Right-hander Bryan Mitchell is the kind of pitcher who is often fun to watch.
When he is hitting his spots, he is virtually unhittable. In the 2013 Eastern League playoffs, he outpitched both Noah Syndergaard and Nathan Karns. Mitchell displayed a 97 mph fastball and a hard curve in the low- to-mid 80s that paralyzed batters.
Since then, he has developed an effective cutter and a changeup he is working on. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounfd native of Hamlet, N.C., has only one main negative. He walks too many batters, thus reducing his effectiveness as a starter.
“I have to concentrate and hit my spots,” Mitchell has said again and again. “I know what I have to do in order to be more consistent.”
He was just that Saturday at Dunedin, Fla,, throwing four scoreless innings vs. Toronto, allowing just a single hit, not walking a batter and striking out four. With that performance, he seems assured of traveling north with the Yankees. He really needs no more time at Triple-A.
Not after throwing 14.1 innings in Spring Training, allowing six hits and a single earned run – on a home run – walking just one and striking out 11. It is the Grapefruit League, but he is 2-0 with an 0.61 ERA.
What role would Mitchell fill on the 2016 Yankees? With both C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova in the house, he will not be able to secure a spot in the rotation. On the other hand, both Sabathia and Nova can be free-agents after this season, Sabathia with a vesting option of $25 million for 2017 or $5 million buyout depending on conditions. Neither have been all that consistent. either.
The Yankees are talking about Mitchell as a bullpen contributor and spot starter. At this point, that seems fine for Mitchell, who will turn 25 April 19. If he can throw four of five effective innings if a starter fails, excellent. If there is an injury in the rotation, he can fill it. The arm is that good.
“We were really pleased with the way Bryan pitched Saturday,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “He was economical with his pitches and threw strikes.
“He has done all he needed to do. Larry (pitching coach Rothschild) made a small adjustment and got him back on track.”
Some, including YES commentator David Cone, have compared Mitchell’s array of pitches, that fastball, power curveball and cutter – the changeup is a developing addition – to Kansas City’s Wade Davis and his effectiveness in the Royals bullpen. It is a legitimate comparison, but Davis was basically forced into the bullpen role due to injuries, while Mitchell has always been healthy.
Mitchell can work out of the bullpen in 2016, huddle with Rothschild to fine-tune his command and concentration while he picks up relief innings and attempts to keep the Yankees in a game. If a start here and there is needed, the Yankees can plug him in.
This coming season is kind of like an internship for Mitchell. He can contribute while learning and pick up sone valuable experience.
Perhaps Sabathia and Nova are in their swan-song seasons with the Yankees. Mitchell has the arm – and the variety of pitches – to be a mid-rotation starter in, 2017. He’s in a good spot.