Moss Point product Tony Sipp is on course to have his best season in the Major Leagues while serving as a steadying force in the bullpen for a young and improved Houston Astros squad.
At the All-Star break, the left-handed Sipp is 1-1 with a 2.73 ERA and has one save in 28 appearances this season.
The most impressive aspect of Sipp's performance this year has been his pinpoint control. In 26 innings, he has 36 strikeouts compared to just six walks.
He ranks 21st in the Major Leagues in strikeout-to-walk ratio among pitchers who have thrown at least 20 innings this season.
That ability to find the strike zone is something that goes back to his high school days as a star at Moss Point.
"I still remember when he threw a no-hitter against Northwest Rankin in the first round (of the 2001 playoffs)," said Moss Point baseball coach Marc Turner, who was an assistant on the 2001 squad. "He's a grinder. That's true in life about everything he does. Throwing strikes has always been his strongest suit."
The Astros are in fourth place in the A.L. West with a 40-56 record, but are considerably improved compared to recent Houston teams who have been among the worst in the Majors.
For an inconsistent Houston bullpen, Sipp has been the best option in middle relief.
That's a nice turnaround for a hurler who started the season at Triple-A El Paso, Texas, after signing a minor-league deal in the offseason with the San Diego Padres.
He requested his release from the Padres in May so he could sign with the Astros, and that's turned out to be a great move for Sipp.
He spent last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks and had the worst ERA of his career at 4.78. Prior to joining Arizona, he was a mainstay in the Cleveland Indians' bullpen from 2009-2012.
Prior to this year, Sipp's best season came in 2011 when he put up a 3.03 ERA in 62 1/3 innings.
However, his control has never been as good as it's been this season. His best strikeout-to-walk ratio previously was 2.38/1 in 2011, far short of his 6.00/1 ratio this year.
Sipp has also proven unusually versatile for the Astros, moving to the outfield from the pitcher's mound on a couple of occasions when manager Bo Porter believes Sipp could be of use as a pitcher later in the inning.
Sipp, who turned 31 Saturday, has always been a good athlete, splitting duties between pitcher and outfield at Moss Point, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Clemson.
He was also an all-state cornerback for the Moss Point football team as a senior.
"It wasn't like anything was handed to Tony," Turner said. "He had to work his way to get where he is today. That's what just makes it that much more satisfying. He has a tremendous work ethic. He's come back and spoken to players and students at Moss Point. He's given back to the community."