starts its 28-game season on Friday. … There are several former big leaguers on the CEL rosters, including Cameron Rupp, David Huff, Tommy Joseph and former Mississippi Braves star Dustin Peterson. P.S. With Baltimore having agreed to a $950,000 signing bonus for third-round draft selection Anthony Servideo of Ole Miss, all seven players picked from in-state schools in last month’s draft have now signed or agreed to terms. (Former DeSoto Central star Blaze Jordan’s reported deal with Boston has not yet been made official.) … Henri Lartigue, an Ole Miss product from Southaven, was added to Philadelphia’s 60-man roster at catcher over the July 4 weekend. That makes seven non 40-man roster members with Mississippi ties in MLB summer camps, the others being Billy Hamilton, Tyler Keenan, Jack Kruger, Brent Rooker, Nick Sandlin and Ryan Rolison. Hamilton, the only one of this group with big league time, is expected to be added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster before the season begins. … Tanner Propst, an MRA alum who pitched at Delta State in 2020, signed as a non-drafted free agent with Colorado.

02 Jul

eye on …

Cody Carroll might prove to be a key figure in Baltimore’s bullpen, which was generally awful in 2019. The ex-Southern Miss star, now 27, missed most of last season with a back injury but was impressive in spring training before the lockdown. As mlb.com reports, “The O’s think the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Carroll has back-end stuff, pointing to his high-90s fastball and strong slider.” With a 60-game season, bullpens may play an even larger role than in normal years. (That might also be good news for other Mississippi college products such as Jonathan Holder, Mike Mayers, Cody Reed and Bobby Wahl.) Tennessee native Carroll was drafted out of USM by the New York Yankees in 2015 and traded to Baltimore in July 2018; he made his big league debut shortly thereafter, posting a 9.00 ERA in 15 appearances. He was hurt by walks and home runs. In six 2020 spring innings, he yielded no walks or homers and fanned eight. Carroll has a 2.71 career minor league ERA and made All-Star Games at three levels on the way up. P.S. The Orioles have signed or agreed to terms with each of their six 2020 draftees except for third-rounder Anthony Servideo, the shortstop out of Ole Miss. Former Mississippi State shortstop Jordan Westburg, a competitive balance pick after Round 1, signed last week. The MLB slot value for Servideo’s draft position (74th) is $844,200. The Orioles reportedly have more than that remaining in their allotted pool.