20 Sep

fab five

By some cosmic coincidence, five Mississippi natives debuted in the major leagues on this date between 1917 and 1955: Sammy Vick, Eric McNair, Culley Rikard, Don Blasingame and Fred Waters. Vick, born in Batesville, broke in with the New York Yankees in 1917 and enjoyed his best season in 1919 as the team’s primary right fielder. The next season Babe Ruth arrived in town, and Vick was displaced. They reportedly were pals before Vick was traded in 1921 and faded from the big leagues. He batted .280 over his five-year career. Meridian native McNair, nicknamed “Boob,” debuted with the Philadelphia A’s in 1929 and was a regular on some outstanding clubs. He won a World Series ring with the 1930 A’s. An infielder, he played 14 years in The Show and batted .274 with 82 home runs. Rikard, from Oxford, came up with Pittsburgh in 1941 and batted .270 over three seasons with the Pirates. Blasingame, the “Corinth Comet,” broke in with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1955 and enjoyed an outstanding 12-year career that included an All-Star Game appearance. He hit .258 and stole 105 bases. Benton native Waters, who played at Southern Miss, reached the big leagues in ’55 with Pittsburgh and went 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 25 games over two years. P.S. Born on Sept. 20, 1970: former Ole Miss star Chris Snopek, who played in 215 MLB games over four years in the late ’90s.

29 Aug

around the horn

Chad Bradford was back in uniform (sorta) on Sunday as the Oakland A’s celebrated their 2002 team — Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” gang that won a then-record 20 straight games — before the club played the New York Yankees at Oakland Coliseum. Former Southern Miss and Hinds Community College star Bradford was a key member of that A’s team, posting a 3.11 ERA, four wins and two saves over 75 games. The submarine-style right-hander had a 3.26 ERA in 561 MLB games. … In a pregame ceremony at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, Hattiesburg native Charlie Hayes threw a ceremonial first pitch to son Ke’Bryan Hayes before the Phillies played the Pittsburgh Pirates. The elder Hayes spent three of his 14 big league seasons with the Phils. Ke’Bryan Hayes, the Pirates’ third baseman, went 1-for-4 with an RBI in a 5-0 win. The duo reportedly will do another first-pitch thing at Yankee Stadium next month. Charlie Hayes won a ring with the 1996 New York Yankees. … Garrett Mitchell became the 56th Biloxi Shuckers alumnus to make the majors when the outfielder debuted for Milwaukee on Sunday, going 1-for-4 with two RBIs in a 9-7 win vs. the visiting Chicago Cubs. Mitchell, a former first-round pick from UCLA, played parts of the last two seasons with the Shuckers, who arrived on the Coast in 2015. … Dylan Moore, who played for both the Shuckers and the Mississippi Braves, hit a big three-run homer for Seattle on Sunday in a 4-0 win against Cleveland in a battle of playoff contenders. … M-Braves alum Drew Waters, who debuted with Kansas City last week, had two hits, two walks, two runs and two RBIs for the Royals in a 15-6 romp over San Diego. … Ex-M-Braves star Michael Harris II, who made the jump from Mississippi in May, went 4-for-4 for Atlanta in its 6-3 loss at St. Louis. It was the second four-hit game for the rookie of the year candidate, who is batting .298 with 13 homers, 45 RBIs and 15 steals. … George County High product Justin Steele, 4-7 with a 3.18 ERA for the Cubs this year, won’t make the trip to Toronto this week because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. … Former USM star Matt Wallner belted his fourth homer for Triple-A St. Paul — and 25th bomb overall in 2022 — as the Minnesota affiliate beat Iowa in the International League. Ex-Mississippi State star Jonathan Holder gave up four runs in an inning of work and took the loss for the I-Cubs; the onetime big leaguer has a 10.29 ERA in seven appearances. … Jackson Prep alum Will Warren improved to 7-4, with a 3.38 ERA, as the Yankees’ Double-A Somerset club beat New Hampshire in the Eastern League. Warren, drafted out of Southeastern Louisiana last year, went 2-3 in A-ball this season, his first pro duty.

02 Aug

whole new ballgame

Welcome to the playoff race, Chris Stratton. Former Mississippi State ace Stratton was traded Monday — along with Jose Quintana — from last-place Pittsburgh to second-place St. Louis, which is feverishly chasing Milwaukee in the National League Central. Stratton, a 31-year-old right-handed reliever, has had a sluggish season with the lowly Pirates — posting a 5.09 ERA in 40 games — but might draw some energy from moving to a contending club. He had a strong 2021, putting up a 3.63 ERA with seven wins and eight saves for another bad Bucs team. He said in a recent story on triblive.com that his issues this season are with the “sequencing” of his pitches, something he believes can be fixed by “just trying to be more thoughtful and a little more unpredictable.” Stratton, from Tupelo, was the SEC pitcher of the year at State in 2012 and was drafted 20th overall by San Francisco that summer. He has a 4.61 career ERA in 218 games, 42 of those starts. He moved to the bullpen in 2019 with the Los Angeles Angels, who traded him to the Pirates early that season. Stratton joins a Cardinals club that includes ex-MSU star Dakota Hudson in its rotation. Division rival Milwaukee also features a pair of former Bulldogs: starter Brandon Woodruff and outfielder Hunter Renfroe. This ought to be fun. … The MLB trade deadline is today.

24 Jun

northwest gloom

Adam Frazier got a big hit for Seattle on Thursday. Sorta. The ex-Mississippi State standout broke up a no-hit bid by Oakland’s Frankie Montas with two outs in the eighth inning. The hit did not factor in the outcome of the game, which Seattle won 2-1 thanks to two wild pitches in the ninth. Frazier hasn’t been much of factor in the Mariners’ season, which has been to this point a huge disappointment. Even after sweeping the hapless A’s, the M’s are 32-39 and a long, long way from playoff position. A Seattle writer recently described the situation as close to “disaster territory.” This was a team that expected to contend, and Frazier was one of the pieces Seattle brass added in the off-season with that goal in mind. Frazier was a .324 hitter and an All-Star second baseman for Pittsburgh last year. Traded to San Diego in July, Frazier’s production fell off, but Seattle considered him a key addition as it sought to build on last year’s 90-win campaign. It hasn’t worked out. A career .275 hitter, who made his MLB debut six years ago today, the 5-foot-10 lefty swinger is batting .222 with 21 RBIs and 28 runs through 70 games. He is batting .176 in his last 30 games and went 1-for-11 in the Oakland series. “I’ve never had (a slump) go this long,” Frazier told the Seattle Times. “I’ve had a bad month or so and then figured it out, but I’ve never had a bad two-and-a-half months.” There is time for a turnaround — but not much.

19 Jun

rising son

Among the bundle of sons of former major leaguers who have made The Show, there is Ke’Bryan Hayes, whose father, Hattiesburg native Charlie, has from all indications done a great job of guiding him down the proper path. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 25, is a rising star at third base for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a .278 hitter over three seasons with a good blend of power, speed and defensive skills. Earlier this year, the Pirates showed their faith in him with an 8-year, $70 million contract. Charlie Hayes, a Forrest County AHS alum who played in the majors from 1988-2001 (.262, 144 homers), has said he never tried to force baseball on any of his three sons, Ke’Bryan being the youngest. But, “if we were gonna do it, we were gonna try to do it the proper way every single time,” Charlie told espn.com in a recent piece. The lessons worked, as Ke’Bryan was a first-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2015. Off the field, the younger Hayes also seems to handle things the proper way. “He’s an impressive player, especially the way he carries himself,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol told The Sporting News. “It’s fun to watch someone who has the combination of skill and, you can tell, just his good character.” Charlie rates some credit for that, as well. P.S. Props to Lucedale native Justin Steele, who threw five solid innings to beat Atlanta and ace Kyle Wright at Wrigley Field on Saturday. It was the first win for the Chicago Cubs lefty since April 9, when he beat Milwaukee and ace Brandon Woodruff. Steele, who has a 1.89 ERA in three June starts, is 2-5, 4.27. … Props also to Mississippi State product Dakota Hudson, who battled for five innings to beat Boston at Fenway Park. The St. Louis right-hander is now 5-3, 3.31, for the first-place Cardinals.

12 Jun

go figure

Pitching is not supposed to be Ole Miss’ strong suit. Well, the Rebels have flipped that script. Continuing a strong show of arms in the Coral Cables Regional, Ole Miss’ Dylan DeLucia and Jack Dougherty combined on a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 10-0 win Saturday against Southern Miss in the opener of the Hattiesburg Super Regional. USM, which has one of the best staff ERAs (3.26) in the nation, allowed nine earned runs in Game 1 of this best-of-3. Starter Hurston Waldrep had a wobbly outing, and the bullpen melted down after he departed. … Former Madison Central High standout Braden Montgomery hit one of Stanford’s incredible eight home runs in the Palo Alto Super Regional, but the Cardinal somehow lost to UConn 13-12 in Game 1. … Chris Stratton has been an effective reliever this season for Pittsburgh, but the Tupelo native’s outing against Atlanta on Saturday was a disaster. He faced five batters and all of them scored. He hit a batter, walked a batter and yielded three hits, including Ozzie Albies’ grand slam. He also allowed two inherited runners to score in the Braves’ eight-run seventh inning that led to a 10-4 win, the Braves’ 10th straight. Former Mississippi State ace Stratton saw his ERA jump from 3.75 to 5.63. … Ex-Bulldogs star Brandon Woodruff, out since May 27 with an ankle injury, is eligible to come off the injured list today for Milwaukee but is experiencing numbness in his pitching hand, delaying his return. He is 5-3 with a 4.74 ERA for the Brewers, who are in a freefall with eight straight losses. … LeDarious Clark, the East Mississippi Community College alum from Meridian, is enjoying a big season with Lancaster in the independent Atlantic League. He is batting .299 with eight home runs, 22 RBIs and 15 steals. Clark, 28, hit 18 homers and stole 28 bags for Lancaster last year after spending six lackluster seasons in the Texas system. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves have lost eight of 11 heading into today’s road trip finale at Rocket City. At 26-30, the M-Braves are in a virtual tie with Biloxi (25-29) for last place in the Southern League South. The Shuckers have also lost eight of their last 11.

02 May

not a surprise

It was easy to see this coming: Bobby Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star, was designated for assignment today by Cleveland. The once-touted power prospect had barely played for the Guardians this season, going 2-for-17 with nine strikeouts. Perhaps another club will make a waiver claim on the 26-year-old first baseman and give him a fresh start. Bradley had an uneven 2021 season in Cleveland (.208, 16 homers) but went into spring training as the expected starter at first base. But a poor spring and the emergence of Owen Miller and Josh Naylor relegated Bradley to the bench. He has 156 homers over seven minor league seasons, including 33 in Triple-A in 2019. That’s tantalizing power that some organization might take a chance on. … Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford, DFA’d last week by Pittsburgh, cleared waivers and elected free agency. The oft-injured Alford, 27, has batted .209 with eight homers over parts of six MLB seasons split between Toronto and the Pirates. His future looks cloudy at best.

23 Apr

denied

The anticipation was high. Kirk McCarty, the ex-Southern Miss star from Hattiesburg, was scheduled to make his big league debut today, starting on the bump against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. It’s not happening. Cal Quantrill has come off the COVID-19 list and will get the ball for Cleveland. McCarty, brought up from Triple-A earlier in the week, might still get in the game as a reliever, of course, but a start against Aaron Judge and Co. would have been so much cooler. (In Friday’s game, a Cleveland loss, Mississippi State alum Konnor Pilkington threw two scoreless innings in relief for the Guardians in his third big league game. He has yet to yield a run.) … In other MLB news: Former State standout Nathaniel Lowe extended his hit streak to eight games, raised his average to .412 — tops in the American League — and belted his first home run in Texas’ win against Oakland. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, made his 2022 debut for Pittsburgh, coming off a rehab assignment, and went 0-for-3 as the leadoff batter at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Pirates won the game over the Cubs 4-2, with ex-State star Chris Stratton getting the save. … Ex-East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson was handed a one-game suspension for flipping off the Cleveland crowd in a game on Wednesday. Anderson issued an apology, then appealed the suspension and played Friday. He went 0-for-4 and his eighth-inning throwing error — his sixth E in three games — proved costly in the Chicago White Sox’s 2-1 loss to Minnesota. MSU alum Kendall Graveman suffered the blown save and took the loss in that game.

27 Mar

a ray of sunshine

Something good happened for Anthony Alford on Saturday. The former Petal High star launched an opposite-field home run for Pittsburgh in a Grapefruit League game against Baltimore. He needed something good, because his previous results this spring had been mostly bad. Alford, battling for an outfield job, was 0-for-12 with nine strikeouts before that homer. Greg Allen, a newcomer to the Pirates this spring, is batting .300 with a couple of homers; he appears to have locked down the right field job, with Bryan Reynolds and Ben Gamel penciled in at the other spots. Alford, 27, played well in Triple-A last year but hit just .233 with four homers in 44 games with the Pirates. He struck out 58 times in 133 at-bats. He is a .208 career hitter who has played sparingly in the majors since 2017. If he doesn’t step it up, his 40-man roster spot for 2022 might be in jeopardy. P.S. Also scuffling: Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker, in Minnesota’s camp, is 0-for-8 this spring and has been down lately with a reported shoulder issue. He hit .201 with nine homers in 58 big league games in 2021 and is no lock to make the Twins’ opening day roster. … Not scuffling: Ex-State standout Nate Lowe, who is batting .467 after a 2-for-3 day for Texas on Saturday. He hit 18 homers last year, his first with the Rangers. … Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College star, had another hit Saturday for the Chicago White Sox and is 6-for-15 (.400) this spring. … Ocean Springs High alum Garrett Crochet punched out two more batters on Saturday and now has five in three innings of scoreless work for the White Sox. … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, recently signed by Seattle, got his first stolen base on Saturday and is 1-for-4 in two Cactus League games.

03 Oct

honorable mention

Whether it means anything for next season, who knows? But Chris Stratton, the Mississippi State product from Tupelo, has done a heckuva job down the stretch as the closer for Pittsburgh. Stratton picked up his eighth save on Saturday, pitching a clean ninth inning in an 8-6 win against Cincinnati. Since Sept. 7, the 31-year-old right-hander has made 11 appearances for the lowly Pirates and registered six saves (in eight chances) and two wins with a 2.45 ERA. For the season, he is 7-1 with a 3.63 ERA for a team that has won only 61 games. The former SEC pitcher of the year has pitched in a variety of roles in a big league career dating to 2016. Closer is a new one. “I think he’s done a nice job of finding his niche out there,” Bucs manager Derek Shelton recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Stratton is on a one-year deal with the Pirates and is eligible for salary arbitration after this season. His is 25-19, 4.56 ERA for his career.