Former Hogs have productive seasons in MLB

By: Rick Fires
Published: Sunday, October 14, 2018
Boston Red Sox outfielders Andrew Benintendi, right, and Jackie Bradley Jr. take the field for Game 2 of the baseball American League Division Series against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Boston Red Sox outfielders Andrew Benintendi, right, and Jackie Bradley Jr. take the field for Game 2 of the baseball American League Division Series against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

I was about 10 minutes into my new job at the factory when the supervisor told me to walk to another department and hurry back with the box stretcher.

The supervisor in that area sent me to a third department after telling me someone had borrowed the box stretcher and failed to return it. This went on for several minutes before I reluctantly decided to return to the loading docks and face the fact I had failed to complete the very first task my new boss had assigned me.

I was sure I was going to be scolded or even fired until I saw my supervisor and a few others laughing after I returned. They knew what I didn’t know or what I should have known had I been thinking correctly.

There is no such thing as a box stretcher. It’s physically impossible.

Now, consider the nervousness or angst you felt on your first day at a new job and multiply that times 2 million. Only then will you have a sense of what it was like for Jalen Beeks when he made his major-league debut on national TV against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

It did not go well.

Beeks made one more appearance for the Boston Red Sox before he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. Beeks, who left Boston with a monstrous 12.79 ERA, recovered quite nicely at Tampa Bay and finished his rookie season with a 5-1 record and 4.47 ERA. Two of his victories were against Boston, the team that traded him.

The left-hander from Prairie Grove figures in the Rays’ pitching plans for 2019 along with former Razorback Ryne Stanek (2-3, 2.98 ERA) and Hunter Wood (1-1, 3.73 ERA) from Rogers Heritage.

The three Rays weren’t the only players with Northwest Arkansas connections to have successful seasons in the major leagues.

Everyone knows of former Razorbacks Dallas Keuchel and Andrew Benintendi, who are still chasing championship rings in the playoffs, but are you familiar with Brian Anderson of the Miami Marlins?

Anderson hit .273 with 11 home runs and 65 RBI while starting games at both right field and third base for the Marlins. The former Hog from Edmond, Okla., will get some votes for Rookie of the Year, although the Yankees’ Gleyber Torres is the favorite to win that award in the American League.

Beeks wasn’t the only former Razorback to benefit from a change of scenery in 2018. Veteran infielder Logan Forsythe played well at Minnesota after being mired on the bench with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He batted .258 in 50 games with the Twins and went 5 for 5 in a game against Detroit.

The 2018 season did not go as well at Detroit for James McCann. Detroit had envisioned McCann as its starting catcher for many years, but the former Razorback from California has regressed at the plate after hitting .220 with 8 home runs this season. Detroit likes McCann’s leadership and defensive skills, but they want more production at the plate than his .240 career average as the Tigers’ regular catcher.

Right-hander Blake Parker greatly enhanced his professional career last year with Los Angeles Angels and he followed with another strong season as a reliever in 2018. Parker, who bounced for three years between Triple-A Iowa and Chicago, is 5-4 and 24 of 30 in save opportunities in two seasons with the Angels. That’s quite an achievement for the former Bulldog from Fayetteville, who was a position player rather than a pitcher at Arkansas.

Finally, something I anticipated in 2018 happened in late August when Craig Gentry was cut loose by the Baltimore Orioles. Gentry, 34, was replaced by a much younger player despite the fact he was hitting .269 and playing stellar defense at the time he was released.

If this is indeed the end for Gentry, he can certainly be proud of a major-league career that began in 2009 with the Texas Rangers. He hit .304 with Texas in 2012 and has a career average of .262 with 94 stolen bases in 114 attempts.

Oh, and for you young players with big-league dreams, be aware that Gentry barely received recruiting interest after he graduated from Fort Smith Christian in Class 1A. Yet, he made it to the major leagues and played 10 years with multiple teams.

Rick Fires can be reached at rfires@ nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWARick.

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