Former Petal High star Anthony Alford and ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz have found new teams for 2024, Alford signing a minor league contract with Cincinnati and Pomeranz agreeing to a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels, per reports. … Alford, a 29-year-old outfielder, spent the last two seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, batting .288 with 29 homers overall. He hit .209 over scattered parts of six MLB campaigns, including two games with Pittsburgh in 2022. He was a third-round draft pick out of Petal by Toronto in 2013, but his baseball career went on the back burner while he played football at Southern Miss and Ole Miss. Alford did not receive an invitation to the Reds’ big league camp in Arizona, according to redlegnation.com, but surely will get a look there. … Pomeranz, 35, who has been injured much of the last two years, reportedly will get a non-roster invite to the Angels’ Arizona camp. The tall left-hander has appeared in 289 MLB games, posted a 3.91 ERA, won a World Series ring and earned an All-Star game nod. A former fifth overall draftee (2010), he had a 1.75 ERA with San Diego in 2021. His four-year, $34 million contract with the Padres expired after last season.
Drew Pomeranz, the veteran left-hander out of Ole Miss, has been throwing — not pitching — and still plans to rejoin the San Diego Padres this season, according to a recent report in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I’m determined to get back to where I was,” Pomeranz said. Where he was in 2021 was in the Padres’ bullpen as a valued short reliever. He had a 1.75 ERA in 27 games that season before suffering a forearm injury in August that required surgery and kept him out most of 2022. He made five rehab appearances late last year and three more early this season before being shut down in May and having some cleanup surgery. The SEC’s pitcher of the year and the state’s Ferriss Trophy winner in 2010, Pomeranz was the fifth overall pick out of Ole Miss that summer by Cleveland. He has logged 851 1/3 innings in the big leagues, posting a 3.91 ERA, making an All-Star Game and winning a World Series ring. At 34, he is battling to get back, though there is no real urgency in San Diego, where the underachieving Padres appear to be out of playoff contention. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn is slated to make his Los Angeles Dodgers debut tonight against Oakland. He was 6-9 with a 6.47 ERA for the Chicago White Sox before being traded. … Former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff is expected to make his third and final rehab start for Triple-A Nashville tonight and possibly return to Milwaukee’s active roster soon thereafter. He has been out since April. … MSU product Kellum Clark, a 20th-round pick by the New York Mets last month, went 1-for-3 in his pro debut Monday in the Florida Complex League. … Southern Miss alum Justin Storm, a seventh-round pick by Miami, has been assigned to the Marlins’ FCL team but hasn’t pitched yet. … Jacob Gonzalez and Calvin Harris, both drafted out of UM by the White Sox, have been moved up from rookie ball to Low-Class A Kannapolis. … Will Verdung, a 13th-round selection out of Itawamba Community College, is batting .357 (5-for-14) in five games for Atlanta’s FCL team.
There were a couple of rare occurrences in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. Oakland won a game, just its 13th of the season, and Brent Rooker hit a home run, ending his personal 20-game drought. Former Mississippi State star Rooker, one of the hottest players on the planet in April when he blasted nine home runs, has cooled off of late. He has three homers since the calendar flipped to May, and he hit .198 for the month after finishing April with a .353 average for the season. (Note: He was hitting .333 on May 5 when he went on the MLB Central show to talk hitting with Mark DeRosa.) On the positive side, Rooker has hit safely in three of four games this month and is sitting at .261 with 34 RBIs on the year. The awful A’s, now 13-50, hit four homers all told in their 11-2 win at PNC Park. … Across the Keystone State in Philadelphia, the best display of power might have come in a pregame exhibition by a football player. Before the Phillies put up three hits to beat Detroit 1-0 at Citizens Bank Park, Eagles All-Pro receiver A.J. Brown, the ex-Ole Miss football star, took batting practice and impressed onlookers with a smooth, powerful swing. Brown, a two-sport standout at Starkville High, is the rare prep player to participate in both the Under Armour Football and Baseball All-America Games. He was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 19th round out of high school in 2016 and signed a pro contract. He worked out for the Padres in extended spring training several times while at Ole Miss but never actually played a pro game. Currently listed at 6 feet 1, 226 pounds, the 25-year-old Brown has teased the idea recently that he might give baseball another shot.
Tip your cap today to honor the memory of Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, the Leakesville native who made his major league debut on this date in 1952. The left-hander, 21 at the time, pitched eight innings for St. Louis against Cincinnati and took a loss after allowing five hits, six walks and two first-inning runs. Mizell, who died in 1999, would go on to win 90 games in the big leagues (despite missing two full years with military service), make two All-Star Games and win a World Series ring (with Pittsburgh in 1960). In seven different seasons, he won 10 or more games, and he finished his career with a 3.85 ERA. He pitched his last game for the 1962 New York Mets, one of baseball’s worst teams. Mizell served as a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina from 1973-75. His nickname derived from an Alabama community near Leakesville where Mizell played youth baseball; Vinegar Bend has been erroneously listed in some references as Mizell’s birthplace. P.S. Former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, working to get back to active duty with San Diego, threw a second scoreless inning for Low-Class A Lake Elsinore on Friday night. He is rehabbing from 2021 flexor tendon surgery. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson has been out of the Chicago White Sox’s lineup since April 11 with a knee sprain. The team is 2-6 without their All-Star shortstop/leadoff batter. There appears to be no clear timetable for Anderson’s return.
There will be a small crowd of Mississippi-connected pitchers on the proverbial comeback trail when major league spring training camps open next month. MLB veterans Spencer Turnbull, Garrett Crochet and Drew Pomeranz and minor league prospects Ryan Rolison and Colby White missed the entire 2022 season rehabbing from arm injuries that required surgery. Ole Miss product Rolison and Mississippi State alum White appeared to be on the brink of their big league debut last season before injury shut them down. Turnbull, the ex-Madison Central High star, hasn’t pitched in a game since May of 2021. The Detroit right-hander had Tommy John surgery that summer, shortly after throwing a no-hitter on May 18. He was 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA over nine starts in 2021 and is 11-25, 4.25, for his MLB career with the Tigers. He is penciled in as one of their top starters, assuming he regains his 2021 form. Ocean Springs native Crochet, a flame-throwing left-hander with the Chicago White Sox, had Tommy John surgery last spring, a blow to the White Sox’s bullpen. Crochet, 23, exploded on the scene in 2020, shortly after being drafted out of Tennessee. He has a 2.54 ERA over his two MLB campaigns with 73 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. It’ll be interesting to see how his velocity is affected by the injury. Former Ole Miss star Pomeranz, now with San Diego, went down with a flexor tendon injury late in the 2021 season and had surgery that off-season. The big left-hander made some rehab appearances last summer but never made it back to the Padres’ active roster, missing all the drama of their ’22 season. Now 34, the former first-round pick had a 1.75 ERA as a key bullpen piece for the Padres in 2021 and carries a 3.91 career ERA. Rolison, another UM alum and former first-rounder, was derailed by shoulder surgery last year. The 25-year-old lefty, who has slipped on Colorado’s prospect list to No. 22, reached Triple-A in 2021. Over three minor league seasons, he is 12-12, 4.35, in 50 games. He’ll likely debut with the Rockies sometime this season. White, a Hattiesburg native drafted out of MSU in 2019, had Tommy John surgery last April after going to camp with Tampa Bay as a non-roster invitee. He made the 40-man this off-season. In 2021, the right-handed reliever, now 24, rose through four levels of the minors with the Rays. He had a 1.86 ERA at Triple-A Durham and in 58 pro games overall has a 1.76 ERA and 12 saves. His MLB debut may be coming soon. P.S. Here’s a prep player to watch in 2023 and beyond: Samuel Richardson, a junior third baseman at Lewisburg, was recognized by mlb.com as one of the top hitting prospects at last weekend’s DREAM Series in Arizona. Richardson, who played at Senatobia last year, was among the 80 players, predominantly African-American, invited to the annual instructional event held on MLK Day weekend and sponsored by MLB and USA Baseball. … Mel Rojas Jr., who played for the Mississippi Braves in 2016, got the walk-off hit on Wednesday night as Licey won the Dominican Winter League championship. Ex-M-Braves catcher and longtime big leaguer Jesus Sucre also plays for Licey.
Put yet another sticker on Brent Rooker’s suitcase. Pardon the old metaphor, but the former Mississippi State star was claimed off waivers today by Oakland, which is the fourth MLB team he has been a part of since April. Rooker, a power-hitting outfielder, went to spring training with Minnesota, which traded him to San Diego, which traded him to Kansas City, which waived him earlier this week. The 35th overall pick by the Twins in 2017, after winning the SEC Triple Crown and player of the year laurels, Rooker has mashed 102 homers in his minor league career — 28 in Triple-A in 2022 — but batted just .200 with 10 homers in 81 big league games. He went 4-for-25 for the lowly Royals last summer. At present, there may be room in Oakland’s outfield for the 28-year-old Rooker; the A’s are in full rebuild mode after a 102-loss season. And, hey, if he plays well next season, the A’s could always trade him for some younger talent.
Takeaways from Wednesday night’s National League Division Series:
1) Kyle Wright, the former Mississippi Braves right-hander, is pretty good. Yes, Atlanta scored a lot of runs when he pitched this season and racked up 21 wins. But the game against Philadelphia and ace Zack Wheeler was a grinder, and Wright was up to the task, shutting out the red-hot Phillies for six innings, yielding but two hits and a walk. He’s no fluke.
2) Former M-Braves third baseman Austin Riley and shortstop Dansby Swanson deserve recognition among the best defensive players at their positions. Both made highlight reel catches for Atlanta that will be marveled at for weeks (years?) to come, especially if the Braves make another October run.
3) If Josh Hader has indeed recovered his old form, San Diego could be a beast in these playoffs. The former Biloxi Shuckers star, who had some well-chronicled struggles this season, was throwing nasty gas for San Diego, getting the last four outs in the Padres’ 5-3 win over Los Angeles. “He looked like he wanted it when he came in,” Padres catcher Austin Nola told mlb.com. The wiry left-hander wasn’t perfect. Only 16 of Hader’s 25 pitches were strikes, but he cut down the vaunted top of the Dodgers’ lineup in the ninth, allowing only a hit to Freddie Freeman. Traded from Milwaukee to San Diego at the deadline, Hader had a 7.31 ERA in 19 games for the Padres. But over his last seven appearances, he did not allow a run, struck out eight, walked one and registered four saves. Fans of the Shuckers and M-Braves might recall Hader’s 2016 stint in Biloxi, when he posted a 0.95 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 57 innings over 11 starts. He was scary good, and he might be again.
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.
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.
After getting limited at-bats during a month with Kansas City, Brent Rooker was optioned back to Triple-A Omaha on Friday. The Mississippi State product went 4-for-25 with the Royals. Two of those hits came in his KC debut back on Aug. 13. Kansas City traded with San Diego to get Rooker, a 27-year-old outfielder, at the August deadline, and it was assumed he’d get more of an opportunity with the lowly Royals than he did with the Padres (seven at-bats). It didn’t happen. Rooker, the 35th overall pick by Minnesota in 2017 after an All-America career at State, has hit well in the minors but not so much in the big leagues. Including his two seasons with the Twins, he is batting .200 with 10 homers and 86 strikeouts in 81 MLB games. Between Triple-A El Paso and Omaha this year, he has slugged 22 homers and batted .286. He has a .267 career average in the minors with 96 bombs but has struck out in roughly a third of his ABs. Wonder if he’ll get another shot with the Royals? P.S. Former Ole Miss star Nick Fortes went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs to help Miami beat the New York Mets 6-3 on Friday — and to help streaking Atlanta move into first place in the National League East. The Braves blasted four home runs and won 6-4 at Seattle. … Biloxi clinched the season series (see previous post) against the Mississippi Braves with an 8-3 win at MGM Park. The Shuckers are 16-12 vs. their Double-A Southern League rival with two games remaining this weekend.