25 Sep

rounding third …

The 1-2 punch of Blaine Crim and Justin Foscue, a pair of Magnolia State college products, delivered again for Round Rock on Sunday and powered the Express into the Triple-A Pacific Coast League playoffs. Ex-Mississippi College star Crim went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs and Mississippi State alum Justin Foscue added a double and two RBIs as Round Rock, a Texas affiliate, beat Tacoma 11-6. The Express, winners of seven of their last nine, will tangle with Oklahoma City (Los Angeles Dodgers) for the PCL title. Crim hit .289 with 22 homers and 85 RBIs in his fourth pro season. Foscue, the Rangers’ sixth-rated prospect in his third season, batted .266 with 18 homers and 84 RBIs. … Biloxi High product Colt Keith went 1-for-5 for Triple-A Toledo to finish his 2023 season with a .306 average, 27 home runs and 101 RBIs. Detroit’s No. 2 prospect, Keith, 22, played at Double-A and Triple-A this season, his third in the minors. … Kudos to Rick Sweet, who was the Jackson Generals’ first manager in 1991-92, for becoming Triple-A Nashville’s all-time winningest skipper with 321 victories over four seasons. Nashville is a Milwaukee farm club; ex-MSU standout Ethan Small went 2-4 with a 3.18 ERA and three saves in 38 games for Sweet’s Sounds this year. … In the big leagues, James McArthur, former Ole Miss star, struck out Yordan Alvarez with the tying run on base to save Kansas City’s 6-5 win at Houston, the last-place Royals’ third straight win vs. the Astros. Combined with Texas’ sweep at Seattle, the Astros are now 2.5 games back of the first-place Rangers in the American League West. McArthur, a rookie, has a win and two saves vs. Houston in his last five appearances. He has not allowed a run in 10 September games. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn posted a third straight strong start (two runs in six innings) for the playoff-bound Dodgers, who beat San Francisco 3-2 in 10 innings. On the heels of a pair of bad outings, the 36-year-old Lynn has allowed just seven runs in 18 innings (3.50 ERA) in his last three; he is 6-2, 4.50, since the Dodgers acquired him at the trade deadline. Lynn has extensive postseason experience, having made 27 appearances since 2011.

18 Sep

found wanting

Cincinnati, feverishly chasing a wild card berth with two weeks left in the National League season, will do so without Hunter Renfroe, who has been designated for assignment. The former Mississippi State star was claimed off waivers by the Reds from the Los Angeles Angels in late August with the hope that he would add some thump to their lineup. He hit one homer in 39 at-bats, struck out 12 times and batted .128. Renfroe, 31, likely has played his last game of 2023 and will be a free agent after the season. He hit .242 with 19 homers and drove in 56 runs for the Angels this year and has 177 career bombs, ranking seventh all-time among Mississippi natives in the majors. Oddly enough, he has played for six different teams the past five seasons. The Reds (78-73) are a half-game back of third place in the NL wild card standings as they welcome Minnesota for a meaningful three-game series beginning tonight at Great American Ballpark. The Twins (79-71), the American League Central leader, saw their magic number for clinching reduced to 5 when Kansas City rallied to beat second-place Cleveland today. (Ole Miss product James McArthur pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first career save for the Royals.) Ex-Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner, who is hitting .409 over his last seven games and has 12 homers on the year, is in the Minnesota lineup, batting seventh at the hitter-friendly Cincy park.

17 Sep

have a month

It has been a September to remember for James McArthur. It took the former Ole Miss star six years to get to the majors and his debut back in June was a real clunker. But in six appearances this month for Kansas City — one of the worst teams in MLB – the 26-year-old right-hander has not allowed a run over 8 2/3 innings. On Saturday, he notched his first big league win, retiring all four batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings as the Royals upended Houston 10-8. The 6-foot-7 McArthur, who went 15-8 in three years in Oxford, was a 12th-round draft pick in 2018 by Philadelphia. He made the 40-man roster after the 2021 season but was designated for assignment in May of this year and then traded to Kansas City. He has pitched well in Triple-A but yielded seven runs in one inning in his big league debut on June 28. Recent results have been much more encouraging, to say the least. … Recent results for J.P. France, the Mississippi State alum who started for Houston on Saturday, have not been so positive. After a sensational start to his rookie campaign, France has a 6.69 ERA in his last seven games, though he has won three of them. He gave up five runs on Saturday before being knocked out in the fifth inning. He is 11-5, 3.84, in 23 games for the season. P.S. Three former Mississippi Braves pitchers got wins on Saturday, none of them working for Atlanta. Evan Phillips picked up the W in relief in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ division-clinching victory; Viktor Vodnik got a W in relief for Colorado in his second MLB game; and Touki Toussaint went five innings for the Chicago White Sox to beat Minnesota. … The Biloxi Shuckers lost to Montgomery at MGM Park, handing the Biscuits the second-half title in the Double-A Southern League South.

10 Sep

four of a kind

A shout-out to a quartet of Mississippians who delivered ace-worthy efforts on Saturday. In Triple-A, Jonathan Holder, ex-Mississippi State star from Gulfport, notched his first win of the season, throwing two scoreless relief innings for Salt Lake of the Los Angeles Angels’ organization. The 30-year-old Holder is still grinding, three years after he last pitched in a big league game. He has filled many roles for Salt Lake, making four starts and registering six holds and one save in four chances. He sits at 1-5 with a 5.55 ERA in 61 1/3 innings. Holder, once a key bullpen piece for the New York Yankees, spent a couple of injury-riddled years in the Chicago Cubs’ system before signing a minor league deal with the Angels this past off-season. Down in Low-Class A, Landon Harper, a Southern Miss alum from Meridian, notched his fifth save of the year, striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth, for Augusta in the Atlanta system. Harper, a 2022 draftee, is 6-3 with a 3.34 ERA in 31 relief appearances for the GreenJackets. In the big leagues, Lucedale native Justin Steele registered his 20th quality start of the season for the Cubs, throwing seven innings of one-run ball against Arizona in a battle of wild card contenders. Steele, 16-3 with a 2.49, got a no-decision in a game the faltering Cubs would lose in 10 innings at Wrigley Field. At Toronto, former Ole Miss standout James McArthur made his second MLB start — as an “opener” — for Kansas City and threw two clean innings against the Blue Jays, who scored four times against Zack Greinke over the next four innings. McArthur, who yielded seven runs in his MLB debut in June, has an 8.53 ERA in 10 games but hasn’t allowed a run in his last four appearances.

22 Aug

great timing

Brent Rooker hit a milestone home run on Sunday, his 20th of the season accounting for Oakland’s lone run in a 12-1 loss to Baltimore. On Monday, the ex-Mississippi State star hit a much more significant home run, No. 21 producing a walk-off 6-4 victory for the A’s over Kansas City at Oakland Coliseum. Not only that, the homer came just in time for Rooker and some teammates to scurry over to the Oakland Arena and catch the show by Rooker’s favorite country music star, Zach Bryan. Rooker even made an appearance on stage with Bryan, who was performing before a crowd quite a bit larger than the 3,095 who watched the two worst teams in baseball fight to the finish on Monday. It has been a roller coaster of a season for Rooker, who joined the A’s as an off-season waiver claim from the Royals. He ht .358 with nine homers in April, which earned him an appearance on MLB Network’s MLB Central show and propelled him to his first All-Star Game nod. There have been a lot of struggles since then, but Rooker’s bat has perked up recently. He is hitting .346 over his last seven games. “Swing and approach-wise, I feel pretty solid,” he said. Rooker, batting .245 with 53 RBIs, and many of his teammates may be vying for 2024 jobs with the lowly A’s, who are 35-90. … Rooker stands second on the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby chart to Austin Riley, who has 29 this season. Hunter Renfroe is at 18, Nathaniel Lowe at 15, Adam Frazier at 13 and Matt Wallner at nine.

17 Jul

remember that guy …

Drew Waters had a season for the ages in 2019 with the Mississippi Braves, winning the Southern League batting title and taking MVP honors. Only four Jackson area Double-A players have earned an MVP award, the others being Darryl Strawberry, Gregg Jefferies and Roberto Petagine, all in the Texas League era. A true five-tool player and switch-hitter, Waters batted .319 with five homers, 41 RBIs, 63 runs, 35 doubles, nine triples and 13 stolen bases in 2019. Then he sort of faded away. Squeezed out in the talent-thick Atlanta system, the outfielder was traded to Kansas City in July of last year. Now in his second big league stint with the Royals, Waters is starting to make some noise. He went 2-for-4 Sunday with a 465-foot homer, a triple and two RBIs to help the awful Royals (27-67) beat first-place Tampa Bay 8-4 at Kauffman Stadium. Waters started the 2023 season on the injured list and scuffled when he first returned. But he has hit .319 over his last 15 games to boost his average to .252. He has four homers and 14 RBIs in 40 games. He might be a smart pick to click down the stretch. P.S. Cristian Pache, another former M-Braves standout, has had his resurgent season with Philadelphia interrupted by elbow surgery to have a screw removed. He previously had knee surgery this year. A onetime top Atlanta prospect, Pache is batting .327 in 32 games for the Phillies, his third MLB team. … Jake Mangum, former Mississippi State and Jackson Prep star still seeking his first big league call-up, is batting .333 in July and .293 overall at Triple-A Jacksonville in Miami’s chain. He hit his third homer on Sunday and now has 32 RBIs plus nine steals on the year. … Ole Miss alum Tim Elko belted his second homer and first grand slam at High-Class A Winston-Salem in the Chicago White Sox’s system and is batting .294 in 13 games at this new level. He hit .297 with 17 homers at Low-A Kannapolis. … The White Sox have signed former Ole Miss star Jacob Gonzalez, their first-round draft pick, for a $3.9 million bonus.

28 Jun

small steps

The good news on Brandon Woodruff is that the Mississippi State alum threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday following a similar session on Saturday. What remains uncertain is when the 30-year-old right-hander might come off the injured list and rejoin the Milwaukee rotation. “I have to get to a certain point where I get the pitch count up,” the ex-Wheeler High star told mlb.com. “Once I get to live BPs, that determines the speed of how this thing will go.” So, maybe late July? Woodruff has been out since April 11 with a shoulder injury. He had a 0.79 ERA in his two starts of 2023. The Brewers are second in the soft National League Central, a half-game back of Cincinnati, but almost certainly need a healthy Woodruff to stay in playoff contention. He is a two-time All-Star who is 42-25 with a 3.14 ERA since he arrived in the majors in 2017. He has a 3.18 ERA in eight postseason appearances from 2018-21. … Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull (neck injury) has begun throwing sessions but no timetable has been reported for his potential return to Detroit. After missing all of 2022 following Tommy John surgery, he was 1-4, 7.26, this season before being shut down on May 13. P.S. Ole Miss product James McArthur, called up by Kansas City on June 24, has yet to make his MLB debut. The 6-foot-7 righty had a 4.87 ERA at Triple-A Omaha after being acquired in a trade with Philadelphia. … Former Biloxi High star Colt Keith is expected to make his Triple-A debut today for Toledo (Detroit system) at Columbus. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Tim Elko is expected to make his High-Class A debut today for Winston-Salem (Chicago White Sox) at Aberdeen.

25 Jun

pouring it on

Making his first start at first base for the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night at Colorado, Hunter Renfroe made a nice play to start a double play and end the first inning. Then the former Mississippi State standout celebrated with a single to lead off the second inning. The party at Coors Field was just getting started. Renfroe went 5-for-5 with a walk as the Angels set franchise records for hits (28) and runs in a 25-1 rout of the Rockies. Mickey Moniak also had five hits and four other Angels had at least three. “(H)itting gets contagious sometimes,” Angels manager Phil Nevin told mlb.com in one of the season’s great you-don’t-say statements. Renfroe hit a three-run double in the club record-tying 13-run third inning. He finished with four RBIs and three runs. His career day raised his average to .261. Normally the team’s right fielder, Renfroe is batting .281 over his last 15 games, though he has been stuck on 12 homers since June 13. The Angels (42-36) have climbed past Houston into second place in the American League West. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout James McArthur got his first big league call-up Saturday with Kansas City but did not pitch. McArthur, 26, traded from Philadelphia to the Royals in May, has a 4.87 ERA in 12 appearances at Triple-A Omaha. … Ex-Rebels star Mike Mayers, a big league vet, was assigned by the Royals to Omaha last week after a rough stint in the majors. He got a hold in his return to Triple-A on Friday. … Former MSU ace Ethan Small went on the injured list Saturday at Triple-A Nashville (Milwaukee system). The former first-rounder has a 3.46 ERA in the minors this season and made one wobbly appearance with the Brewers. … Houston Harding, who got into pro ball as an undrafted free agent in 2021, made his Double-A debut Saturday for Rocket City in the Angels’ system. The left-hander, who won seven games for MSU’s 2021 national title team, allowed a three-run homer but fanned five in 2 2/3 innings vs. Montgomery. He had a 1.32 ERA in A-ball before his promotion. A Coldwater native, Harding was a strikeout machine at Itawamba Community College before signing with MSU. … Landon Sims, one of the heroes of State’s ’21 championship team, made his pro debut this month and has pitched in four games, allowing no runs, in rookie ball for Arizona. Sims was the 34th overall pick last summer after missing most of the ’22 season at State with an elbow injury.

18 Jun

nice comebacks

In his first outing in 17 days, after an impatient stay on the injured list, Justin Steele carved up the Baltimore Orioles for the better part of five innings Saturday and earned his seventh win of the year for the Chicago Cubs. “Good to be back on the saddle,” the ex-George County High star said on Twitter. Indeed. Steele went on the IL on May 31 with left forearm tightness. He said in an mlb.com article that the tightness subsided quickly and he felt fine during the IL stint, eager to get back on the bump. “I was never worried about it,” he said. At Wrigley Field on MLB Network on Saturday, he blanked the Orioles for 4 2/3 innings before an Adley Rutschman homer tied the score at 2-2. Steele got the last out of the fifth, the Cubs went ahead in the bottom half and held on for a 3-2 win. Steele, who threw 74 pitches, improved to 7-2 with a 2.71 ERA, third-best in the National League. … Kansas City rallied from a late 8-2 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Angels 10-9 on Saturday, saving Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers from another humbling defeat. Mayers, making his sixth appearance and second start since being brought up from Triple-A, allowed six runs (three homers) in five-plus innings. Mayers is 1-2 with a 6.15 ERA. The veteran right-hander, who signed as a minor league free agent with the Royals in the off-season, has allowed 16 runs in his last three appearances and took L’s in the previous two. His roster status might be shaky. P.S. Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College standout, left the White Sox’s game with a shoulder injury. Dropped from the top spot in the order to No. 2, he was 0-for-1 with a walk before his exit. His replacement in the lineup, rookie Zach Remillard, went 3-for-3 and drove in the winning run in Chicago’s 4-3, 11-inning victory over Seattle.

13 Jun

speed demon

The highest grade scouts give prospects for a specific tool is 80. Emaarion Boyd got a 70 for his “run” tool, and the ex-South Panola High standout is showing it off in his first full pro season. An 11th-round draft pick last summer by Philadelphia, Boyd leads the Low-Class A Florida State League in stolen bases with 33. He swiped six in one game last week. The 5-foot-11, 177-pound center fielder also has produced with his bat, hitting .268 with five extra-base hits and 14 RBIs for Clearwater. Boyd has scored 31 runs in 40 games for the Threshers, who stand 40-16 and already have clinched a first-half division title. Boyd is rated as the Phillies’ No. 12 prospect. The mlb.com scouting report highlights his ability to put the ball in play — he hit .345 in rookie ball in 2022 — and projects that he’ll get stronger and add power to his game. The speed will always be there. P.S. Magee’s Brennon McNair, an 11th-round pick in 2021 by Kansas City, also has flashed eye-catching speed this season. Playing at Low-A Columbia in the Carolina League, McNair has 15 steals in 16 attempts. The third baseman is batting just .209 but has a homer, four doubles and four triples. … James Beard, considered one of the fastest players in the 2019 draft coming out of Loyd Star, has been stalled by injuries in the Chicago White Sox’s system. He swiped 28 bags in A-ball in 2022 but hasn’t played yet this season. … Billy Hamilton, probably the fastest player to come out of the Magnolia State, is on a rehab assignment for the White Sox at Triple-A Charlotte. The former Taylorsville High star, 32, is Mississippi’s all-time MLB steals leader with 326, two this year. He has 405 in the minors, three this year.