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.”

26 Mar

big league chew

Bobby Bradley, the former Harrison Central High standout, will not be on Cleveland’s opening day roster, the team announced. Bradley was competing at first base this spring with the more experienced Jake Bauers. Bradley is hitting .303 in the Cactus League to Bauer’s .200, but Bauers is out of minor league options. Bradley, who played briefly in the majors in 2019, is not. Bradley has big-time power and no doubt will get to Cleveland sometime this season. … Though Minnesota has not named a starting left fielder, signs point to Brent Rooker, the Mississippi State product whose 2020 debut was curtailed by an injury. Rooker, batting .286 with a home run this spring, was in the lineup, in left and batting fifth, for today’s Grapefruit League game against Atlanta. Rooker’s competition is 29-year-old journeyman Kyle Garlick, another right-handed hitter who has four homers this spring. Rooker’s defense still needs polish, but the Twins, who made him the 35th overall pick in the 2017 draft, seem to love the thunder in his bat. “You’re looking for ways to get a guy like that in the lineup because you know he can do damage, you know he can be a very productive major league offensive player,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said in an mlb.com piece. “That’s something that we can say with some certainty and feel good about it.” … Outfielder Eloy Jimenez’s injury surely increases the chances that Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton will make the Chicago White Sox’s 26-man roster. The speedy outfielder is in camp on a minor league deal. … Ex-State standout Jonathan Holder, battling for a bullpen role with the Chicago Cubs, is on the shelf with a “pec injury” and may be on the injured list when the season starts. He put up an 8.10 ERA in four games this spring. The veteran right-hander was signed in December after five seasons with the New York Yankees, for whom he posted a 4.38 ERA in 157 games. He reportedly still has minor league options remaining. … The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation is accepting applications through April 23 for the 10-week Charley Pride Fellowship Program, an internship designed to promote diversity. The Grammy-winning Pride, a Sledge native who played minor league ball, was a part-owner of the Rangers for a time and was often around the team. A field at the team’s spring training complex bears his name. Pride died in 2020. … Zack Shannon, the former Delta State slugger, recently was released by Arizona. He hit .289 with 26 home runs in two seasons in the low minors. He blasted 50 homers — a school and state record 31 as a senior — in two years at DSU.

22 Mar

up in arms

Cody Reed, who was on the injured list during Tampa Bay’s run to the World Series last fall, is back on the bump this spring and looking sharp. The Northwest Mississippi Community College product from Horn Lake has retired all 12 batters faced over four appearances. “He looks totally healthy. He’s landing the breaking ball in the zone,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told mlb.com. Reed made only two appearances for the Rays after they acquired him from Cincinnati just before the trade deadline last year. The left-hander went on the IL with a finger injury. Reed was up and down from Triple-A to the Reds during his time (2015-20) in their system while also shuffling between starting and relieving. His career ERA is 5.33, but he’s better than that stat might suggest. He appears to be a lock for a spot in Tampa Bay’s bullpen. P.S. Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull is on Detroit’s injured list and away from the team in accordance with COVID-19 protocols. Turnbull, 4-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 2020, was a candidate to be the Tigers’ opening day starter, but the Detroit Free Press reports that he may not be cleared by the beginning of the season on April 1. “It’s getting more and more unlikely that he’s going to be able to do much between now and then, as of right now,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’ll see as we get toward the end of camp, if he’s available or not.” … Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz has been shut down by San Diego due to “left forearm tightness.” The left-handed reliever, who posted a 1.45 ERA in 20 appearances last season, is expected to return to action soon. … Justin Steele, the former George County standout, was optioned to the minors by the Chicago Cubs; the left-hander was briefly on the Cubs’ active roster last season but has not yet made his big league debut. … Arizona released Bradley Roney, the ex-Southern Miss star who had signed as a minor league free agent in the off-season.

17 Mar

spring flings

Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High standout, did not stay on the market for long. Released by Cleveland on Saturday, the 30-year-old outfielder signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. Judging from manager Tony La Russa’s comments, it sounds as if Hamilton has a good shot at making the White Sox’s major league roster. “His speed is a real weapon,” La Russa told mlb.com. “I’m anxious to put him through the paces and see how he looks this year.” A .241 career hitter with 305 steals, Hamilton has been on a whirlwind tour of late. Since 2018, he has been affiliated with eight different clubs: Reds (who drafted him in 2009), Royals, Braves, Giants, Mets, Cubs, Indians and now White Sox. … Minnesota has trotted out what is thought to be its opening day lineup in its last two Grapefruit League games and Mississippi State product Brent Rooker has been the left fielder. Rooker went 1-for-2 on Tuesday and is batting .412 with a home run this spring. He got 19 big league at-bats in 2020, hitting .316 with a homer, before a broken arm ended his season. The former SEC player of the year has 54 homers over three minor league campaigns. … Former Richton High standout JaCoby Jones hit his first homer of the spring for Detroit on Tuesday; he is batting .143 in 21 at-bats. The five-year veteran finished 2020 on the injured list with a broken hand. … Ex-Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl suffered an oblique injury on Monday and will start the season on Milwaukee’s IL, according to reports.

15 Mar

staying focused

If Adam Frazier is still a candidate for a trade, the ex-Mississippi State star has done nothing this spring but make himself more attractive. After a 2-for-3 effort in the Grapefruit League today, Frazier is 10-for-15 (.667) for Pittsburgh. The Pirates, regarded as one of the worst teams in MLB, likely could get a nice return for the lefty-hitting second baseman. Trade rumblings obviously haven’t affected Frazier. “I’ll be where my feet are and try to get better each day,” he told mlb.com at the start of spring training. “I’m in a position now to try to lead these guys, so I’ll do my best to do that.” Frazier, 29, has a .273 career average with 35 homers over five seasons and twice has been a Gold Glove finalist. He hit just .230 in 2020 but smacked seven homers in 58 games. … Frazier is one of three Mississippians, not including Ke’Bryan Hayes (Charlie’s son), in the Pirates’ camp this spring. Chris Stratton, a teammate of Frazier’s at MSU, has made three scoreless appearances this spring as he vies for a bullpen spot. He also has been rumored to be trade bait. Outfielder Anthony Alford, the oft-injured ex-Petal High standout, suffered a wrist contusion on Saturday but isn’t expected to be down long. Aiming to win the center field job, he is batting .385 with two homers. P.S. In the Pirates’ loss to Baltimore today, State product Jordan Westburg – a 2020 draftee recently invited to the Orioles’ camp – got his first hit in a big league uniform.

03 Mar

kudos to jucos

Jarrod Dyson, a 50th-round draft pick – yes, 50th — by Kansas City in 2006, is returning to his original team. The former Southwest Mississippi Community College star from McComb has agreed to a 1-year, $1.5 million contract with the Royals, per reports. The 2021 season will be Dyson’s 12th in the big leagues. The speedy outfielder, 36, who won a ring with the Royals in 2015, is a .246 career hitter with 256 stolen bases and good defensive skills. He last played in KC in 2016 and split last season between Pittsburgh and the Chicago White Sox. … When he officially joins the Royals, Dyson will be the fourth state junior college product on an MLB 40-man roster. Corey Dickerson, Tim Anderson and Cody Reed are the others. The state’s jucos have produced a healthy list of big leaguers over the years, the most accomplished of which is arguably Roy Oswalt, a Holmes CC alum who won 163 big league games, second-most all-time among Mississippi natives. If you were choosing an all-time MLB team of state juco alums, Oswalt would have to be the No. 1 pitcher. Dyson, Meridian CC’s Dickerson and Mississippi Gulf Coast CC’s Matt Lawton would be the outfielders. Meridian alums Paul Phillips (catcher), Tyler Moore (first base) and Jason Smith (second base) would join East Central CC’s Anderson (shortstop) and Northwest CC’s Bill Selby (third base) in the infield. Marcus Thames, another ECCC alum, would be the DH. On the bench: MGCCC’s Fred Lewis and Joey Butler, Itawamba CC’s Desmond Jennings, Pearl River CC’s Wendell Magee, Copiah-Lincoln CC’s Nook Logan and Delta CC’s Bobby Etheridge. Cliff Lee (MCC), Greg Hibbard (MGCCC), Tony Sipp (MGCCC), Chad Bradford (Hinds), Reed (NWCC), Mike Smith (Utica) and Mike DeJean (Delta) would fill out a solid pitching staff. P.S. Mississippi-connected players who have recently joined big league camps include ex-Mississippi State star J.T. Ginn (New York Mets), Ole Miss product Cooper Johnson (Detroit) and UM alum Errol Robinson (Cincinnati). Ginn, a second-round pick in 2020, is coming back from Tommy John surgery.

02 Mar

back with a bang

Anthony Alford, Brent Rooker and Bobby Bradley, each making a comeback of sorts, belted home runs in their spring training debuts on Monday. Alford, the former Petal High star, and Mississippi State product Rooker went yard in their first at-bat, while ex-Harrison Central standout Bradley waited until his second. Alford, whose 2020 season was ended by a broken elbow, was in Pittsburgh’s lineup as the DH and took Toronto’s Robbie Ray deep. Alford, expected to be the Pirates’ center fielder, reportedly is still building strength in his throwing arm. He played in just five games for the Bucs last summer after they claimed him on waivers from the Blue Jays. Rooker debuted in 2020 with Minnesota but played in only seven games (.316, one homer) before suffering a broken forearm when hit by a pitch. The big outfielder homered Monday off Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow (on a 98-mph pitch) and later added a sac fly. Rooker is trying to make the Twins’ roster as a reserve. Bradley, who made his MLB debut in 2019, did not play in 2020 and wasn’t at Cleveland’s alternate site for the summer. Contending for the Indians’ first base job, the lefty-swinging slugger mashed a homer off Kansas City’s Jake Kalish.

01 Mar

play ball

Nice start for Austin Riley in Atlanta’s spring training opener against Tampa Bay. The former DeSoto Central High standout, playing third base and batting third, went 2-for-3 with an RBI. The Braves are counting on Riley to produce at third base with more consistency in his third MLB season. He hit .239 with eight homers last year and had a big bomb in the postseason. His career numbers are .232 and 26. “The thing that is encouraging about Austin is all the way through, since he’s been a pro, he’s made adjustments and figured things out,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told reporters last week. “He’s gotten better every year.” … Ole Miss product Chris Ellis, in camp as a non-roster invitee, started that game for Tampa Bay and pitched a scoreless frame. Other spring debuts of note by Mississippians in the majors: Mitch Moreland got a hit in his first at-bat in an Oakland uniform. Hunter Renfroe went 0-for-2 in his first Boston appearance. Billy Hamilton, in the Cleveland lineup as the DH, went 0-for-1 with a walk and a run. Tim Anderson went 1-for-3 for the Chicago White Sox, and JaCoby Jones put up a 1-for-3 for Detroit. Jacob Lindgren registered two strikeouts in an inning of work for the White Sox. Ethan Small worked a clean inning and got a hold for Milwaukee. Grae Kessinger went 1-for-1 for Houston. Jacob Waguespack had a tough day for Toronto, yielding two home runs against the New York Yankees.

25 Feb

springing into it

Here are a few Mississippians to keep an eye on in MLB spring training:
Bobby Bradley likely will get every opportunity to earn the first base job for Cleveland. A lefty-hitting first baseman, the former Harrison Central High standout has 147 minor league homers and put up 33 in Triple-A in 2019, the last year he actually played a real game. He got 45 at-bats with the Indians in 2019 but wasn’t invited to the team’s alternate camp last summer. He’s 24. His prospect clock is running out. It’s time to break through.
Anthony Alford is due some good luck. The former Mr. Baseball (and Football) from Petal was handed the center field job in Pittsburgh last summer after being claimed on waivers from Toronto. In his fifth game, he broke his elbow crashing into an outfield wall. Alford was dogged by injuries during his years with the Blue Jays and has only 83 MLB at-bats on his ledger dating to 2017. He is penciled in as the Pirates’ center fielder for 2021. Fingers are crossed.
After four humdrum seasons with St. Louis, Mike Mayers thrust himself into the Los Angeles Angels’ bullpen plans for 2021 with a spectacular September. The ex-Ole Miss star posted a 0.98 ERA, two wins, two saves and a .113 batting average against in 14 appearances. He was named the American League’s reliever of the month. The right-hander, who has a 5.69 career ERA, will try to keep the good times rolling this spring – and beyond.
Nate Lowe has gone from the best team in the American League in 2020 to the worst, but it might be a good career move. Texas traded with Tampa Bay for the former Mississippi State standout with the express intention of making him their regular first baseman. In 219 at-bats spread over two seasons with the Rays, the lefty-hitting Lowe batted .251 with 11 homers. The Rangers are in the midst of a rebuild, and Lowe could be a key building block.
The 2021 season will be the eighth in pro ball for Justin Steele, the former George County High star drafted by the Chicago Cubs way back in 2014. The left-hander, now 25, has battled injuries over the years and appeared in just 80 minor league games. He pitched in the old Southern League in 2019 and spent 2020 in the Cubs’ alternate camp. He has a 3.62 career ERA. The Cubs reportedly like his stuff. He might contend for a rotation spot this spring.
P.S. Former Petal High standout Demarcus Evans is rehabbing a right lat strain and reportedly will not be ready to open the season with Texas. He is following a throwing program in camp. Evans, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, made his MLB debut last season, working four innings and allowing one run, a homer by Albert Pujols. … Mississippi State alum Dakota Hudson is in St. Louis’ camp as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. It’s possible though unlikely that he’ll pitch for the Cardinals in 2021. “Mentally, I’m waiting on September,” he told mlb.com. “I’m just trying to stay on pace to where that’s an opportunity to compete at the end of the year. Be available is the ultimate goal.” He has 19 wins in 40 starts over the last two seasons. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, who went to prep school in Florida, is in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ camp as a non-roster invitee. The 6-6 right-hander was a second-round pick by Toronto in 2019 and was traded last summer in the Ross Stripling deal.

22 Feb

taking names

Full squad workouts are under way in Florida and Arizona. Actual spring training games begin Sunday. Here’s a look at Mississippians in camp:

40-man roster members
Position players
Anthony Alford (Petal), Pittsburgh; Tim Anderson (East Central CC), Chicago White Sox; Bobby Bradley (Harrison Central), Cleveland; Corey Dickerson (Meridian CC), Miami; Adam Frazier (Mississippi State), Pittsburgh; JaCoby Jones (Richton), Detroit; Nate Lowe (MSU), Texas; Mitch Moreland (MSU), Oakland; Hunter Renfroe (MSU), Boston; Austin Riley (DeSoto Central), Atlanta; Brent Rooker (MSU), Minnesota
Garrett Crochet (Ocean Springs), Chicago White Sox; Demarcus Evans (Petal), Texas; Kendall Graveman (MSU), Seattle; Jonathan Holder (MSU), Chicago Cubs; Dakota Hudson (MSU), St. Louis (DL); Lance Lynn (Ole Miss), Chicago White Sox; Mike Mayers (Ole Miss), Los Angeles Angels; Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss), San Diego; Cody Reed (Northwest CC), Tampa Bay; Justin Steele (George County High), Chicago Cubs; Chris Stratton (MSU), Pittsburgh; Spencer Turnbull (Madison Central), Detroit; Jacob Waguespack (Ole Miss), Toronto; Bobby Wahl (Ole Miss), Milwaukee; Brandon Woodruff (MSU), Milwaukee

Non-roster invitees
Position players
Gavin Collins (MSU), Cleveland; Nick Fortes (Ole Miss), Miami; Justin Foscue (MSU), Texas; Trent Giambrone (Delta State) Chicago Cubs; Billy Hamilton (Taylorsville), Cleveland; Grae Kessinger (Ole Miss), Houston; Jack Kruger (MSU), Los Angeles Angels; Jacob Robson (MSU), Detroit
Ben Bracewell (MSU), Oakland; Cody Carroll (Southern Miss), Baltimore; Chris Ellis (Ole Miss), Tampa Bay; Jacob Lindgren (MSU), Chicago White Sox; Kirk McCarty (USM), Cleveland; David Parkinson (Ole Miss), Philadelphia; Ryan Rolison (Ole Miss), Colorado; Nick Sandlin (USM), Cleveland; Ethan Small (MSU), Milwaukee