10 Jun

that’s the ticket

Typically, there is an adjustment period for a minor league player as he moves up the ladder. Former South Panola High standout Emaarion Boyd might be starting to figure out the High-Class A level in the Philadelphia system. The 20-year-old center fielder went 3-for-6 on Sunday for Jersey Shore, his second three-hit game in his last three. He filled up the box score in the BlueClaws’ 18-5 win against Greensboro with a homer (his first), a double, two runs, four RBIs and a stolen base (his 12th). At the Low-Class A level in 2023, Boyd hit .262 with a .366 on-base percentage and swiped 56 bases. The going has been tougher this season. Boyd is batting just .214 with a .314 OBP in 42 games. But he has hit at a .292 clip in June, and Sunday’s performance arguably was his best of the season. His home run — his second in three pro seasons — was a first-inning grand slam off former Ole Miss star Derek Diamond, a Pittsburgh prospect. The 6-foot, 177-pound Boyd was an 11th-round pick out of South Panola — the football power — in 2022 and received a nice signing bonus. Rated a 70 (on the 20-80 scale) for his speed tool, Boyd is the No. 16 prospect in the Phillies’ system, per MLB Pipeline. He can be a weapon — a la Billy Hamilton — as both a base-stealer and fly-catching center fielder. P.S. Interesting that Tim Anderson, the East Central Community College alum, was placed on the bereavement list by Miami prior to its three-game home series with Cleveland. Anderson and the Guardians’ Jose Ramirez engaged in a much-publicized scrap last summer, and both were suspended. Anderson, batting a miserable .188 with zero homers, six RBIs and three stolen bases, missed the entire series, won 2-1 by the Guardians. … Though he didn’t play for Detroit on Sunday, ex-Biloxi High star Colt Keith apparently dodged major injury to his knee in a collision with Akil Badoo on Saturday. Rookie second baseman Keith is batting .214 with seven errors.

02 Jun

connect four (plus one)

Spencer Turnbull had been a little erratic since moving to the Philadelphia bullpen in early May, but he was a smooth operator on Saturday in a clutch relief situation. The big right-hander out of Madison Central High threw three hitless innings for the mighty Phillies in a 6-1 win over St. Louis, notching his first win since April 19, when he was in the rotation. After starter Ranger Suarez departed Saturday’s game (line drive off his pitching hand in the second inning), the Phillies turned the game over to the bullpen. Turnbull worked innings 4-6. His ERA was 1.67 in his six starts to begin the season. He moved to the pen to accommodate the return of Taijuan Walker, and his ERA was 7.00 over his first six relief appearances, a new role for the six-year veteran. Saturday’s effort was nearly perfect. “Turnbull really picked us up tonight,” manager Rob Thomson told mlb.com. “If he does have to make Ranger’s (next) start, I am comfortable with him at 80 pitches, five (innings) — something like that.” … Three other Mississippi high school products pitched in MLB games on Saturday: George County alum Justin Steele, in his sixth start since coming off the injured list, wasn’t sharp on a rainy day in Chicago. He yielded seven hits and four walks in five innings against Cincinnati, but four of the five runs he was charged with were unearned. The Cubs rallied late to win 7-5. Steele, a 2023 All-Star, remains winless with a 4.10 ERA. … Ocean Springs product Garrett Crochet turned in another sizzling effort for the White Sox: one run over six innings with eight strikeouts. But the lowly ChiSox blew a lead and lost to Milwaukee 4-3. Crochet, in his first season as a starter, is 5-5 with a 3.49 for a 15-44 team. … Former Tupelo High star Chris Stratton threw a scoreless inning for Kansas City in a 7-3 loss to San Diego. Stratton has a 5.76 ERA, two wins, three saves and three holds in 23 relief appearances for the Royals. P.S. In the NCAA Tournament, a fifth state prep product, Niko Mazza out of MRA, delivered one of the best pitching performances of the postseason: a two-hit shutout in a 6-0 elimination game win for Southern Miss against Northern Kentucky in the Knoxville Regional. Mazza registered his ninth win of the year.

07 May

what a relief

Emmanuel Clase is the headliner in the vaunted Cleveland Guardians bullpen. Nick Sandlin plays an “Also Starring” role — and plays it very well. The former Southern Miss standout got four outs in the sixth and seventh innings on Monday and picked up the win in a 2-1 victory against Detroit. Sandlin is 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA and a save in 19 appearances for the Guardians, who lead the American League Central with a 23-12 record. Clase (0.49 ERA) pitched the ninth for his 11th save. The side-arming Sandlin stranded a runner in the sixth inning on Monday and has allowed just two of 14 inherited runners to score. He has a 0.62 WHIP. A second-round pick by Cleveland in 2018 after a sensational career at USM, Sandlin has a 2.95 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP over 160 career MLB appearances. At USM, he had 20 saves over his first two seasons, moved into the rotation as a junior and went 10-0 with a 1.06, earning All-America honors and the state’s Ferriss Trophy. He went back to the bullpen in pro ball. … Filling in for regular closer James McArthur, ex-Mississippi State star Chris Stratton weathered a shaky ninth inning to notch his second save in Kansas City’s 3-2 win vs. Milwaukee. The surprising Royals are 21-15, tied for second in the AL Central. Stratton, in his first season with KC, is 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 14 games; five of the nine earned runs he has yielded came in one appearance. McArthur, the Ole Miss alum who has seven saves this season, was down Monday, so Stratton — 14 career saves — got the call in the ninth. Aided by a double play, he got through the Brewers’ 3-6 hitters despite walking two. Stratton was also a Ferriss Trophy winner back in 2012, when he was the SEC’s pitcher of the year (as a starter) and later a first-round pick by San Francisco. … It’s “official” in Philadelphia: Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull will move to the bullpen. In his first season with the Phillies, Turnbull is 2-0 with a 1.67 in six starts. But Philadelphia now has five other healthy starters, making a move necessary. Turnbull, who has started all but one game in his 67 career MLB appearances, reportedly would prefer to remain in the rotation. “He can do a lot of different things, because he gives you length, obviously,” Phils manager Rob Thomson told mlb.com. P.S. MSU product Brent Rooker won the AL player of the week award after batting .438 with three homers — two in one inning — and seven RBIs for Oakland in the week ending May 4. Rooker also won a POW award in 2023.

25 Apr

closing it out

Making his entrance to the strains of “White Horse” by Chris Stapleton, ex-Ole Miss standout James McArthur rode to the rescue Wednesday night for the Kansas City Royals, pitching a scoreless ninth to save a 3-2 win against Toronto. “It brought a lot of energy for me,” McArthur told mlb.com, speaking of the choreographed entrance at Kauffman Stadium, which hasn’t seen a lot of excitement in recent years. It was the sixth save of the season for the 27-year-old right-hander, called “The General” by Royals broadcasters. The surprising Royals are 15-10, second in the American League Central. McArthur, acquired last year from Philadelphia, made his big league debut last June (after five years in the minors) and took over the closer role in September, going 4-for-4 in saves. In 11 appearances this year, the 6-foot-7 McArthur is 6-for-7 in saves with a 2.84 ERA. Mississippi State alum Chris Stratton, one of several off-season signees by KC, pitched a scoreless eighth on Wednesday and trimmed his ERA to 3.00. … Elsewhere on the bump: Spencer Turnbull, the former Madison Central High star, yielded a lone run and struck out eight batters in five innings for Philadelphia but was pulled with a 2-1 lead, which the Phillies’ bullpen squandered in a 7-4 loss to Cincinnati. Turnbull is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in five starts for Philly. … Garrett Crochet, the Ocean Springs High product, gave up five runs in four innings and fell to 1-4 with a 6.37 ERA for the woeful Chicago White Sox (3-21), who lost 6-3 to Minnesota. A converted reliever, Crochet had pitched well in his first couple of starts, not so much lately.

20 Apr

big numbers

Behind Gabe Broadus and Davis Gillespie, Southern Miss rode a 10-run third inning to a 14-3, run-rule win Friday against Louisiana-Monroe at Taylor Park. But hold on. A few miles down the road in Hattiesburg, Blue Mountain Christian put up an even bigger number, stunning William Carey 19-5 at Wheeler Field. Carey entered the game in third place in the SSAC with a 16-8 record and is ranked No. 25 in NAIA. BMC came in with a 9-15 mark in eighth place. Carey led 32-6 in the all-time series in this burgeoning rivalry. But the Toppers went off Friday, grabbing the lead with a four-run fifth and scoring eight times in the eighth to add insult to injury. BMC had 16 hits and drew 11 walks plus two HBPs. Carey used six pitchers and all of them gave up runs. The Toppers’ big bopper, Arderrius Townsend, wasn’t a factor, going 0-for-2 before being ejected in the fifth inning. Stepping up, Carson Gault went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs; Josiah Rivera was 2-for-4 with a homer, three RBIs and three runs; and Hayden Redding went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs. A doubleheader is slated for today. P.S. Props to Spencer Turnbull, the Madison Central High product who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning as Philadelphia beat the punchless Chicago White Sox (and Ocean Springs’ Garrett Crochet) 7-0 in the big leagues. … Ex-Mississippi State star Brent Rooker came off the injured list Friday and homered — his third — for Oakland, but the A’s lost to Cleveland 10-2.

19 Apr

watch for it

A couple of former Mississippi high school stars will face off tonight as opposing pitchers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Both Garrett Crochet (Ocean Springs alum) of the Chicago White Sox and Spencer Turnbull (Madison Central) of the Phillies — the former in a new role, the latter with a new team — have had very good results to date. But they will face very different challenges in this game. Left-hander Crochet, a former first-round pick out of Tennessee, is 1-2 with a 3.57 ERA over four starts in his first season after converting from reliever to starter. He goes against a Phillies team that is 11-8 and trots out a lineup loaded with sluggers (see Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Alec Bohm, et al). Turnbull, a former second-rounder out of Alabama, is 1-0, 1.80, in three starts with the Phillies as he attempts to bounce back from a couple of injury-wracked seasons with Detroit. The right-hander faces a 3-15 White Sox team that has some of the worst offensive numbers in the big leagues. It’s worth noting that several Chicago batters have experience against Turnbull from his time with the Tigers (see Eloy Jimenez, three home runs), while few of the Phillies have ever faced Crochet. Citizens Bank is a hitters park, so perhaps we shouldn’t expect a pitchers’ duel. P.S. Where are they now: Ex-big leaguer Bobby Bradley (Harrison Central), who played independent ball last year, is playing for Tijuana in the Mexican League. … Gavin Collins (Mississippi State), another indy baller in 2023, is now at Triple-A Memphis in the St. Louis system. … Thomas Dillard (Ole Miss), also an indy leaguer in 2023, has signed with Celburne of the independent American Association. … Onetime big leaguer Chris Ellis (Ole Miss/Mississippi Braves) recently signed with Long Island of the indy Atlantic League; he did not pitch in 2023. … Patrick Lee (William Carey) has joined Evansville in the indy Frontier League. … Dalton Moats (Delta State) has re-upped with Kansas City of the American Association, where he pitched in 2023.

03 Apr

a change in the wind

The first five Mississippi-connected starting pitchers to go to the bump in MLB this season pitched relatively well but didn’t have much to show for it: two losses, three no-decisions and a stint on the injured list. If there was some sort of hex at work, it ended Tuesday night when Spencer Turnbull, the former Madison Central High star, took his turn. In his debut for Philadelphia, on a cold and rainy night at Citizens Bank Park, Turnbull threw five innings, allowed a lone unearned run, struck out seven and got the win against Cincinnati thanks in part to Bryce Harper’s three home runs. Turnbull was 1-4 with a 7.26 ERA for Detroit in an injury-curtailed 2023, then posted a 2.25 this spring after signing as a free agent with the Phillies. Later Tuesday, Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet, making his second start of 2024 — and second career start — with the Chicago White Sox, went seven strong innings to beat Atlanta. Two wins in one day for the Mississippi boys. … To recap the seemingly cursed start for the Mississippians: Crochet went out on opening day last Thursday for the ChiSox, allowed one run in six innings but took an L in a 1-0 defeat against Detroit. … That same day, ex-George County High star Justin Steele pitched well but suffered a hamstring injury in the fifth inning and got a no-decision for the Cubs vs. Texas; he is now on the IL. … On Saturday, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, back with his original club this year, battled through four shutout innings for St. Louis against the Los Angeles Dodgers but was shelved after an untimely rain delay. The Cardinals went on to win. … On Sunday, Mississippi State product J.P. France worked 5 2/3 innings for Houston against the New York Yankees, yielding three runs, but got a no-decision in a game the Astros would lose late. … On Monday, ex-MSU star Dakota Hudson, in his Colorado debut, pitched 5 1/3 solid innings against the Cubs but took the loss because of three unearned runs, the product of a “little league homer” by Christopher Morel that was misplayed by Rockies left fielder Nolan Jones.

02 Mar

present arms …

Justin Steele, the former George County High standout, won’t be resting on his laurels this spring. His first Cactus League outing on Friday was evidence of that. Steele worked three innings for the Chicago Cubs against the White Sox, throwing 46 pitches, 32 for strikes, and using his entire arsenal, per reports. The 28-year-old left-hander from Lucedale yielded two hits, a walk and two runs with two strikeouts. Steele went 16-5 with a 3.06 ERA in 2023, helping the Cubs stay in the playoff chase till the bitter end. He finished fifth in the Cy Young Award voting in the National League. “I gotta do it again, that’s how I’m looking at it,” he told mlb.com. The Cubs are counting on that. … Spencer Turnbull, the ex-Madison Central star, made his first appearance with his new club, throwing two clean innings with four punchouts for Philadelphia vs. Miami in the Grapefruit League. Turnbull was non-tendered by Detroit after battling injuries in 2023 and posting a 7.26 ERA in just seven games. the Phillies signed him as a free agent, a one-year, $2 million deal. “I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am to have a new opportunity, a new situation here,” Turnbull told nbcsportsphiladelphia.com. He was 12-29 with a 4.55 ERA overall in five seasons with Detroit but was on a nice roll from 2020 into ’21 (8-6, 3.46) before being beset by injuries. … Southern Miss product Hunter Stanley, getting a look as a minor leaguer in Cleveland’s camp, struck out the only batter he faced against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In two Cactus League outings, Stanley has yielded one run in 1 1/3 innings. He has a 4.58 ERA over the minor league seasons, having made Double-A last year. … Minor league vet Zac Houston, a Mississippi State alum and non-roster invitee in Tampa Bay’s camp, had a rough outing, allowing four runs (including a three-run homer) in 2/3 of an inning against Pittsburgh. The 29-year-old Houston, in pro ball since 2016, has made three appearance for the Rays. … Hurston Waldrep, the ex-USM star now a top prospect with Atlanta, is from Thomasville, Ga., and — yes — grew up a huge Braves fan. The Braves drafted the right-hander in the first round out of Florida last summer. “The way it worked out, I really couldn’t ask for anything different,” he said in an MLB Network interview. Waldrep pitched at four levels in 2023, including a stint with the Double-A Mississippi Braves. He is in camp vying for a big league roster spot but has yet to debut in the Grapefruit League. Waldrep was 7-2 with a 3.22 ERA and three saves in two years in Hattiesburg before transferring to Florida and helping the Gators make the College World Series.

12 Feb

opportunity knocks

A long wait is over for Spencer Turnbull. The ex-Madison Central High standout, cut loose (non-tendered) by Detroit in November, reportedly has signed with Philadelphia, a one-year, $2 million contract with incentives. Right-hander Turnbull became, on May 18, 2021, the first Mississippian (native or school alum) to throw a no-hitter in the big leagues. He was 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA when he went down with an arm injury in June of that season. Since then, he has rarely been healthy. He missed the rest of the ’21 season and all of ’22 after Tommy John surgery and posted a 7.26 ERA for the Tigers in seven games in an injury-plagued 2023 season. Now 31, Turnbull is 12-29, 4.55, in 61 career appearances. He is expected to get a crack at the Phillies’ rotation in camp — which opens in Florida on Wednesday — but more likely will start the year in Triple-A. P.S. Five players with Mississippi ties are on USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award preseason Watch List: Konnor Griffin of Jackson Prep; Dakota Jordan of Mississippi State; Shane Lewis, a Warren Central alum now at Troy; Braden Montgomery, a Madison Central product now at Texas A&M; and Brett Sanchez of Belhaven University. The award goes to the top amateur player in the country. Former MSU star Will Clark won it in 1985.

25 Oct

amazing arizona

Twenty-two years ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks did something amazing. They scored twice in the bottom of the ninth inning against Mariano Rivera and beat the mighty New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. On Tuesday night, the D’backs did something amazing again. They beat mighty Philadelphia — at Citizens Bank Park, for the second straight night — to win Game 7 of the National League Championship Series and reach the second Fall Classic in their 26-year history. The franchise was just four years old when the ’01 team, which included former Ole Miss star David Dellucci, won the championship. That club had been largely constructed by Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter, who was fired as manager after the 2000 season reportedly because of a dispute with ownership. Originally drafted by Baltimore, Dellucci was plucked by Arizona (and Showalter) in the expansion draft in the fall of 1997. He hit .260 with a league-best 12 triples in 1998 and was still a reserve outfielder on the 2001 club. He played in two World Series games, including a pinch-running appearance in the fateful ninth inning of Game 7; he was erased on a fielder’s choice for the first out. Interestingly enough, Dellucci also played for Texas, which will face the D’backs in the Fall Classic that begins Friday in Arlington. Showalter was manager of the Rangers when Dellucci was with the team (2004-05).