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.
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.
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.
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.
Buried in the box score of a dreary performance by the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday there is a bright spot. Petal High alumnus Anthony Alford went 2-for-4 and scored the Pirates’ lone run (on a wild pitch) in a 13-1 loss to Cincinnati. Since getting a second chance with the Bucs this season, Alford has made the most of it. The 27-year-old outfielder is batting .300 (.378 on-base percentage) over his past 15 games. He has boosted his season average to .229 and has five homers, 10 RBIs, 13 runs and five stolen bases in 43 games. In four previous MLB trials, dating back to his debut with Toronto in 2017, Alford had never played more than 18 games. Injuries — and poor performance — have hounded him. After an awful start with Pittsburgh this season, Alford was designated for assignment, taken off the 40-man roster and shipped to the minors in April. He responded by batting .307 with 14 homers at Triple-A Indianapolis. When the Pirates had a need in early August, they brought Alford back. “That’s never an easy thing to do,” he recently told dkpittsburghsports.com. “Overcoming that, staying positive, making those adjustments.” He made a brief detour to the injured list in mid-August but has managed to stay healthy since. He’s likely fighting for a 2022 job. Pittsburgh keeps running him out there, which is a good sign.
There is a new leader in the clubhouse. In the category of Longest Home Run by a Mississippian in 2021, it’s now Anthony Alford. The former Mr. Baseball from Petal hit a 469-foot homer at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on Friday. Actually, the ball left Wrigley Field and landed somewhere on Waveland Ave. As the Pittsburgh Pirates broadcasters like to say, “Clear the deck. Cannonball coming.” In the very next inning, Alford hit another homer, a 435-footer, that tied the score — but the Bucs wound up losing to the Cubs in a battle of National League Central also-rans. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Alford reportedly puts on a show of power in batting practice. A teammate says he has “crazy-stupid pop.” Seeking to impress Pirates brass looking to next year, Alford has four homers in 70 at-bats this season but is hitting just .186 with 37 strikeouts. … According to onlyhomers.com, Alford’s 469-footer tops the 465-foot shot by Mississippi State alum Nate Lowe as the longest by a state product this season. Third on that list is Brent Rooker’s 460-footer, followed by Hunter Renfroe’s 456. Renfroe, the crusher from Crystal Springs, also has a 453, a 444 and a 439. Lowe also has a 451. Mitch Moreland’s longest is 444, Austin Riley’s 439. Could we get these guys together for a Home Run Derby?
Far from the MLB playoff races, where teams are looking to next year and players are seeking to make good impressions, the Chicago Cubs met the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on Wednesday. Justin Steele, the former George County High star, made one of those good impressions. The Cubs’ rookie left-hander threw five shutout innings for his first win since shifting from the bullpen to the rotation. Relying mainly on two different fastballs, Steele allowed one hit, walked three, hit a batter and fanned three in the 3-0 victory. “I thought the fastball looked electric, to be honest with you,” Cubs manager David Ross said in an mlb.com story. Steele, who has made four starts, is 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA overall in 15 games for the fourth-place Cubs. Drafted in 2014, the 26-year-old Steele logged over 300 innings in an injury-plagued minor league journey before making his big league debut on April 12. Meanwhile, for the last-place Twins, ex-Mississippi State star Brent Rooker was a bright spot, getting the club’s only two hits, both singles. Rooker, also looking to make an impression for 2022, is batting .201 with six homers in 38 games. Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford, hoping to secure a 2022 job with Pittsburgh, hit his second homer of the season in the last-place Pirates’ loss to the Chicago White Sox. The oft-injured Alford is batting .180 in 23 games. MSU product Nate Lowe, toiling for last-place Texas, went 1-for-3 in a loss to Colorado. Lowe is batting .321 over his last 15 games and .261 with 14 homers on the season, his first with the Rangers. P.S. Mississippi State alum Will Bednar, the first Mississippian picked in this year’s draft (14th overall), made his pro debut on Monday, working a 1-2-3 inning for San Francisco’s Arizona Complex League club. … The White Sox put shortstop Tim Anderson on the injured list Wednesday with a hamstring issue; the former East Central Community College star, an MVP candidate, had missed several games recently with sore legs.
The Mississippi Braves have risen to the best record in the Double-A South by minding their P’s: pitching and power. On a lazy Sunday afternoon at Trustmark Park in Pearl, they didn’t get enough of either. Biloxi bludgeoned the M-Braves 11-3, snapping an eight-game winning streak. The M-Braves lead the league in ERA (3.66) and rank second in home runs (117). On Sunday, the Shuckers, the league’s worst team by record, pounded out 16 hits – two by Ole Miss product Thomas Dillard, his first in Double-A – and drew six walks against five M-Braves pitchers. Starter Freddy Tarnok and Hayden Deal, first out of the bullpen, yielded four runs each. Braden Shewmake hit the M-Braves’ lone homer, his ninth, a first-inning solo shot that landed on the roof of the Farm Bureau Grill beyond right field. … Austin Riley hit his 25th home run in Atlanta’s 6-5 victory over Washington on Sunday, but the ex-DeSoto Central High star’s bigger contribution was the play he made to end the game. Riley dove and speared a hot shot down the third-base line, with runners at first and second, and threw out Carter Kieboom at first base. Riley’s glove rates some love. … Corey Dickerson may prove to be a valuable trade acquisition for Toronto, still scrapping in the wild card battle. The Meridian Community College alum hit his first homer for the Blue Jays in a win on Sunday and is 10-for-33 with five RBIs and five runs in 12 games for the team. He hit .260 with two homers for Miami before the trade. … San Francisco maintained the best record (76-42) in the big leagues with a 5-2 win against Colorado on Sunday, with two former M-Braves playing major roles. Alex Wood worked 6 2/3 innings to notch his 10th win and Tommy La Stella went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, boosting his August average to .300 coming off a three-month stay on the injured list. … Tough luck continues to hound former Petal High star Anthony Alford. After battling his way back to the majors from a demotion to Triple-A, the 27-year-old outfielder went on the IL on Sunday with a back strain. He is 4-for-17 since Pittsburgh brought him back to The Show. Alford’s 2020 season was curtailed by a fractured elbow. He suffered myriad injuries while in Toronto’s system from 2012-19.
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.