08 Jul

playing pepper

Matt Wallner, recalled to the big leagues by Minnesota on Sunday, got a hit and a walk and made a sweet catch in left field in the Twins’ 3-2 win over Houston. Southern Miss alum Wallner, hitting .259 with 19 homers in Triple-A, had two hits — a double and a home run — in 25 at-bats in his April stint with the Twins. … Former Biloxi High star Colt Keith banged out two more hits for Detroit in a 5-1 win at Cincinnati and has nine knocks — three homers — in his last five games. The rookie second baseman is up to .244 on the season. … Ex-Mississippi State star Adam Frazier came off the injured list and hit leadoff for Kansas City on Sunday. Alas, he was 0-for-4, dropping his average to .205, though the Royals beat Colorado 10-1. … MSU product Dakota Hudson, designated for assignment by Colorado, had a rough go this season, his first with the Rockies: 2-12, 5.84 ERA. He was especially bad at Coors Field, where many pitchers suffer: 0-6, 8.26 ERA, .359 opponents batting average. He had a 3.72 road ERA. The former first-round pick (by St. Louis) is 40-32, 4.15, for his MLB career. At 29, he might still have something left. … The hit watch continues for Grae Kessinger, the former Ole Miss star recently recalled by the Astros from Triple-A. The seldom-used Kessinger is 0-for-3 since his return and 0-for-14 on the year for Houston. He was batting .283 at Sugar Land. … Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College standout, cleared waivers and was formally released by Miami. There have been no reports of interest from other teams in the former batting champ, a .278 career hitter who tumbled to .214 this season.

06 Jul

change in the wind?

The zero is gone. Maybe the luck has changed, too. Justin Steele, the lefty from Lucedale, winless in 12 starts this season for the Chicago Cubs, got on the board Friday and did it in emphatic fashion. Steele threw a two-hitter at the Los Angeles Angels in a 5-1 victory at Wrigley Field. He walked two, fanned seven. He threw just 95 pitches, only four in locking down the W in the ninth inning. It was Steele’s first career complete game in 76 starts over four seasons. As he jogged to the mound for the ninth, the p.a. played his walk-out song, Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” and the Wrigleyville crowd got loud. “It was a special moment. Something I’ll never forget,” Steele said in an mlb.com piece. Steele won 16 games for the Cubs in 2023 and made the All-Star Game. The George County High product got hurt in the season opener this year, went on the injured list and endured nothing but tough luck after his return — before Friday, that is. He is now 1-3 despite a 2.95 ERA. Today at Wrigley there is a Justin Steele bobblehead giveaway. Talk about good timing. … Steele’s complete game was the first by a Mississippi native in MLB since Brandon Woodruff tossed one on Sept. 11 of last year. There were none in 2022. For the record — and as an indicator of how the game has changed — the career mark for complete games by a Mississippian is 188 by Claude Passeau (1935-47). Guy Bush (1923-45) posted 151. Roy Oswalt (2001-13) had 20. P.S. From all indications, Colt Keith has found his power midway through his rookie season. The former state player of the year from Biloxi High hit two 400-foot home runs Friday for Detroit, fueling a 5-4 win at Cincinnati. Lefty hitter Keith, 6 feet 2, 211 pounds, now has seven bombs on the year, four in his last 15 games. He didn’t hit his first MLB homer until May 24. A fifth-round pick in 2020, Keith hit 38 homers over his three minor league seasons.

23 Jun

tiger tales

Any conversation about the greatest major league teams of all-time has to include the 1984 Detroit Tigers, who started 35-5 en route to 104 wins and went 7-1 in the postseason to claim the World Series title. The “Bless You Boys” team, celebrating its 40th anniversary this season, was managed by Sparky Anderson and led by an array of stars, including a pair of Mississippi natives who were key cogs in the stacked lineup. Jackson native Chet Lemon played center field, led the American League in fielding percentage (.995) and hit .287 with 20 homers, 76 RBIs, 34 doubles, six triples and 77 runs. Sunflower native Larry Herndon, also a good defender, played left field and batted .280 with seven homers, 43 RBIs and 52 runs. Jack Morris was the ace of the staff, but closer Willie Hernandez, acquired from Philadelphia late in spring training, won both the AL Cy Young and MVP awards. The regular lineup featured — in addition to Lemon and Herndon — Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish and Darrell Evans. Signed as a free agent in the off-season, the 37-year-old Evans said, “I picked Detroit because it’s a hungry city and I’m hungry, too. I want that ring on my finger.” Street & Smith’s preseason magazine picked the Tigers to run second to Baltimore in the AL East. They never spent a day out of first place. The Tigers won their opener 8-1 against Minnesota with Lemon getting a triple and scoring a run and Herndon picking up a hit and an RBI. They started 9-0 and 16-1 and fairly coasted to the division title. They blew through Kansas City 3-0 in the ALCS and beat San Diego 4-1 in the Series. Lemon went 5-for-17 with an RBI and two steals against the Padres. Herndon went 5-for-15, including a go-ahead homer in Game 1, and caught the final out of Game 5 in left field. It was the only ring either of them won in lengthy careers, and Detroit hasn’t won a World Series since then either. P.S. The current Tigers team, picked by some to win the AL Central, got off to a hot start but has faded of late. And there is a Mississippian on the team: Second baseman Colt Keith, the former Biloxi High standout — and the state’s Gatorade player of the year in 2019 — who got the big contract this year before ever playing an MLB game.

18 Jun

eye on …

Patrick Lee, former William Carey University standout, took a winding road to reach affiliated baseball. Currently playing outfield — and faring well — for the Low-Class A Lakeland Flying Tigers, Lee wasn’t drafted out of high school — Resurrection Catholic in Pascagoula — or following a five-year stint at Carey, where he batted .335, stole 74 bases and played in the NAIA World Series in 2023. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Lee got a spot in the MLB Draft League last summer and hit .279 with 29 stolen bases. The Draft League is for players hoping to catch the eye of scouts ahead of the draft, but Lee didn’t get a call last summer. This spring, he signed with Evansville in the independent Frontier League and after batting .410 in 11 games there got an offer from the Detroit Tigers. He signed on May 25. Through 16 games at Lakeland, Lee is batting .289 with a homer, 11 runs, nine steals and a .467 OBP. At 24, he is a little old for the Low-A level and might be in line for a bump to High-A soon. P.S. Willie Joe Garry Jr., a Pascagoula High product, is currently playing for Schaumberg in the Frontier League, batting .191 in five games. Garry, drafted out of ‘Goula by Minnesota in 2018, spent six years in the Twins’ system, reaching the Double-A level briefly. The 24-year-old outfielder, a career .206 batter, was hitting .132 at High-A Cedar Rapids when he was released on May 21. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Dallas Woolfolk, a Hernando native, is also on the Schaumberg roster.

16 Jun

who’s hot?

Continuing to make his case for a return to the big leagues, Matt Wallner enjoyed another four-hit game — with a home run — on Saturday for Triple-A St. Paul. The ex-Southern Miss star, who also had a four-hit game on Thursday, is batting .396 in June (.458 OBP) with seven homers and 16 RBIs. He was sent down by Minnesota on April 16 following a horrid start. After his recent hot streak, the left-handed slugger is at .246 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs for St. Paul. … Grae Kessinger is also building a case for a return to The Show. The Ole Miss product went 3-for-5 for Triple-A Sugar Land on Saturday and is batting .341 since his June 5 demotion by Houston. Kessinger, a versatile infielder, rarely played (11 at-bats) while he was with the Astros, who are struggling mightily at 32-39. … Former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith, making his case to stay in the big leagues with Detroit, went 4-for-6 in the Tigers’ 13-5 whipping of the Astros on Saturday. After an early June swoon, rookie Keith, 22, is 7-for-13 in his last three games, boosting his average to .235. He has three homers and 20 RBIs. “For me, it’s not about the stats or the data,” he recently said in a FanGraphs article. “It’s a comfort-level thing.” … In four games since he was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett from Mississippi, Nacho Alvarez is making his case as a prospect to watch in Atlanta’s system. He put up a 4-for-4 game Saturday and is 9-for-18 with two homers in four games for the Stripers. With the Double-A M-Braves, the 21-year-old shortstop hit .265 with no homers in 49 games. … In Low-Class A, former Magnolia Heights star Cooper Pratt is bidding for a move up in Milwaukee’s system. Pratt had a three-hit game for Carolina on Saturday — his fourth three-knock game in his last eight — and is raking at a .429 clip in June. For the season, the second-year pro, 19, is at .310 with two homers, 24 RBIs and 15 steals. He is the Brewers’ No. 8-rated prospect.

14 Jun

just stuff

There were some notable home runs on Thursday: Nacho Alvarez, promoted from the Mississippi Braves to Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday, hit his first home run of 2024, helping the Stripers beat Nashville 8-7. … Geraldo Quintero of the M-Braves hit his second homer of the season and his second at Rocket City, in Madison, Ala., where the M-Braves won a “home” game 7-5 on the playable field conditions of Toyota Field. … Former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner blasted two homers for Triple-A St. Paul (Minnesota affiliate) and now has six this month and 13 overall for the Saints. … DeSoto Central High alum Blaze Jordan hit his third homer and first since coming off the injured list Wednesday (see previous post) for Double-A Portland (Boston). … In the big leagues, former M-Braves standout Justyn-Henry Malloy, in his ninth MLB game, hit his second homer for Detroit and first at Comerica Park in a Tigers win. … There were also some notable pitching performances, most notably Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet’s outing for the Chicago White Sox in a 3-2, 10-inning win at Seattle. The big left-hander struck out a career-best 13 while allowing two hits and one run in seven innings. He is now tied for the MLB lead with 116 punchouts. … Lucedale native Justin Steele also got a no-decision, throwing six shutout innings for the Cubs in their loss to Tampa Bay. Steele has a 3.22 ERA in nine starts but has yet to register a win. … Brandon native Will Warren, pitching at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (New York Yankees), took a shutout into the sixth inning against Rochester before yielding a three-run homer and departing the game. He got a no-decision in the RailRiders’ loss. After a brutal May, Jackson Prep product Warren (4-4, 7.01, on the year) has a 2.81 ERA in three June starts. P.S. Former Hattiesburg High star Joe Gray Jr. has been released by Kansas City. A second-round pick in 2018 by Milwaukee, Gray was batting .136 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He hit .213 for his career with 51 homers and 70 steals, never having any success above A-ball. Only 24, he might draw some interest from independent teams.

10 Jun

that’s the ticket

Typically, there is an adjustment period for a minor league player as he moves up the ladder. Former South Panola High standout Emaarion Boyd might be starting to figure out the High-Class A level in the Philadelphia system. The 20-year-old center fielder went 3-for-6 on Sunday for Jersey Shore, his second three-hit game in his last three. He filled up the box score in the BlueClaws’ 18-5 win against Greensboro with a homer (his first), a double, two runs, four RBIs and a stolen base (his 12th). At the Low-Class A level in 2023, Boyd hit .262 with a .366 on-base percentage and swiped 56 bases. The going has been tougher this season. Boyd is batting just .214 with a .314 OBP in 42 games. But he has hit at a .292 clip in June, and Sunday’s performance arguably was his best of the season. His home run — his second in three pro seasons — was a first-inning grand slam off former Ole Miss star Derek Diamond, a Pittsburgh prospect. The 6-foot, 177-pound Boyd was an 11th-round pick out of South Panola — the football power — in 2022 and received a nice signing bonus. Rated a 70 (on the 20-80 scale) for his speed tool, Boyd is the No. 16 prospect in the Phillies’ system, per MLB Pipeline. He can be a weapon — a la Billy Hamilton — as both a base-stealer and fly-catching center fielder. P.S. Interesting that Tim Anderson, the East Central Community College alum, was placed on the bereavement list by Miami prior to its three-game home series with Cleveland. Anderson and the Guardians’ Jose Ramirez engaged in a much-publicized scrap last summer, and both were suspended. Anderson, batting a miserable .188 with zero homers, six RBIs and three stolen bases, missed the entire series, won 2-1 by the Guardians. … Though he didn’t play for Detroit on Sunday, ex-Biloxi High star Colt Keith apparently dodged major injury to his knee in a collision with Akil Badoo on Saturday. Rookie second baseman Keith is batting .214 with seven errors.

06 Jun

whatever happened to …

Thomas Dillard, the ex-Ole Miss slugger, is playing for Cleburne in the American Association and batting .250 with six home runs for the independent club. Dillard, a longtime Milwaukee minor leaguer, blasted 39 homers in the indy Atlantic League in 2023 and 12 for Double-A Biloxi in 2022. … Trent Giambrone, former Delta State standout, is with Kansas City in the American Association, having recently been traded there by Cleburne. Giambrone, who had a cup of coffee in the majors with the Chicago Cubs in 2021, is batting .292 in seven games for the Monarchs and .203 with four homers overall in 2024. He also played in the Atlantic League last year, hitting .287 with 22 homers for York. … Tyreque Reed, the ex-Itawamba Community College star from Houlka, is with Washington in the independent Frontier League. Recently placed on the injured list, Reed — who turns 27 today — is hitting .258 for the WildThings. He missed all of 2023 with an injury in Boston’s system and became a minor league free agent last fall. He hit 25 homers at ICC and has 64 career minor league bombs but has yet to go deep in 2024. … Ti’Quan Forbes, the former Mr. Baseball from Columbia, is hitting .258 for Querataro in the Mexican League. Forbes reached Triple-A during his eight-year minor league run and belted 17 home runs in the indy Frontier League last season. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves star Justyn-Henry Malloy broke up a perfect game with his first MLB home run — and hit — on Wednesday for Detroit. Malloy went deep against Texas’ Jose Urena in the sixth inning of the Tigers’ 9-1 loss. Malloy, 2-for-10 in three games with the Tigers, played for the M-Braves in 2022 (.268, six homers in 54 games) and was traded by Atlanta in December of that year in the Joe Jimenez deal.

25 May

more to come

The wait is over for Colt Keith. After 141 big league at-bats, the ex-Biloxi High standout connected Friday night on his first home run, a 400-foot drive to right-center at Comerica Park that helped Detroit beat Toronto 6-2. “I feel like I’ve been dreaming of that for a while,” Keith told The Associated Press. “It was kind of a blur when it happened.” The Tigers’ patience with the left-handed hitting second baseman has begun to pay off. He was batting .152 as recently as May 5 but has raked at a .404 clip over his last 15 games, boosting his average to .236. He has 16 RBIs. The power was bound to come. Keith, a 2020 fifth-round pick, hit 38 homers in 126 minor league games, including 27 last year between Double-A and Triple-A. Before he ever played an MLB game, Detroit signed him to a six-year, $28.6 million contract, which, with options and bonuses, could be worth some $80M. He looks like a foundation piece for the Tigers, who have pooled some young talent on their roster. P.S. Today in Cooperstown, N.Y., MLB will hold the Hall of Fame East-West Classic: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues All-Star Game as part of a weekend celebration. Among the ex-big leaguers scheduled to play in the exhibition game are Pascagoula native Tony Sipp, former Jackson Generals standout Melvin Mora and Jerry and Scott Hairston, whose grandfather Sam was a Crawford native and Negro Leagues star in the late 1940s. A bunch of Mississippians played in the old East-West Game (1933-53), including Hall of Famers Cool Papa Bell and Bill Foster as well as Luke Easter, Howard Easterling, Sam Jethroe, Bob Boyd, Rufus Lewis and Buddy Armour. … Former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, released from the minors by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, signed with San Francisco and was in uniform for the Giants on Friday. The big left-hander last pitched in a big league game in 2021. … Mississippi State bowed out of the SEC Tournament in an emotionally charged 6-5 loss to Tennessee. Jaw-dropping stat for the Bulldogs: Dakota Jordan and Hunter Hines were a combined 1-for-34 in four games. … Kudos to George County High, which claimed the MHSAA Class 6A state title Friday with a win over Warren Central.

18 May

out of the blue

Former Ole Miss catcher Nick Fortes hangs his hat on his work behind home plate. A game like he had at the plate on Friday night for the Miami Marlins was an unexpected but welcome bonus. Fortes went 3-for-3 with a walk, a home run and three RBIs as the Marlins routed the New York Mets 8-0 at loanDepot Park. The fourth-year big leaguer, who shares catching duties with Christian Bethancourt, entered the game with just 10 hits and one homer all season. Miami, the worst team in the National League at 14-32, has won three in a row, all by shutout, all with Fortes behind the plate. “Definitely most proud of the shutouts,” he told mlb.com. “(It’s) the No. 1 priority of my job.” Fortes was a .319 hitter — and a Johnny Bench Award semifinalist — at Ole Miss in 2018, when Miami drafted him in the fourth round. He reached the big leagues in 2021, singled in his first at-bat and homered in his second. He has hit just .212 since, but his defense has kept him in The Show. … Colt Keith’s first trip as a big leaguer to his old stomping grounds seemed to do something to perk up his bat. The former Biloxi High star, who lived in Arizona for several years as a kid, went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs as Detroit whipped Arizona 13-0 at Chase Field. A large group of family and friends reportedly were there to see it. Keith, who signed a huge contract in the off-season before playing a single MLB game, entered Friday’s contest batting .171 with just 20 hits but playing regularly at second base. The Mississippi Gatorade player of the year in 2019, Keith was drafted in the fifth round by the Tigers in 2020. He hit .306 with 27 homers as one of their top prospects in 2023. … Ian Mejia is not among the highly rated pitching prospects on the Mississippi Braves’ staff, but the right-hander is certainly gaining his share of attention. He threw the fifth no-hitter in Trustmark Park history on Friday night, beating Biloxi 2-0 in a seven-inning nightcap to a doubleheader. Mejia, 24, was drafted out of New Mexico State in 2022 and is in his first Double-A campaign. After Friday’s gem, which included 11 strikeouts, he is 4-0 with 1.69 ERA and 54 punchouts, leading the Southern League in the latter two categories. His no-no was the first solo job for the M-Braves since Tommy Hanson’s in 2008.