Former Ole Miss standout David Parkinson, now a Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguer, got a major monkey off his back on Wednesday. The 25-year-old lefty worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs, and got the win as Lehigh Valley beat Rochester 5-3 in the Triple-A East. It was Parkinson’s first win since 2019. He is now 1-7 (with a 6.36 ERA) over 15 appearances in his first Triple-A campaign. A 12th-round draftee in 2017, he was the Phillies’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2018, going 11-1, 1.45 at two levels of A-ball. He wasn’t as sharp in Double-A in 2019 and didn’t pitch at all last year. Parkinson reportedly has a tendency to dwell on bad outings, of which he has had several in 2021. “One thing about Park is that he’s very cerebral, analytical,” LV pitching coach Aaron Fultz told The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., earlier this season. “The biggest advice I can give to him is that this game is very, very hard.” Wednesday’s win was a nice reward for his perseverance. … Also admirably soldiering on is Anthony Alford, the Columbia native and former Petal High two-sport star now in Triple-A in Pittsburgh’s system. Alford was 2-for-3 with his 10th homer of the season for Indianapolis on Wednesday. Alford’s latest big league trial ended on April 21, when Pittsburgh took him off its 40-man roster after a 2-for-24 start. He was assigned on May 1 to Indianapolis, where he struggled initially. Batting .175 on June 1, Alford is currently hitting .302, batting third and playing center field. He is 27 now – a long way from his days as a highly rated Toronto prospect — and owns a .150 career average in the big leagues. But he’s still wearing a uniform and trying to remain relevant.
Shohei Ohtani, the amazing double-duty All-Star, got the win and Raisel Iglesias the save in the Los Angeles Angels’ 5-3 victory against Boston on Tuesday night. Former Ole Miss star Mike Mayers was the “bridge guy,” pitching the eighth inning, between Ohtani and Iglesias. Mayers was credited with a hold, that somewhat obscure statistic that gives middle relievers something to, er, hold on to. A hold is awarded to a reliever who enters in “a save situation and maintains his team’s lead for the next relief pitcher, while recording at least one out.” Mayers’ scoreless inning of work gives the right-hander 11 holds on the year; the MLB lead is 17. He has a 4.17 ERA and two saves in 41 appearances. Drew Pomeranz, another UM product, fills a similar role to Mayers’ for San Diego. The big lefty notched his eighth hold on Tuesday, pitching a scoreless eighth in the Padres’ 7-4 win over Washington. Pomeranz, who recently came off the injured list, has a 1.59 ERA in 18 games. Chris Stratton, the ex-Mississippi State standout from Tupelo and another middle relief specialist, pitched a scoreless seventh inning in Pittsburgh’s 2-1 win against Atlanta. But the score was tied when Stratton worked – so, no hold. He has four on the year, along with a 2.96 ERA and a save in 35 appearances. P.S. If there was a bright spot in the Braves’ second straight lackluster performance against the lowly Pirates, it was the hitting of Orlando Arcia. Arcia, the second Biloxi Shuckers alum (after Jed Bradley) to play for Atlanta, went 2-for-3 and homered for the Braves’ lone run. He is 4-for-11 with two RBIs, two runs and a steal in three games since being called up from Triple-A Gwinnett, where he was batting .303 with 13 homers. He was Milwaukee’s starting shortstop the previous five years. … To the long list of great catches by Billy Hamilton, make room for the one he made Tuesday. The Taylorsville High product, playing center field in the ninth inning for the Chicago White Sox, ran full speed and laid out for the acrobatic snag, then slid across the rain-soaked warning track to complete the play. “I think that’s the top one, to be honest with you,” Hamilton said in an mlb.com story.
Mississippi will be represented by at least one state college product in the MLB All-Star Game for the sixth straight time. Adam Frazier, the Mississippi State alumnus now with Pittsburgh, was the winner in fan balloting to start at second base for the National League. It’ll be his first trip to the Midsummer Classic, and he is very deserving of the honor. The lefty-hitting Frazier, in his sixth MLB season, is batting .326 with 101 hits, four homers, 28 RBIs and 50 runs. “I don’t really love the spotlight itself. I just try to go about my business and take care of what I need to take care of,” Frazier said in an mlb.com article. “It’s pretty cool to have the support, and I’m happy for that.” This is also pretty cool: The last Pirates second baseman to start an All-Star Game was Bill Mazeroski in 1967. More Mississippians could be headed for Colorado for the July 13 game when pitchers and reserves are announced Sunday. In 2019, the last time there was an All-Star Game, Brandon Woodruff, the ex-State standout from Wheeler, went as a replacement to the National League pitching staff. He followed Mitch Moreland (2018), Zack Cozart and Corey Dickerson (2017), Drew Pomeranz (2016) and Brian Dozier and Jonathan Papelbon (2015) as recent All-Stars out of Magnolia State schools. … Former Mississippi Braves Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna also were voted in, as announced by MLB on Thursday. P.S. The all-Mississippi home run chase in MLB is proving to be quite interesting. DeSoto Central product Austin Riley belted his 14th on Thursday (off Jacob deGrom, no less), moving two ahead of ex-MSU star Hunter Renfroe and Bulldogs alum Nate Lowe, who hit two on Thursday to get to 12. Gulfport’s Bobby Bradley, who has only been up since June 5, has eight. Still waiting for former State standout Moreland to get it going; he’s at six. … Down in the minors, Houlka’s Tyreque Reed hit two bombs for High-A Greenville (Boston) and has 12 on the season.
As a middle reliever on a bad team, Chris Stratton isn’t going to get many headlines. The Mississippi State alum from Tupelo deserved one on Friday, though a couple of other players with Mississippi connections likely stole them. Stratton retired all 11 batters he faced in Pittsburgh’s 9-2 win over Miami and earned his first save of the season, second career. The veteran right-hander, a converted starter, has a 2.90 ERA, a win and five holds in 22 games for the Pirates, who are 22-34. Don’t blame Adam Frazier for that poor record. Frazier, a teammate of Stratton’s at MSU years ago, went 2-for-3 with two walks, three runs and two RBIs on Friday. Bidding for the All-Star Game, he has 22 multi-hit games and is batting .338 (.402 OBP) with 21 RBIs as the Pirates’ leadoff batter. Even Frazier’s big night might have been overshadowed by Ke’Bryan Hayes’. With his father Charlie, the Hattiesburg native and former big leaguer, in the house at PNC Park, the younger Hayes went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs in his second game since coming off the 60-day injured list. The rookie third baseman is 5-for-13 with two homers on the season. His dad got to see him homer in the majors in person for the first time. P.S. Down in Triple-A, ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford, who opened 2021 as the Bucs’ center fielder, enjoyed a good night: 4-for-5 with his third homer of the year in Indianapolis’ twinbill sweep against Columbus. Alford, hoping for a return to The Show, is hitting .226 for the Indianapolis club. He was batting .083 when the Pirates designated him for assignment and sent him down.
The MLB All-Star Game is some two months away, but it’s not too early to start projecting that Adam Frazier will make the National League team. The former Mississippi State and current Pittsburgh Pirates standout leads the league in hits (51) and tops NL second basemen in batting average (.323) and OPS. Frazier, a lefty bat, had something of a down year in 2020 – like many others – but is a .277 career hitter with both pop and speed. In 2021, he has one homer, three triples, 13 doubles, three steals, 13 RBIs and 20 runs over 39 games. Oddly enough, the sixth-year big leaguer wasn’t assured a starting job entering spring training and was the subject of trade rumors. But after raking at a .488 clip in the Grapefruit League, he has been entrenched at second base since Day 1. His defense? He occasionally shifts to left field late in games because the Pirates are short-handed out there, not because he’s lacking at second base. He is a two-time Gold Glove finalist. “(H)e’s doing an unbelievable job at second. We’d prefer to keep him there and plan on keeping him there,” Bucs manager Derek Shelton told triblive.com. Don’t be surprised to see Frazier in Colorado with the other All-Stars in July.
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ patience with Anthony Alford ran out. The former Petal High star has been designated for assignment, meaning the Bucs’ opening day center fielder can be claimed on waivers by another club, released outright or sent to the minors. Alford, 26, started this season 0-for-19 before getting a couple of hits. He struck out 16 times in 24 at-bats. Pittsburgh claimed him off waivers from Toronto last summer only to lose him to injury after five games. Though he never hit in limited opportunities with the Blue Jays, the Pirates seemed committed to giving Alford a shot as their center fielder in 2021. “He’s unbelievably athletic. He’s explosive,” manager Derek Shelton told triblive.com in the off-season. “He’s going to be a guy on the bases who’s going to be exciting. Once he gets moving, it’s fast and it’s powerful.” But Alford, who played football at Southern Miss and Ole Miss before focusing on pro baseball in 2015, never got moving.
FanGraphs, the stats-driven website, doesn’t put much stock in Atlanta’s third base situation, ranking the Braves 25th among the 30 MLB clubs at the position entering 2021. That throws shade on Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star who figures to get most of the playing time at third base. And he does have some things to prove, though raw power isn’t among them. He showed that off today against Pittsburgh. He mashed his first two home runs of the spring – 440 feet on a 1-2 curveball, then another deep bomb on a first-pitch sinker. He struck out in his third at-bat. Riley, 23, has 26 homers in 132 big league games but has batted just .232 with a lot of strikeouts and few walks. He hasn’t hit much in Florida this spring: 5-for-25 with one RBI before today. But neither has veteran Jake Lamb (.194, one homer), brought in presumably to push Riley for the job. The Braves have enough big bats elsewhere in the lineup that they don’t need Riley to carry them. Still, improved production would be nice. The Braves aren’t inclined to wait too long for that to happen. P.S. Mississippi State alum Adam Frazier, hitting a ridiculous .563 for the Pirates, smacked his second homer in as many days in today’s game.
If Adam Frazier is still a candidate for a trade, the ex-Mississippi State star has done nothing this spring but make himself more attractive. After a 2-for-3 effort in the Grapefruit League today, Frazier is 10-for-15 (.667) for Pittsburgh. The Pirates, regarded as one of the worst teams in MLB, likely could get a nice return for the lefty-hitting second baseman. Trade rumblings obviously haven’t affected Frazier. “I’ll be where my feet are and try to get better each day,” he told mlb.com at the start of spring training. “I’m in a position now to try to lead these guys, so I’ll do my best to do that.” Frazier, 29, has a .273 career average with 35 homers over five seasons and twice has been a Gold Glove finalist. He hit just .230 in 2020 but smacked seven homers in 58 games. … Frazier is one of three Mississippians, not including Ke’Bryan Hayes (Charlie’s son), in the Pirates’ camp this spring. Chris Stratton, a teammate of Frazier’s at MSU, has made three scoreless appearances this spring as he vies for a bullpen spot. He also has been rumored to be trade bait. Outfielder Anthony Alford, the oft-injured ex-Petal High standout, suffered a wrist contusion on Saturday but isn’t expected to be down long. Aiming to win the center field job, he is batting .385 with two homers. P.S. In the Pirates’ loss to Baltimore today, State product Jordan Westburg – a 2020 draftee recently invited to the Orioles’ camp – got his first hit in a big league uniform.
Anthony Alford, Brent Rooker and Bobby Bradley, each making a comeback of sorts, belted home runs in their spring training debuts on Monday. Alford, the former Petal High star, and Mississippi State product Rooker went yard in their first at-bat, while ex-Harrison Central standout Bradley waited until his second. Alford, whose 2020 season was ended by a broken elbow, was in Pittsburgh’s lineup as the DH and took Toronto’s Robbie Ray deep. Alford, expected to be the Pirates’ center fielder, reportedly is still building strength in his throwing arm. He played in just five games for the Bucs last summer after they claimed him on waivers from the Blue Jays. Rooker debuted in 2020 with Minnesota but played in only seven games (.316, one homer) before suffering a broken forearm when hit by a pitch. The big outfielder homered Monday off Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow (on a 98-mph pitch) and later added a sac fly. Rooker is trying to make the Twins’ roster as a reserve. Bradley, who made his MLB debut in 2019, did not play in 2020 and wasn’t at Cleveland’s alternate site for the summer. Contending for the Indians’ first base job, the lefty-swinging slugger mashed a homer off Kansas City’s Jake Kalish.
Three Mississippi State products avoided arbitration hearings by agreeing to new MLB contracts on Friday. Brandon Woodruff, who has emerged as the ace of the Milwaukee staff, got a nice pay raise, jumping from a 2020 salary of $633,100 to a reported $3.3 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility. The right-hander from Wheeler, a 2019 All-Star, is 19-11 with a 3.66 ERA in three-plus seasons in the majors. He went 3-5, 3.05 in last year’s abbreviated campaign. Chris Stratton, also an MSU alum, got $1.1M deal from Pittsburgh in his first year of arbitration eligibility. The Tupelo native, who made $507,500 in 2020, is 18-18 with a 4.97 ERA over parts of five seasons and posted a 3.90 in 27 relief outings last season. Ex-State star Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh’s second baseman last year, agreed to a $4.3M contract as a second-year arbitration eligible player. The .273 career hitter made $2.8M last year, when he batted .230. There has been speculation he’ll be traded before the season starts.