As injuries mount and starting pitching options dwindle for the New York Yankees, all eyes have turned to players down on the farm as potential options to keep the team from missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the early 1990s. Included in those options is Trenton Thunder starting pitcher Bryan Mitchell, who owns a spot on the Yankees' 40-man roster and was with the team for a brief stint earlier this season.
Mitchell, a 23-year-old selected in the 16th round of the 2009 Amateur Draft, is in his first full season with the Yankees Double-A affiliate and is widely considered to not be ready for the major leagues just yet. However, after seeing the Yankees catch lightning in a bottle in the short term with Chase Whitley and Shane Greene, the idea of a promotion for Mitchell does not seem so far-fetched, ready or not.
Coming off arguably his best start of the season on Monday night, Mitchell indicated he has been more focused on staying aggressive and trying to avoid bad counts. He revealed that his confidence had been bolstered from his recent success.
"A lot of confidence comes out of that," Mitchell said of his last start. "I had all my pitches working...Had some quick innings, threw pitches early in the count, and I just have to keep that going."
Keeping things going was difficult early on for Mitchell. After serving as the Thunder's Opening Day starter, Mitchell earned a brief call-up to New York when a long reliever was needed. One day later, he returned to the Thunder and quickly wound up on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.
After returning from the injury three weeks later, Mitchell's innings were limited as he rebuilt arm strength, and he did not pitch into the 5th inning until mid-June. Though an innings limit still exists, Thunder manager Tony Franklin would not disclose what that limit was. However, Mitchell insists he should be set to go as long as needed for the remainder of the season.
With Monday's season-long 6 2/3 inning performance, Thunder manager Tony Franklin admitted he sees a different man on the mound now than earlier this season.
"He was ahead of hitters," Franklin said of Mitchell's last outing. "And when he's ahead of hitters, he's in the strike zone. When he's in the strike zone, he's pretty good."
"It's kind of hard to hit a guy with a 96 MPH fastball and a great change-up, plus a curveball and a slider," Franklin added. "He's got three or four pitches he can go to."
Though his 40-man spot has many pegging him as a prime candidate for a late-season call-up to New York, Mitchell says he has managed to keep the thought of returning to the major league roster out of his mind and focus on perfecting his craft in Trenton.
"Obviously it's in the back of your mind," Mitchell conceded. "But I just try to control what I can control and do what I have to do here. If something happens, great. If not, I still have to pitch here and do my job."