01 Apr

spring cleaning

It certainly looks as if Bobby Bradley will open the season as Cleveland’s first baseman. How long he’ll hold the job isn’t so certain. Bradley, the former Harrison Central High star, had a poor second half in 2021 and has not perked up in spring training. “He’s not swinging the bat very well,” Guardians manager Terry Francona told cleveland.com in a story published Thursday, before Bradley got a couple of hits against Seattle in a Cactus League contest. “I don’t know (if) that means he won’t.” Bradley, 25, is batting .200 with no homers or RBIs this spring. He hit .208 with 16 homers and 99 strikeouts in 245 at-bats last season, his second stint in the majors. His minor league power numbers were impressive; the strikeout totals not so much. “It’s too early to give up on Bradley,” writes Terry Pluto for cleveland.com. But that time may come if things don’t change. … In that same Thursday game in Peoria, Ariz., Mississippi State alum Adam Frazier banged out two more hits as the Mariners’ new leadoff batter. Acquired from San Diego in the off-season, the All-Star second baseman is batting .474 this spring. Frazier is optimistic that Seattle’s 20-year postseason drought will end in 2022. “Take care of business each day and I think we’ll be there at the end,” he told seattlesports.com. P.S. After punching out the only batter he faced, Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet left a Chicago White Sox game Thursday with an apparent arm injury. The flame-throwing lefty reliever has a 2.08 ERA this spring and registered 14 holds with a 2.82 as a key bullpen piece for the ChiSox last season. … Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State star from Crystal Springs, is getting work at first base with Milwaukee, his new team. Renfroe had 16 outfield assists with Boston in 2021. … Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, a lefty reliever recovering from elbow surgery, will start the season on the 60-day injured list for San Diego.

27 Mar

a ray of sunshine

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.

25 Mar

present arms

Pitchers took center stage on Thursday in MLB spring training. Former Mississippi State and Wheeler High standout Brandon Woodruff, fresh off agreeing to a $6.8 million contract for 2022, made his Cactus League debut and promptly got knocked around by Arizona. The right-hander, an emergent ace for the Brewers, yielded six hits, a walk and four runs in three innings. “I don’t like to stink,” he said in a published report following the game, while noting that he was working on a new slider. … George County High product Justin Steele started for the Chicago Cubs against the Los Angeles Angels. The first batter he faced was Shohei Ohtani. “I was really looking forward to that, like last night I was thinking about that,” he told NBC Sports Chicago. Left-hander Steele walked Ohtani, walked one more batter in the frame but allowed nothing else in his two innings of work. After making his MLB debut last year, Steele is vying for a job in the rotation in 2022. … Ex-State star Jonathan Holder, in Cubs camp as a non-roster invitee, pitched one inning and gave up a game-winning homer to Taylor Ward. Holder had a 4.38 ERA over five seasons with the New York Yankees but missed virtually all of 2021 with a shoulder problem. … Ole Miss alum James McArthur, a newcomer to Philadelphia’s 40-man roster, worked against Pittsburgh and gave up three hits and a run in 2/3 inning in his second spring outing. … MSU product J.P. France, a non-roster pitcher in Houston’s camp, pitched a scoreless inning against Washington. P.S. Former Ole Miss standout Chris Ellis, recently re-signed as a minor leaguer by Baltimore, has yet to make his spring debut but is looking forward to that opportunity. The right-hander told baltimorebaseball.com he aims to “take care of business and earn my spot back.” He went 1-0 with a 2.15 ERA in seven games last season. … Madison Central High product Spencer Turnbull apparently is headed to salary arbitration with Detroit. The right-hander reportedly asked for $2.1 million for this season, and the team offered $1.325M. The arbitrator will chose one of the two figures. Turnbull threw a no-hitter last season before having Tommy John surgery that could force him to miss all of 2022. He is 11-25, 4.25 over four years with the Tigers.

22 Mar

big league chew

Billy Hamilton, the all-time leader in stolen bases among Mississippi natives in MLB, may get a chance to add to his impressive total in 2022, having signed a minor league contract with Seattle on Monday. The former Taylorsville High star, now 31, has played sparingly in recent seasons while bouncing from team to team to team. He doesn’t hit much (.240 career), but he can still run. He was 9-for-9 in steals for the Chicago White Sox last season and has 314 bags since his 2013 debut. And he can still go get it in the outfield; a diving catch he made in the rain last July was one of his all-time best. Don’t be surprised if Hamilton makes the roster with the Mariners, who have designs on the postseason this year. P.S. Corey Dickerson, the Meridian Community College native from McComb, made his St. Louis debut on Monday, going 1-for-2 with a walk as the DH and leadoff batter. Dickerson was a Mark McGwire fan growing up and is wearing Big Mac’s No. 25. The lefty hitter said in recent interviews that he plans to swing more for power this year. He hit just six homers in 336 at-bats in 2021 but has belted as many as 27 in a season (with Tampa Bay in 2017). … Texas beat Cleveland 25-12 Monday in a Cactus League game that lasted 4 hours, 17 minutes and “featured” 42 hits and 14 walks. Mississippi College alum Blaine Crim, playing for Texas, had one of the hits, ex-Mississippi State star Jack Kruger, also with the Rangers, drew one of the walks and Petal High product Demarcus Evans, one of the Rangers’ eight pitchers, allowed three walks and two runs.

19 Mar

name-dropping

Scanning big league box scores for names of local interest, we land on Tyreque Reed. The Houlka native and ex-Itawamba Community College star had another hit and RBI for Boston on Friday and is now 3-for-4 with four RBIs in two Grapefruit League games. Reed isn’t on the Red Sox’s 40-man roster and is down the depth chart at first base, but the 24-year-old slugger keeps making noise. Acquired by Boston from Texas in the 2020 Rule 5 draft, Reed had a productive first year with the Red Sox, batting .271 with 17 home runs and reaching Double-A. He carries a .278 career average with 58 homers in three-plus years. It’s always worth noting that he hit .500 as a sophomore at ICC. Other names of note from Thursday and Friday spring games: Ethan Small threw two hitless innings for Milwaukee against the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers. Nate Lowe homered for Texas; he was replaced at first base in that Friday contest by Blaine Crim, the Mississippi College alum who has been wearing out the minors (see previous posts). Grae Kessinger had a hit in two trips for Houston; J.P. France got knocked around (four runs in 1 2/3 innings) in that same game. Delvin Zinn had an RBI single for the Chicago Cubs, and Trent Giambrone — who made his big league debut last season — went 1-for-2 in that Thursday game. Jordan Westburg had a hit in two trips for Baltimore. Bobby Bradley, sporting the new Cleveland Guardians uniform, was 0-for-2. Adam Frazier went 0-for-1 with a walk in his first game in a Seattle uniform, and Hunter Renfroe was 0-for-2 with a walk in his Milwaukee debut. P.S. Kudos to Pearl River Community College for knocking off No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice in Baton Rouge on Friday. PRCC, currently ranked No. 3 in NJCAA Division II, is 15-5. West Harrison High product Tate Parker went 4-for-5 with four RBIs in the 10-5 win vs. LSU-E. … MSU alum Justin Foscue, now in Texas’ system, is the lone state product to make MLB Pipeline’s new list of the top 100 prospects in the minors. Foscue, who hit .275 with 17 homers and reached Double-A in his pro debut last summer, checked in at No. 89.

16 Mar

under the radar

Cody Reed, the former Northwest Mississippi Community College standout, has re-signed with Tampa Bay on a minor league deal and received an invitation to the Rays’ major league camp. Reed, 28, a left-hander who first arrived in the majors with Cincinnati in 2016, pitched in 12 games (3.72 ERA) in relief for Tampa Bay last season before being shut down by an arm injury that required surgery. He was dropped from the 40-man roster at season’s end. The Horn Lake product has a 5.22 career ERA in 65 games, most as a reliever. … Other non-roster players with Mississippi ties who have been invited to big league camps include Jonathan Holder (Mississippi State) with the Chicago Cubs, JaCoby Jones (Richton) with Kansas City, Jacob Robson (State) with Detroit, Bobby Wahl (Ole Miss) with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ethan Small (State) with Milwaukee, Grae Kessinger (UM) and J.P. France (State) with Houston and Kirk McCarty (Southern Miss) with Cleveland. More invite announcements are forthcoming as spring training games begin on Thursday. P.S. Former Ole Miss ace Gunnar Hoglund is one of the four young players traded by Toronto to Oakland in the Matt Chapman deal. Hoglund, recovering from Tommy John surgery last spring, was a first-round pick by the Blue Jays last summer. His pro debut could come later this season. Hoglund joins MSU product J.T. Ginn as a newcomer in the suddenly rebuilding A’s system.

10 Mar

here comes the sun

The deal is done. The MLB lockout is over. At long last, major league camps will be opening for spring training, reportedly as soon as Sunday. Here’s the list of Mississippians on 40-man rosters who’ll be headed to Florida and Arizona:
Hitters
Anthony Alford (Petal HS), Pittsburgh; Tim Anderson (East Central CC), Chicago White Sox; Bobby Bradley (Harrison Central HS), Cleveland; Nick Fortes (Ole Miss), Miami; Adam Frazier (Mississippi State), Seattle; Nate Lowe (MSU), Texas; Hunter Renfroe (MSU), Milwaukee; Austin Riley (DeSoto Central HS), Atlanta; Brent Rooker (MSU), Minnesota.
Pitchers
Garrett Crochet (Ocean Springs), Chicago White Sox; Demarcus Evans (Petal), Texas; Kendall Graveman (MSU), Chicago White Sox; Dakota Hudson (MSU), St. Louis; Lance Lynn (Ole Miss), Chicago White Sox; Mike Mayers (Ole Miss), Los Angeles Angels; James McArthur (Ole Miss), Philadelphia; Konnor Pilkington (MSU), Cleveland; Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss), San Diego; Ryan Rolison (Ole Miss), Colorado; Nick Sandlin (Southern Miss), Cleveland; Justin Steele (Lucedale), Chicago Cubs; Chris Stratton (MSU), Pittsburgh; Spencer Turnbull (Madison Central HS), Detroit; Brandon Woodruff (MSU), Milwaukee.
Free agents of note: Corey Dickerson (Meridian CC); Jarrod Dyson (Southwest CC); Chris Ellis (Ole Miss); Billy Hamilton (Taylorsville HS); Mitch Moreland (MSU); Cody Reed (Northwest CC).

22 Feb

making camp

While major league players remain locked out of spring training camps, minor leaguers are or soon will be working out and playing games in Florida and Arizona. This group includes a bundle of Mississippians at various stages of their pro careers, all trying to make an impression on the big league managers and coaches who are in camp. Here’s a sampling: In Detroit’s camp, former Mississippi State pitcher Zac Houston, 27, drafted back in 2016, is bouncing back from a shoulder injury that limited him to seven games in the low minors in 2021. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound right-hander reached Triple-A in 2018 and seemed on the cusp of a big league call. He has a career 2.35 ERA and strikeout stuff when he’s healthy. … Richton’s JaCoby Jones, cut loose by Detroit last year, is in Kansas City’s camp on a minor league deal, trying to resurrect his career. The outfielder, 29, batted .212 over six injury-marred seasons with the Tigers. … Former DeSoto Central High star Blaze Jordan might be the top power prospect in Boston’s system, but former Itawamba Community College standout Tyreque Reed has some pop that also has caught the eye of Red Sox brass. A right-handed hitting first baseman, the 24-year-old Reed has averaged 18 homers over the past three seasons and reached the Double-A level in 2021, his fourth pro year. … Will Bednar is in his first spring camp with San Francisco. The 14th overall pick last summer out of MSU, where the right-hander was a College World Series hero, he was impressive in four appearances in the low minors last season. … In the Texas Rangers’ camp, there’s Blaine Crim, a Mississippi College product who isn’t rated among the team’s top prospects but has done nothing but rake over his two pro seasons. A righty-hitting first baseman, he has a .314 career average with 37 homers and reached Double-A in 2021. He batted .402 in Puerto Rico this winter. … Colby White figures to get a lot of attention in Tampa Bay’s camp. The right-hander, 23, a 2019 draftee out of MSU, rose through four levels last summer, topping out at Triple-A, and finished with a 1.44 ERA. … Ex-Bulldogs ace Ethan Small, a Milwaukee farmhand, is also very close to making The Show, whenever that show might open. A first-round pick in 2018, he made it to Triple-A in 2021 and put up a 2.06 ERA in nine games there. … In Minnesota’s camp, ex-Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner, coming off an injury-interrupted 2021 season, hopes to build on a strong finish that carried into the Arizona Fall League. The lefty slugger, the 39th overall pick in 2019, hit 15 homers in High-A ball last summer and six more in the AFL. … In Baltimore’s camp, there are three Mississippi college products, each a rated prospect: MSU alum Jordan Westburg, USM’s Reed Trimble and Ole Miss’ Anthony Servideo.

11 Feb

on bright side

Former Southern Miss standout and onetime big leaguer Cody Carroll signed a minor league contract with San Francisco on Thursday, which means the 29-year-old right-hander knows what he’ll be doing later this month. Reporting to the Giants’ minor league spring training camp in Arizona. While major league players — 40-man roster members — remain in limbo during the lockout that threatens to stall the opening of big league camps and possibly even the 2022 season, it’ll be business as usual for minor leaguers, a small chunk of good news for baseball fans. There will be minor league exhibition games in March and regular season games in April. (The Mississippi Braves and Biloxi Shuckers both open on April 8.) There are 24 Mississippians on MLB 40-man rosters, including three who made the list for the first time this off-season: Ryan Rolison, Konnor Pilkington and James McArthur. The shutdown, if it drags on, is most unfortunate for them, as well as free agents seeking major league jobs such as Corey Dickerson and Mitch Moreland. Minor league deals might be the way to go for some free agents. Erstwhile big leaguers JaCoby Jones (signed with Kansas City) and Jonathan Holder (Chicago Cubs) have, like Carroll, gone that route. Others such as Billy Hamilton, Jarrod Dyson and Chris Ellis might follow suit, especially if Saturday’s negotiations don’t produce anything substantive. P.S. The Atlanta Braves’ World Champions Trophy Tour will hit Trustmark Park in Pearl on May 6; the M-Braves play that night. The tour will visit Dudy Noble Field in Starkville on May 7.

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.”