Rick Fires is a reporter and columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
MLB rosters include several with Arkansas ties
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Drew Smyly warms up during the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
It is true Major League Baseball players and owners have put aside their differences to actually begin playing games this week?
If so, here’s a few players with ties to Northwest Arkansas for fans follow. Each team has a player pool of 60 with active rosters limited to 30.
Drew Smyly (LR Central/Arkansas/San Francisco Giants)
Drew Smyly has looked sharp in his bid to make the starting rotation after joining the Giants as a free agent.
“Drew Smyly came out firing, filling up the zone with all of his pitches, a curveball, a fastball with a lot of life and a cutter that has come a long way,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler told The Mercury (Calif.) News last week.
Smyly, 30, signed a one-year contract with the Giants after pitching for Texas and Philadelphia last season. He was mostly successful in the big leagues until he missed the 2017 and 2018 seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Jalen Beeks (Prairie Grove/Arkansas/Tampa Bay Rays)
The former Prairie Grove and University of Arkansas left-hander is 11-4 in two years in the majors with Boston and Tampa Bay.
That’s a winning percent of .733 for those still searching for a calculator.
Blake Parker (Fayetteville/Arkansas/Philadelphia Phillies)
I’m amazed a player who did not throw an inning at Arkansas will begin his eighth season as a pitcher in the major leagues.
That oddity says a lot about the mental and physical makeup of Parker, a former catcher and outfielder who is 11-10 with 34 saves at baseball’s highest level.
Hunter Wood (Rogers Heritage/Cleveland Indians)
Is Cleveland still called the Indians?
If so, that’s the team Wood will pitch for this summer after being traded last season by Tampa Bay. The right-hander from Rogers is 2-2 with a 3.32 career ERA in 66 games in the major leagues.
Dallas Keuchel (Arkansas/Chicago White Sox)
University of Arkansas fans will definitely need to pay attention when former Razorbacks pitcher Dallas Keuchel is throwing to former Razorbacks catcher James McCann.
Keuchel, 32, is 44-36 since winning the Cy Young award after going 20-8 with the Houston Astros in 2015.
James McCann (Arkansas/Chicago White Sox)
McCann was an American League All-Star last season for the White Sox after he signed as a free agent from Detroit, where he played for five years.
McCann was an every day catcher who batted .273 with 18 home runs and 60 RBI. Still, he’ll have to share catching duties after the White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal during the off-season.
Andrew Benintendi (Arkansas/Boston Red Sox)
ESPN loves showing Yankees vs. the Red Sox, so there’s a good chance you’ll see Benintendi on TV even with a 60-game schedule.
Benintendi is still only 26 years old as he begins his fifth year in the major leagues. Benintendi is one of the top outfielders in the American League and the best position player with Arkansas ties since Torii Hunter, a five-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner.
Brian Anderson (Arkansas/Miami Marlins)
Anderson is a standout player who hit 20 home runs in just his fourth season in the big leagues in 2019.
That makes him major trade bait for the Marlins, who have a history of trading away top talent to reduce payroll.
Ryne Stanek (Arkansas/Miami Marlins)
Stanek appeared in nine games last year with the Marlins following a trade with Tampa Bay.
His 2-7 career record can be excused by the crummy teams he’s played for in the big leagues.
Matt Reynolds (Arkansas/Kansas City Royals)
Reynolds hopes for another shot in the big leagues after signing with the Royals last November.
The versatile infielder and outfielder has 240 plate appearances in the majors with the New York Mets and Washington Nationals.
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