30 Nov

rivalry renewed

Ryan Rolison and Ethan Small currently are polishing their pitching skills — and renewing their college rivalry — in the Dominican Winter League after finishing last season in Triple-A. When next we see these highly rated prospects in the States, they might just be rivals in the major leagues. Rolison, a left-hander out of Ole Miss, recently was added to Colorado’s 40-man roster; he’ll go to spring training vying for a rotation spot. Small, a lefty out of Mississippi State, likely will go to Milwaukee’s spring camp as a non-roster invitee with a real shot at making the club. Both have pitched exceedingly well in the DWR. Rolison, who had an injury-riddled 2021 minor league campaign, is 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA in five starts for Licey with 24 strikeouts in 20 innings. Small had a 1.98 ERA between Double-A Biloxi and Triple-A Nashville and has carried that stuff into the winter season, going 2-1, 1.80 over five starts for Escogido.

28 Oct

a mississippi moment

The Boston Red Sox, cursed for so many years, won their second World Series in a four-year span on this date in 2007, and the four-game sweep ended with a faceoff between two Mississippi college alums. Mississippi State product Jonathan Papelbon struck out ex-Ole Miss star Seth Smith for the final out of the Red Sox’s 4-3 win against Colorado in Game 4 at Coors Field. Though both would play on for many more years, that moment marked the last World Series appearance for either. Smith, a Jackson native and Hillcrest Christian grad, was a rookie in 2007, having gotten just eight at-bats (five hits) during the regular season. The lefty-hitting outfielder retired after the 2017 season with a .261 career average and 126 homers. Papelbon was in his third MLB campaign in 2007; he notched 37 saves that season and saved the last three games of the ’07 Series. He finished his career in 2016 with 368 saves, currently 10th on the all-time list. Papelbon and Smith, who had faced each other during their college days, met just twice more in the majors after the ’07 moment. Papelbon got Smith in a 2010 Red Sox-Rockies game, and Smith doubled off Papelbon in a 2014 San Diego-Philadelphia contest. A footnote: Papelbon’s glove from the ’07 Series went to the National Baseball Hall of Fame; the ball from the final out, strangely enough, was chewed up by Papelbon’s dog. P.S. Ex-MSU standout Kendall Graveman pitched a clean ninth inning Wednesday night for Houston in his first career World Series appearance. The last few years have been quite a roller-coaster for Graveman. He missed part of 2018 (with Oakland) and all of 2019 (with the Chicago Cubs) after Tommy John surgery, then missed time in 2020 (with Seattle) because of complications from a benign bone tumor in his neck. He moved from starter to the bullpen after that and moved from Seattle to Houston in a jolting trade in July.

08 Sep

rocky road

Yes, it’s been quite a summer for Ryan Rolison, the former Ole Miss star. And not in a good sense. The left-hander, a hot prospect in Colorado’s minor league system, had earned a promotion to Triple-A Albuquerque back in May. The big leagues were in sight. But in June, just as he was settling in with the Isotopes, he suffered appendicitis and had to have his appendix removed. Later that month, working out while still on the injured list, he broke his left hand. He finally returned to Albuquerque’s rotation on Aug. 27. In three starts, he has allowed 15 runs in 12 2/3 innings. On Tuesday night, at Oklahoma City, opposed by rehabbing big leaguer Clayton Kershaw, Rolison cruised through two innings, battled through a scoreless third, but hit a wall in the fourth. He was pulled after allowing three runs, leaving with the bases loaded. Reliever Jake Bird then gave up a grand slam. Rolison’s line: 3 2/3 IP, 7 hits, 2 walks, an HBP, 6 runs and 4 strikeouts. For the season at Albuquerque, he is 1-2, 7.56 ERA. Rated the Rockies’ No. 3 prospect, the former first-round pick stood a good chance of making his MLB debut in 2021 before the summer setbacks. That’ll probably have to wait until year. He certainly seems to have the tools for success. “Rolison needs to continue to trust his stuff and be aggressive with it,” says the MLB Pipeline scouting report. P.S. Ex-Southern Miss star Matt Wallner, now at High-A Cedar Rapids in Minnesota’s chain, hit a grand slam Tuesday as part of a three-hit night. Wallner, the 39th overall pick in 2019 and the Twins’ No. 14 prospect, is batting .260 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound right fielder slumped in August after a strong July but may be poised for a finishing kick.

07 Aug

coming attractions

Ryan Rolison, the former Ole Miss standout, remains the highest-rated Mississippi product in the minors in MLB Pipeline’s post-trade deadline prospect rankings. Rolison, a 2018 first-round pick, is still No. 2 in Colorado’s system. The left-hander is currently on the injured list at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he is 1-0 with a 3.48 ERA in three starts. He was 2-1, 3.07 in Double-A. Two of the ranked prospects, Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker (12, Minnesota) and George County High alum Justin Steele (29, Chicago Cubs), already have played in the big leagues. Who’ll be next up? Maybe Rolison, or maybe Ethan Small, the ex-MSU star who is rated No. 4 in Milwaukee’s system. He also is currently on the IL at Triple-A Nashville. Two more state products appear in the Brewers’ Top 30: catcher/first baseman Thomas Dillard, a UM alum (21), and outfielder Joe Gray (30) from Hattiesburg. MSU product J.T. Ginn is the New York Mets’ No. 5 prospect, but the righty pitcher is in A-ball in his first pro season. Justin Foscue, the former Bulldogs second baseman, is Texas’ No. 5 but is also in A-ball (and flourishing) as a first-year pro. Other ranked Magnolia Staters: Jared Johnson (27, Atlanta); Jordan Westburg (6, Baltimore); Anthony Servideo (23, Baltimore); Blaze Jordan (10, Boston); James Beard (20, Chicago White Sox); Colt Keith (16, Detroit); Grae Kessinger (13, Houston); Kendall Williams (18, Los Angeles Dodgers); Matt Wallner (13, Minnesota); Jake Mangum (30, Mets); Brady Feigl (28, Oakland); James McArthur (28, Philadelphia); and Tyler Keenan (23, Seattle). … None of the 2021 draft picks – and there were 12 from the state, including first-rounders Will Bednar and Gunnar Hoglund – have been slotted into the rankings yet.

29 May

that’s progress

After a rocky Triple-A debut, Ryan Rolison bounced back Friday night with a strong second effort, notching his first win for Albuquerque. The former Ole Miss star, a first-round pick by Colorado in 2018, went five innings, allowed five hits and one run with seven strikeouts in a 4-1 victory against Sugar Land. Rolison, a lefty, was 2-1 with a 3.07 ERA in three starts at Double-A Hartford. He made a good impression in spring training with the Rockies and might be looking at a call-up this summer. Colorado seemingly always needs pitching help, though it takes a special something to succeed at Coors Field. Maybe Rolison has it. … Bobby Wahl, another UM product, took a step toward getting back to the big leagues on Friday. The veteran right-hander, 29 and in his ninth pro season, picked up a win with a clean inning of relief for Triple-A Nashville in Milwaukee’s system. The injury-prone Wahl has been on the injured list all season. He made his first rehab appearances for Double-A Biloxi and now has a 4.91 ERA in four games with the Sounds. He has 17 MLB appearances on his ledger.

29 Mar

ready for duty

Former Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison got his first Cactus League start today, worked three innings and likely made a good final impression. The left-hander, a 2018 first-round pick who is not yet on the 40-man roster and won’t break camp with the big club, allowed two walks, a hit and a run in the first inning against San Diego but sailed through the next two. He finished his spring with a 5.19 ERA and eight strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings over four games. He is generally rated among the team’s top two or three prospects and may get the big league call before the season is very old. “I’ve done a lot of work cleaning up some mechanical delivery things, and I feel my stuff is ready to play in the big leagues and I’m confident in my stuff,” Rolison said in an mlb.com story early in camp. “I’m ready to make an impact.” He has posted an 8-9 record with a 3.94 in his two minor league seasons and spent last summer in the Rockies’ alternate camp. … Drew Pomeranz, another former Ole Miss standout and first-round pick (2010), pitched an inning for the Padres and struck out the side. He did not allow a run and fanned nine in his four spring appearances. The veteran left-hander, 32, will be a key piece in San Diego’s bullpen. “I don’t care when I pitch,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m here to help the team win. … They want me to close, that’s fine. They want me to pitch the sixth, seventh, eighth, that’s fine, too.”

05 Nov

getting close

Ryan Rolison did not make it to the big leagues this season, but it’s a safe bet the ex-Ole Miss star will get the call in 2021. The 6-foot-2 left-hander, a 2018 first-round pick and Colorado’s No. 2-rated prospect, was in the Rockies’ alternate camp during the 2020 season. In a recent milb.com assessment of the Rockies’ minor league system, Rolison was pegged as “the next big thing.” “So he took steps in the right direction toward a major league career here at some point over the next year-ish,” Colorado assistant GM Zach Wilson said in the story. “When that happens, I don’t know, but he’s got himself closer to that over the last year.” Rolison, projected as a big league starter, throws four pitches and has demonstrated good command in pro ball: 132 strikeouts and 40 walks in 131 innings. He is 8-8 with a 4.40 ERA after finishing the 2019 season in the high-A California League. The Tennessee native was 16-7, 3.50 during two standout years in Oxford. Rolison will likely go to spring training to compete for a spot in a rotation that needs help after Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez and Kyle Freeland. … Three Magnolia State products made their MLB debut in 2020: Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker, ex-Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet and Petal High’s Demarcus Evans. P.S. Washington has re-signed Ole Miss product Aaron Barrett to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Barrett, who has a career 4.01 ERA, pitched in two games this season.

14 Aug

powering up?

One of the ironies of Tampa Bay’s strong start – the Rays (12-8) just put up 42 runs in a four-game sweep at Boston – is that Hunter Renfroe, acquired for his power, hadn’t provided a whole lot before flexing some on Thursday. The former Mississippi State star hit two bombs in the 17-8 rout, his first homers since July 27. After going 4-for-11 in two starts at Fenway Park, Renfroe is batting .200 with four homers and 14 RBIs on the season. He picked up five of his RBIs in the Red Sox series. Both of Renfroe’s homers on Thursday were impressive, one to right-center, the other yanked way over the Green Monster in left. “It’s pretty cool,” Renfroe said, in an mlb.com story, about clearing the Monster. “Obviously this is a historic field and a beautiful field, just to kind of check that off my home run list of stadiums to hit one (in) is pretty cool.” He hit 89 homers in three-plus years with San Diego. He’s about due to go off. The Rays play Toronto in Buffalo this weekend. There were eight homers at Sahlen Field, the converted minor league facility, on Wednesday. P.S. Chad Smith, drafted by Miami out of Ole Miss in 2016, has been traded to Colorado and will move from the Marlins’ alternate training site to the Rockies’. He’s not going on the 40-man roster. Smith, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, went 4-4 with a 4.22 ERA in his one year in Oxford after transferring from an Alabama juco. He has a 4.46 ERA in four minor league seasons, reaching Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League last year.

15 Jul

call to arms

Three Mississippians, all left-handed pitchers, were added to MLB 60-man rosters on Tuesday. The Chicago White Sox invited 2020 first-round draftee Garrett Crochet of Ocean Springs and onetime big leaguer Jacob Lindgren of Biloxi to their satellite camp in Schaumberg, Ill. Justin Steele, a former George County High star from Lucedale, was added to the Chicago Cubs’ pool of 2020 eligible players and will report to their secondary camp in South Bend, Ind. Crochet, who signed for $4.5 million as the 11th overall pick out of Tennessee, isn’t likely to make his big league debut this summer, but nothing is out of the question in this most unusual season. “Garrett is a talented player, but the focus is truly just to get his foot in the door here and get around our guys, and we’ll go from there,” White Sox farm director Chris Getz told reporters. “With talented players like himself, I hate to rule anything out.” Lindgren, a former Mississippi State star, was a second-round pick in 2014 by the New York Yankees and reached the majors in 2015. He has battled arm injuries ever since, though he put up a 1.53 ERA in 12 games in high-A ball last season. Steele, a fifth-round pick by the Cubs in 2014 and a member of their 40-man roster, also has had arm troubles. He has a 3.62 career ERA but posted a 5.59 in 11 starts at Double-A in 2019. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Ryan Rolison, a 2018 first-rounder who is on Colorado’s 60-man list, drew praise from Rockies manager Bud Black after an outing in the main summer camp last weekend. “This guy knows how to pitch; he can change speeds,” Black told mlb.com. “He’s got two secondary pitches that I think will play in the big leagues, (and) he’s got enough fastball.” Rolison, a lefty, pitched in high-A last season.

22 May

very presidential

There was a reference to Jermaine Van Buren in the wind of the internet today. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, a seamhead of great renown, compiled an All-Presidential team in honor of a visit he made to the White House on this date in 2006. On a 25-man roster with the likes of Gary Carter, Homer Bush, Lou Clinton, Dan Ford and J.J. Hoover was – ta da — Jermaine Van Buren, the former Hattiesburg High star who pitched in 16 MLB games in 2005-06. Van Buren, no relation to the eighth president, Martin, was a dominant prep pitcher (21 strikeouts in one seven-inning game) and a second-round draft pick by Colorado in 1998. He stalled in the Rockies’ system, revived his career in the indy Central League and finally made the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs. He got his lone win with Boston in ’06, finishing up with a 9.00 ERA. Van Buren pitched in various leagues, including China, until 2010.