31 May

spotlight on …

Chicago will be hoppin’ today with both the White Sox and the Cubs in town, and a pair of Mississippi products will be on the mound for the home teams. At Guaranteed Rate Field, ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn looks to win his fourth straight start for the underachieving White Sox, scuffling along at 23-34. They meet the star-studded Los Angeles Angels. At Wrigley Field, former George County High star Justin Steele looks to recapture his early season form after going 0-2 in his last three starts for the disappointing Cubs (24-30). They play Tampa Bay, the best team in baseball. Lynn got off to an awful start in 2023, as did the ChiSox. He has improved to 4-5 and lowered his ERA to 5.83 by allowing just four runs in his last 19 innings. Today’s start will be the 297th career for the 36-year-old right-hander. For Steele, a 27-year-old lefty, today will be career start No. 45. He was 6-0 after beating St. Louis on May 10 but has been a bit wobbly of late. Cincinnati roughed him up for five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings on May 26, pushing his ERA to 2.77. P.S. No American League reliever has had a better May than Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman of the White Sox. He has not allowed a run in 11 outings, posting four saves and two holds. … In college ball: William Carey University lost for the first time Tuesday night in the NAIA World Series but will play on today against Lewis-Clark State, the home team in Lewiston, Idaho. … On the prep front: Kudos to Lewisburg, St. Stanislaus and Resurrection Catholic for winning series openers in the MHSAA state championships in Pearl.

24 May

job well done

Operating in the relative obscurity of middle relief, Chris Stratton has been an unsung hero for St. Louis during its recent resurgence. The ex-Mississippi State star from Tupelo worked 1 1/3 clean innings in relief of Adam Wainwright on Tuesday night as the Cardinals beat Cincinnati 8-5. After an awful start, St. Louis has won 12 of 16 to climb to 22-28 and within 5 games of first place in the National League Central. Seven of Stratton’s eight appearances in May have been scoreless, covering 12 1/3 innings. He relieved Wainwright in the sixth with the tying runs on base and got a strikeout to end the inning. The 32-year-old right-hander is in his second season with the Cardinals; he was 5-0 with a 2.78 ERA for the club last year after arriving in a trade with Pittsburgh. … Stratton was one of four Mississippians in MLB who had notable appearances on the bump Tuesday. MSU product Kendall Graveman recorded his fourth save for the improving Chicago White Sox as they beat Cleveland; he has four saves and a 0.00 ERA over his last seven appearances. Former Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings and struck out eight in Kansas City’s win against Detroit. The veteran Mayers was making his second appearance and first start since being summoned from Triple-A last week. J.P. France, an MSU alum, worked 5 2/3 innings for Houston and allowed just one earned run in taking a tough-luck loss against Milwaukee. France, a rookie, is 1-1 with a 3.43 ERA in four big league starts. P.S. Southern Miss product Matt Wallner was recalled from the minors by Minnesota and was hit by a pitch in his lone at-bat Tuesday. … Down on the farm, ex-USM star Chuckie Robinson homered twice for Cincinnati’s Triple-A Louisville team and is batting .348 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 115 ABs this season. Robinson, a catcher, made his MLB debut in 2022 but hasn’t gotten a call this season.

21 May

not so fast there

Reports of the Chicago White Sox’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated, to borrow a phrase. And Mississippi products have played key roles in the club’s recent revival. The ChiSox won their third straight game Sunday and have won 12 of their last 20. They are just 19-29, fourth in the American League Central, but are only 6 1/2 games back in what’s considered a weak division. Talk of a fire sale that began during a 10-game losing streak has quieted down. Ole Miss product Lance Lynn, who got off to an awful start this season, went six innings to beat Kansas City on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field and is 3-1 in May. The veteran right-hander is 3-5 with a 6.28 ERA overall. Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman has not allowed a run this month and has posted three saves in his last eight games. Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet, who missed the entire 2022 season, has come off the injured list and worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings in two appearances. The young left-hander could be a key bullpen arm, as he was in 2021. Ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson, the shortstop and leadoff batter, hasn’t yet found his swing. The former batting champion is batting just .252 without a homer in 29 games; he did a long stint on the IL in late April. He has been the subject of trade rumors, but the team’s turnaround may alter that narrative. (For the record, former Taylorsville High standout Billy Hamilton was briefly with the White Sox earlier this month — to serve primarily as a pinch runner and defensive replacement — but went on the IL on May 10.) P.S. In the rain-delayed grand re-opening of historic Hinchliffe Stadium (see previous post), ex-Columbia High star Ti’Quan Forbes homered for the host New Jersey Jackals in their win Sunday against Sussex County in the independent Frontier League.

10 May

we have liftoff

Since the calendar flipped to May, Grae Kessinger’s bat has taken off. Now playing for Houston’s Triple-A Sugar Land Space Cowboys, ex-Ole Miss star Kessinger has hit .500 (15-for-30) in seven games this month with two homers, 11 RBIs and a .568 on-base percentage. He went 1-for-3 with two walks on Tuesday, his first game after a five-hit, two-homer effort in a wild contest on Sunday. It didn’t hurt that the first six games of the month were played at Albuquerque, where the ball flies, but you still gotta put bat on ball. He has struck out just five times this month. Kessinger is hitting .311 for the year with four homers and 21 RBIs in 32 games. An All-America shortstop at UM — and the grandson of MLB star Don Kessinger — Grae was drafted in the second round by the Astros in 2019. This is his first season in Triple-A after batting .211 with 16 homers in Double-A in ’22. He has played short, second and third base this season, showing some versatility that can only enhance his value in Houston, where the starting lineup is tough to crack. P.S. After three straight tight wins in the losers bracket of the Gulf South Conference Tournament, Delta State ran smack into a wall on Tuesday, falling to top-seeded West Florida 17-1 at Oxford, Ala. DSU finishes 27-26 in coach Rodney Batts’ fourth season. … In MLB, former Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman notched his first save with a clean ninth inning for the Chicago White Sox and fellow ex-Bulldogs ace Chris Stratton earned his first win with 1 1/3 scoreless innings for St. Louis against the Cubs.

04 May

farm livin’

After four-plus seasons of grinding in the low minors, former Hattiesburg High star Joe Gray Jr. received a promotion to Double-A Biloxi on Tuesday. Gray, a second-round draft pick by Milwaukee five years ago, was batting .247 with a homer, 12 RBIs and five steals at High-Class A Wisconsin when the Brewers moved him. Two games into the big jump, he is still looking for his first hit, having started 0-for-9 with four strikeouts in a series at Montgomery. The 23-year-old outfielder, considered a 5-tool player in high school, has fallen off the Brewers’ prospect charts; he is a .212 career hitter though he has flashed some power and speed. It’s time to put it all together. … The Colorado Rockies, currently 11-20, look like a team that could use some help. Maybe they’ve got an eye on what Hunter Stovall is doing at Triple-A Albuquerque. The Mississippi State product is batting .381 in 17 games. He was on base six times in the Isotopes’ 22-4 win over Sugar Land on Wednesday, hitting his first home run of the season, scoring three runs and knocking in two. The middle infielder, 26, is in his fifth year of pro ball. … Jordan Westburg is clamoring for a call-up from Baltimore. The ex-State star went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs for Triple-A Norfolk and is at .337 for the year with six bombs. He has played five different positions this season, though second base might be where he fits best. … Southern Miss alum Chuckie Robinson is batting .414 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 20 games at Triple-A Louisville. If or when Cincinnati needs a catcher, he looks ready for a second MLB stint. … Pitching exclusively out of the bullpen this season, former MSU ace Ethan Small has done solid work for Milwaukee’s Triple-A Nashville club. The lefty, the Brewers’ No. 13 prospect, tossed three scoreless innings Wednesday, trimming his ERA to 2.70 in nine appearances. His brief big league looks as a starter in 2022 didn’t go well, but he’ll get another shot in this new role. … Hoping to become the first Mississippi College alum to play in the majors since Harry Craft in 1942, Blaine Crim just keeps banging in the Texas system. Crim, a first baseman, went 2-for-5 for Triple-A Round Rock in a Wednesday doubleheader to boost his average to .300 with two homers and seven RBIs. He is a .304 career hitter over four minor league campaigns. P.S. Taylorsville native Billy Hamilton, the speedy MLB veteran, is back in The Show with the Chicago White Sox and in two appearances as a pinch runner, he has a run and a stolen base. The White Sox won both games.

30 Apr

whatever happened to …

Garrett Crochet, the former Ocean Springs High star who went straight from the Tennessee campus to the big leagues in 2020, is expected to make an injury rehab appearance today for Double-A Birmingham. Crochet missed all of the 2022 season for the Chicago White Sox after Tommy John surgery in the spring. The left-hander was the 11th overall pick in the abbreviated 2020 draft and made his MLB debut that September, throwing 100-mph gas over five scoreless appearances. Crochet was a key piece of the White Sox’s bullpen in 2021, when the team won the American League Central. He posted a 2.82 ERA with 65 strikeouts (27 walks) in 54 1/3 innings that year and made three scoreless postseason appearances. The current White Sox could use some help, having lost 10 in a row to fall to 7-21, tied for last in the AL Central. Ole Miss product Lance Lynn threw six hitless innings against Tampa Bay on Saturday, then gave up four runs in a 10-run seventh as the ChiSox lost 12-3. Lynn is 0-4, 7.16. At Triple-A Charlotte, ex-East Central Community College standout Tim Anderson went 1-for-3 in his second rehab game, but the Knights lost to Norfolk 20-1. (Mississippi State alum Jordan Westburg, a Baltimore prospect, went 3-for-6 with three RBIs in that game to boost his average to .329.)

29 Apr

that other draft

While Ole Miss has tumbled from the national rankings this season, Jacob Gonzalez’s MLB draft stock has remained steady. The Rebels shortstop, regarded as a top 10 pick entering this season, is rated No. 8 in MLB Pipeline’s new list of the Top 150 prospects for this summer’s draft. Gonzalez is batting .322 with seven homers and 37 RBIs for the 22-20 Rebels, last year’s national champs. The left-handed hitter, who goes 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, has a .317 career average with 37 homers in three seasons at UM. Five other players from the state are in the Top 150: No. 43 Cooper Pratt, shortstop at Magnolia Heights; No. 47 Colton Ledbetter, Mississippi State outfielder; No. 64 Kemp Alderman, Ole Miss outfielder; No. 101 Tanner Hall, Southern Miss pitcher; and No. 145 Calvin Harris, UM catcher. Ranked 11th is Hurston Waldrep, who pitched at USM in 2022 but is now at Florida. Ledbetter, a Samford transfer, has been a standout during a tough year for State, hitting .322 with 10 homers, 46 RBIs and 15 steals. Hall, last year’s Ferriss Trophy winner, is 7-3 with a 2.95 ERA for the Golden Eagles, who are battling for the Sun Belt Conference title. P.S. Lexington beat the York Revolution 5-4 Friday night in Barry Lyons’ debut (see previous post) as manager of the Counter Clocks of the independent Atlantic League. Former Delta State star Trent Giambrone went 2-for-4 for York in his ALPB debut. Harrison Central High alum and ex-big leaguer Bobby Bradley homered for Charleston in his indy ball debut. … The Chicago White Sox lost their ninth straight game Friday after MSU product Kendall Graveman gave up a ninth-inning homer in a 3-2 defeat against visiting Tampa Bay. Graveman (1-2) has a 5.06 ERA in 11 relief appearances for the 7-20 White Sox. … Tim Anderson, on a rehab assignment for the ChiSox, went 0-for-4 for Triple-A Charlotte in Game 1 of a twinbill. Also in the Knights’ lineup was Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, the demoted big league vet who went 2-for-3 to improve his average to .186. He has three stolen bases.

25 Apr

hot and not

Perhaps the fourth team will be a charm for Brent Rooker. The former Mississippi State star, who has moved from Minnesota to San Diego to Kansas City to Oakland in the last 12 months, has been a bright spot in a very dull start for the A’s. Rooker hit two home runs on Monday — going back-to-back both times with Jesus Aguilar — as Oakland beat the Los Angeles Angels 11-10 in 10 innings, just the fifth win for the A’s in 23 games. Rooker, who struggled in his previous MLB stints, is batting .333 (.441 on-base percentage) with six homers and 14 RBIs in 2023. The 28-year-old outfielder has walked 10 times and struck out 10 times in 59 plate appearances over his 16 games. “I knew I could come in every day and contribute and compete at a very high level. That’s all I’m trying to do right now,” Rooker said in an mlb.com story. After winning the SEC Triple Crown and league player of the year honors at State in 2017, Rooker was drafted 35th overall by the Twins that summer. He has hit well in the minors but not so much in the big leagues — until now. … The Chicago White Sox are in freefall, and Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander out of Ole Miss, couldn’t do anything to break it on Monday. Lynn fell to 0-3 and saw his ERA rise to 7.52 over five starts as the White Sox (7-16) lost 5-2 at Toronto. Lynn, who has 123 wins on his MLB ledger, yielded five hits, three walks and four runs in five innings against the Blue Jays. Opponents are batting .309 against Lynn, more than 60 points higher than his career average against.

22 Apr

on this date

Tip your cap today to honor the memory of Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, the Leakesville native who made his major league debut on this date in 1952. The left-hander, 21 at the time, pitched eight innings for St. Louis against Cincinnati and took a loss after allowing five hits, six walks and two first-inning runs. Mizell, who died in 1999, would go on to win 90 games in the big leagues (despite missing two full years with military service), make two All-Star Games and win a World Series ring (with Pittsburgh in 1960). In seven different seasons, he won 10 or more games, and he finished his career with a 3.85 ERA. He pitched his last game for the 1962 New York Mets, one of baseball’s worst teams. Mizell served as a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina from 1973-75. His nickname derived from an Alabama community near Leakesville where Mizell played youth baseball; Vinegar Bend has been erroneously listed in some references as Mizell’s birthplace. P.S. Former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, working to get back to active duty with San Diego, threw a second scoreless inning for Low-Class A Lake Elsinore on Friday night. He is rehabbing from 2021 flexor tendon surgery. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson has been out of the Chicago White Sox’s lineup since April 11 with a knee sprain. The team is 2-6 without their All-Star shortstop/leadoff batter. There appears to be no clear timetable for Anderson’s return.

21 Apr

puttin’ on the hits

In his second stint at Low-Class A Kannapolis, Tim Elko looks like he might be ready for the next step on the minor league ladder. The former Ole Miss slugger went 4-for-4 with two home runs on Thursday and is batting .413 with four homers and 16 RBIs for the Cannon Ballers. He also has a five-hit game during his current six-game hitting streak. A 10th-round pick by the Chicago White Sox last summer, Elko is, at 24, one of the oldest players on the Kannapolis roster. After mashing a school-record 24 homers and leading the Rebels to the national championship last year, Elko enjoyed a solid pro debut, hitting .240 with five homers between rookie ball and Kannapolis. Back with the Cannon Ballers to start this season, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman/DH is showing better plate discipline (seven walks, 17 strikeouts in 53 plate appearances). The White Sox’s High-A affiliate is in Winston-Salem. … Colt Keith, the former Biloxi High star, put up a 3-for-3 on Thursday for Double-A Erie in Detroit’s system. The 21-year-old Keith, the Tigers’ No. 4 prospect (per mlb.com), is batting .304 with a homer and seven RBIs in his first taste of the Double-A level. He is a lefty hitter who has played third and second base in his three pro seasons. … Southern Miss product Chuckie Robinson extended his hitting streak to 11 games Thursday with a knock for Triple-A Louisville in the Cincinnati system. Robinson, 28, a catcher, is batting .415 with two homers, seven RBIs and four steals in 12 games for the Bats. He got a call-up with the Reds last season, hitting a pair of homers in 25 MLB games. P.S. Ex-Delta State star Trent Giambrone, who got some big league time with the Chicago Cubs in 2021, has signed with York of the independent Atlantic League. Jacques Pucheu, a former West Harrison High and East Mississippi Community College pitcher, has signed with Southern Maryland of the Atlantic League, which starts its season next week.