Speculation about Hunter Renfroe’s next home has included the Chicago Cubs and Houston, two clubs that might be in the market for right-handed power. The ex-Mississippi State star was designated for assignment by Tampa Bay on Friday and is apparently bound for free agency. Renfroe hit eight homers – plus two more in the postseason – during his one year with the Rays but batted just .156 and struck out in roughly a third of his at-bats. The Rays added several minor leaguers to their 40-man roster last week and needed to clear space. Renfroe was deemed expendable. He was expected to command about $3 million in arbitration for 2021. He is a .228 career hitter with 97 homers since his first MLB season with San Diego in 2016. … MSU product Nate Lowe, still on the Rays’ roster, has left his Dominican Winter League club, reportedly because of concerns about COVID-19. He was 3-for-16 in five games. A lefty-hitting first baseman, he smacked four homers in a brief stint in the majors in 2020. … Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn is widely rumored to be on the trading block in Texas. The right-hander, 33, due to make about $9M in the last year of his contract, went 6-3 with a 3.32 ERA for a bad Rangers team last season. Starting pitching is an especially hot commodity this off-season.
Somewhat lost in the disappointment that has been the Los Angeles Angels’ 2020 season is the emergence of former Ole Miss star Mike Mayers as an effective bullpen arm. Mayers, in his first season with the Angels, threw two clean innings on Saturday night and picked up the win as his club, now 23-30, rallied past Texas 4-3. Mayers (2-0) now has a 1.80 ERA over 25 appearances; the 28-year-old right-hander has allowed just one earned run in his last 15 games. Mayers spent the first four years of his MLB career with St. Louis, which drafted him out of UM in the third round in 2013. His big league debut in 2016 was cringe-worthy — nine earned runs in 1 1/3 innings as a starter against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday Night Baseball — and he never found any consistency with the Cards. He had a 7.03 ERA in 73 games. But the Angels saw something they liked and claimed Mayers on waivers after last season. Working with new Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway, another ex-Rebels star, Mayers apparently has found something. … Coincidentally, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn got the start for Texas in Saturday’s game and pitched well — again — only to see his team lose — again. Lynn’s excellent work — he is 6-2 with a 2.53 ERA in 12 starts — has been wasted on an 18-34 team.
Demarcus Evans and Garrett Crochet made their major league debuts on Friday night, but the two former Mississippi prep standouts took very different paths to The Show. Their results were a little different, too. Evans, a 25th-round draft pick out of Petal High by Texas in 2015, spent five years honing his craft in the minors; he posted a 0.90 ERA in 2019. First batter he faced on Friday: Albert Pujols. The Los Angeles Angels’ future Hall of Famer sent Evans’ second pitch — a 93-mph fastball — over the wall in Anaheim for his 662nd career home run. Evans plunked the next batter, Justin Upton, but the the 6-foot-5, 265-pound right-hander got out of his only inning with no further damage. Crochet, an Ocean Springs High alum who pitched at Tennessee the last three years, was drafted 11th overall in June by the Chicago White Sox. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound lefty became the first player since Brandon Finnegan with Kansas City in 2014 to make his MLB debut in the same year he was drafted. For Crochet, who has been working out in the White Sox’s alternate camp, this was his first professional game. First batter he faced: Brian Goodwin of Cincinnati. Crochet struck him out, then struck out the next batter and retired the third on a grounder to first base. He threw six of his 13 pitches at 100 mph or more, including two clocked at 101-plus, in his lone inning. “I felt like I was on top of the world and just truly living the dream,” he told mlb.com. It was surely a dream come true for Evans, as well, and he’ll have better days. Crochet has set his bar pretty high. It’s gonna be fun to see what they do next.
The long wait for the call to the big leagues came on Tuesday. Now Demarcus Evans waits, anxiously no doubt, for the call to the Texas bullpen that will signal his MLB debut. There’s a fair chance it’ll come tonight when the Rangers play the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Former Petal High star Evans, a 25th-round pick by the Rangers in 2015, is a 6-foot-5, 265-pound right-hander with tantalizing stuff: an exploding fastball and sharp-breaking curve. “He’s going to come at you with a pretty good fastball—probably one of the best fastballs I’ve seen,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said in a Sports Illustrated story. Evans reportedly has been throwing well in the alternate camp. He had an exceptional 2019 season, split between high-A and Double-A. In 60 innings, he struck out 100 batters (with 39 walks) and posted a 0.90 ERA. Baseball America named Evans the closer on its all-classification minor league All-Star team. Having switched from starter to reliever during the 2017 season, he has averaged almost 14 strikeouts per nine innings over his pro career. … Considering the offensive struggles Cleveland has been experiencing, it’s a wonder the Indians haven’t given Bobby Bradley a call. The former Harrison Central High standout, who is in their alternate camp in Eastlake, Ohio, could add some thunder to a club that ranks near the bottom of the majors in runs and home runs. The lefty-hitting first baseman/DH has 147 homers over six minor league campaigns and has hit 27 or more in a season four times. He hit 33 at Triple-A Columbus last year, plus another during his brief big league stint. Scouting reports say the 24-year-old Bradley has power to all fields. Sports Illustrated noted earlier this year that the Indians “need to know if they have an MLB-ready first baseman waiting in the wings” to replace Carlos Santana next year. What better time to get a clue. The Indians have lost seven in a row and entered play today in third place, 6 games out, in the American League Central, clinging to the second wild card.
Good: OK, this was more like great. Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander out of Ole Miss, threw a complete-game two-hitter — at Coors Field, no less — to pace Texas to a 3-2 win Friday night against Colorado. Lynn (3-0, 1.11 ERA) struck out the side in the eighth inning and reportedly told manager Chris Woodward as he arrived in the dugout, “I’m finishing it.” He got Trevor Story (fly out), Charlie Blackmon (ground out) and Nolan Arenado (fly out) to end it, notching just his third career complete game and first since 2014 with St. Louis. Lynn threw 110 pitches, walked none and fanned six.
Bad: Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State standout, was pulled in the fifth inning of Milwaukee’s game at Wrigley Field after allowing six straight batters to reach as Chicago bolted to a 3-1 lead. Woodruff took a no-hitter into the fifth but suddenly lost command, yielding four hits, two walks and the three runs in the inning. It was the second straight abbreviated outing for Woodruff, who saw his ERA rise to 3.16. He got a no-decision as the Brewers’ bullpen and a three-run bomb by Christian Yelich bailed him out in a 4-3 Milwaukee victory.
Ugly: Southern Miss product Cody Carroll was recalled from Baltimore’s alternate site on Friday and was called on for mop-up duty in the regularly scheduled half of the twinbill against Washington. He got five outs but gave up six runs in the 15-3 loss. His ERA now stands at 54.00 in three appearances; he didn’t record an out in his 2020 debut last month and was charged with four runs. Oh, and he was sent back to the alternate site today.
The competition is stiff for jobs in the New York Yankees’ bullpen, but Jonathan Holder is holding his own. Former Mississippi State and Gulfport High star Holder worked a clean inning against the Mets on Sunday night, his fifth scoreless appearance in exhibition play dating back to spring training. The 27-year-old right-hander has allowed two hits and no walks with six strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. This could be a pivotal year for Holder, now in his seventh pro season. After contributing solid stuff in the Bronx in 2017 and ’18, he took some lumps last year and wound up being shipped out to the minors in mid-summer. He returned and ultimately finished with a 6.31 ERA, roughly double his number from 2018. Holder would seem to be a safe bet to make the Yankees’ 30-man opening roster, filling a middle relief role. But jobs will be hard to keep when that roster gets trimmed, first to 28, then 26. P.S. Ex-Petal High standout Demarcus Evans was sent to Texas’ alternate training site on Sunday, meaning he won’t make the roster for the Rangers’ opener. Evans, 23, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound right-hander, pitched in high-A and Double-A ball in 2019, putting up a 0.90 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 60 innings. His big league debut can’t be far off. … Also, Ole Miss product Henri Lartigue, a catcher, was removed from Philadelphia’s 60-man list of eligible players and is no longer in camp.
In the Texas Rangers’ final game at their former stadium, Globe Life Park, Lance Lynn beat the New York Yankees with a fairly dominating performance. It seems appropriate that the former Ole Miss standout would be picked for the first start at the Rangers’ new stadium, Globe Life Field, when their 2020 season begins on July 24. In a rehearsal for that plum assignment on Tuesday, Lynn worked six shutout innings in an intrasquad game, recording eight strikeouts and no walks while yielding just two hits. “It gets me ready for what I want to do to be ready for Opening Day and be full-go with no restrictions,” he said in an mlb.com piece. “I am right where I want to be.” In his first year with Texas in 2019, the right-hander went 16-11 with a 3.67 ERA and finished fifth in the American League Cy Young voting. At 6 feet 5, 250 pounds, he is a hard-throwing horse. He worked over 200 innings for the Rangers last year and finished fourth in the AL with 246 punchouts. A first-round supplemental draft pick by St. Louis in 2008, he left Ole Miss as the school’s all-time strikeout leader. In an eight-season MLB career – during which he has won a World Series ring and made an All-Star Game – the 33-year-old Lynn is 98-68 with a 3.59 ERA. Lynn is expected to get a couple more intrasquad starts before the July 24 main event against Colorado. “He’s in a great spot to let him hit the ground running and let him go,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward told the Dallas Morning News.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will open their season on July 23 at home against longtime rival San Francisco. There will be a national TV (ESPN) audience but – unfortunately — no people in the seats. Right fielder Mookie Betts isn’t the only thing new at Dodger Stadium for 2020. The old ballpark, which opened in 1958, has undergone a $100 million renovation under the direction of Jackson native Janet Marie Smith, the club’s Senior Vice President of Planning and Development. “It’s less of a renovation in an architectural sense,” she recently told lamag.com, “than it is a reimagining of how these buildings come together.” A new plaza beyond center field makes it a more fan-friendly, fan-accessible facility. All it needs now is some fans. The MLB All-Star Game was originally scheduled for Dodger Stadium this summer but will now be played at Chavez Ravine in 2022. Smith, a Mississippi State alumna elected to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame this year, also has worked directly on stadium projects at Camden Yards, Fenway Park and Turner Field and consulted on many others. Her work at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, which opened in 1992, spearheaded a new era in stadium design. The Boston Globe has described Smith as “the architect credited with saving Fenway Park.” P.S. MLB’s only new stadium, Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, will be formally unveiled on July 24 when the Rangers face Colorado. Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn is slated to start the game for Texas. … Atlanta’s newly named Truist Park (formerly Sun Trust Park) will host its first official game on July 29.
The expansion of MLB rosters for the 2020 season to 60 eligible players – 40-man roster members plus a taxi squad of 20 – might open the door for some Triple-A level players to get their first MLB opportunity. Mississippians who fall into that category include non-roster spring invitees such as Trent Giambroni (Cubs), Jack Kruger (Angels), Jacob Robson (Tigers) and Brent Rooker (Twins) along with Zac Houston (Tigers), Dalton Moats (Rays), Errol Robinson (Dodgers) and Bradley Roney (Braves). The 60-man rosters are to be announced by Sunday. … With 30 players to be active for the first two weeks of the season, the chances of Petal High product Demarcus Evans making Texas’ opening day roster would seem to be enhanced. Evans, 24, a hard-throwing reliever, made the 40-man for the first time this off-season but was optioned to the minors just before the shutdown. He has a 2.53 career ERA and has averaged 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings. … In addition to the MLB taxi squads, there is a tentative plan for a group of veteran free agents to play a short season of games in Nashville starting in late July. The Tennessean newspaper reported that Triple-A Nashville Sounds GM Adam Nuse has a list of about 70 free agents who might participate. Those players would provide another pool of talent for MLB teams to draw from down the stretch. Ole Miss products Zack Cozart and Chris Ellis and ex-Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star Tony Sipp are current free agents with big league experience. … Add former Southern Miss star Taylor Braley and Meridian CC alum Milton Smith II to the lengthy list of minor league players released in recent weeks. Braley, a right-hander from Hattiesburg, had a career ERA of 3.86 over three years in Miami’s system, having reached high Class A in 2019. Starkville native Smith batted .326 with 27 steals in two years in the low minors with the Marlins.
Ocean Springs High alum Garrett Crochet, the 11th overall draft pick out of Tennessee by the Chicago White Sox, has signed for a $4.5 million bonus. The 6-foot-6 left-hander was 10-9 with a 4.64 ERA and 13 saves over three seasons with the Vols, though he made just one appearance this spring. He joins fellow Mississippians Justin Foscue and Colt Keith in an odd sort of limbo: All signed up with no place to go. Foscue, the former Mississippi State standout, signed a reported $3.25 million deal last Friday with Texas, which drafted the infielder 14th overall on June 10. With no pro camps open – and no minor league season underway – Crochet, Foscue and Keith are limited to working out on their own. “My mindset is to wait for somebody to tell me what to do and then I will do it. I am not worrying about it too much,” Foscue told mlb.com. Foscue, one of the first of the 29 first-round picks to sign, was batting .321 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 16 games for the Bulldogs when the 2020 season was halted in mid-March. Former Biloxi High star Keith, a fifth-round pick by Detroit, signed last week for a $500,000 bonus.