No one in major league baseball uses the 25th man on their roster quite like the New York Yankees do. As of July 7th, the Yankees have already used 42 players and what that tells you is that there are few roster spots that are safe at all times.
Bryan Mitchell knows the meaning of the “Scranton Shuttle” better than anyone. Mitchell, who made his Yankee debut in 2014, has been called up to the Yankees on eleven different occasions. For many pitchers that can be troublesome because it is hard to get into a rhythm but the hard throwing righty seems to deal with it just fine.
What makes Mitchell’s role so unique is that he is caught in between starting in Triple-A and relieving with the Yankees. During the 2017 season, Mitchell has pitched in nine games for the RailRiders and has started each one. With the Yankees, however, he has pitched in 12 games; all of those outings have come out of the bullpen.
“That is what I am doing right now so I would say yeah”, said Mitchell about solely focusing on starting in Triple-A.
During his time in The Bronx this season, Mitchell has thrown 16 innings and has pitched to a 5.06 ERA. For him it is about getting an extended run in big league ball. In 2016 it looked like that opportunity was coming. During spring training of that season he was dominant. He pitched to a 0.57 ERA in 15.2 spring innings. Then the injury bug hit Mitchell, and hit him hard. On a play in late March, Mitchell went to cover first base and suffered a Grade 3 turf toe. He did not return to action until August 8th. This was just a few days after he was informed that he would start the season on the Yankees 25-man roster.
“Honestly I don’t even think it’s really sunk in yet. It’s tough right now. Nothing I want to hear, especially at this point in the game.”, said Mitchell about his injury to NJ.com writer Ryan Hatch.
His combination of a high 90’s fastball and sharp breaking ball makes him an uncomfortable at-bat for hitters at either level. He is currently working on a slider which would give him a three pitch mix. The slider can be the tell all about where he is best suited. Organizations want their starters to have three pitches. Most who only have two end up as relievers.
“The more I throw it the better. It’s a big pitch for me. It helps my fastball and keeps guys off balance.”, said Mitchell about his curve ball. His fastball and curve ball and major league ready while his slider still needs some work before he could use it in a major league game.
Over his last three starts for the RailRiders, Mitchell has gone 17.1 innings and has allowed four runs. He has struck out 17 batters over this current stretch. In his last outing against Buffalo on July 5th, he had undoubtedly his best outing of the year. Mitchell pitched seven innings of one run baseball, giving up just five hits. He struck out three along the way. Mitchell has attributed some of his success to fastening his tempo on the mound.
“I kind have quickened my tempo up a little bit just in general it has seemed to get everything kind of clicking a little better.”, said Mitchell.
“I think he has been more aggressive, attacking the zone, working ahead in the count and establishing his fastball early.”, said Pedrique.
Mitchell has been held to a pitch count for most of the season. In his last two starts he has thrown 85 and 82 pitches. He has been able to throw over 60 pitches just four times this season. Mitchell, who is a strike out pitcher does find himself in long counts at times, but his ability to get ground balls saves him some pitches along the way.
“For me, personally, I do not care about strikeouts. I just want him to work fast, throw strikes, and make the hitters put the ball in play. Especially when you have good defense behind you that way they stay on their toes.”, said Pedrique. “As a manager I would rather see a guy work ahead in the count, using all of his pitches with good command.”
In most organizations Mitchell would be a staple on a pitching staff. His electrifying arsenal makes him desirable. That is what makes it all the more interesting that he has really never gotten his chance to prove his abilities.
For the Yankees, Mitchell seems to be organization depth for the starting rotation and someone they would bring in during a low leverage situation out of the bullpen. It may take stretches like the one he is in currently to get the organization to give him a longer look.