Mitchell Getting Back To Basics

DES MOINES - Jermaine Mitchell spent the first half of the season putting up video game numbers for Double-A Midland. He hasn't yet found the same consistent success since being promoted to Triple-A Sacramento, but he is working on getting back to the approach that propelled him to a breakthrough stint with Midland. Bill Seals spoke with Mitchell while the River Cats were in Iowa.

With home-run threats such as Jai Miller, Chris Carter and Michael Taylor surrounding him in the Sacramento lineup, it's been easy for Jermaine Mitchell to get away from the hitting approach that got him to Triple-A in the first place.

After being sent back this spring to repeat Double-A, the centerfielder finally put the Texas League behind him with a prolific 74-game stretch in which he put up a line of .355/.453/.589 with 38 extra-base hits.

Mitchell has had similar success in Sacramento, but in much smaller stretches. For example, on the Rivercats' most recent road trip he went 7-for-14 during a four-game series at Omaha, only to go hitless in 12 at-bats at Iowa and find himself benched for the Wednesday afternoon finale.

"I guess I'm trying to do a little bit too much right now," said Mitchell, who has posted a pedestrian line of .246/.342/.370 in Triple-A. "I need to go back to relaxing in the box and trusting my abilities.

"I need to go back to just using my hands. I've been getting away from that and trying to hit for more power. I've been pulling a lot of balls to the right side and that's not my game. Whenever I'm going the other the way, that's when I'm at my best. I need to let the ball travel a little bit more and go back to using the left side of the field."

It's not so much a matter of Triple-A hurlers figuring Mitchell out, as the 26-year old adapting to the array of offerings being thrown his way.

"I'm still learning the pitchers here because they pitch different," he said.

"They're a lot more crafty up here. You're not going to get the 2-0 fastball, because they have more pitches they can throw for strikes. They spot up a lot better. You've got to stay locked into your 'zone and not get out of that. I think I've been getting myself out a lot, chasing their pitches."

A breakout half-season in Midland gave the Oakland organization hope that Mitchell may be on the verge of impacting the big-league squad.

The fifth-round selection in the 2006 draft only made subtle changes to his game last off-season, and says it was more about developing a consistent approach at the plate.

"I went back to having fun, playing my game and doing me," he said.

"I cut out my leg kick, which was a big part of my struggles. I had a certain routine that I got in. I was using the left side of the field. Even the home runs that I hit were opposite field home runs. I didn't pull the ball very much. The biggest part for me was trusting my hands.

"When I was in Midland, I was spitting on everything and waiting on my pitch. I wasn't missing my pitch. I was thinking fastball and whenever I got it I didn't miss it. Whereas [in Sacramento], I've been swinging thinking fastball and getting myself out on an off-speed pitch. It's been a learning process for me."

Even with his inconsistencies, Mitchell doesn't plan to make any wholesale changes.

"You've got to stay within your approach," he said.

"I believe they're eventually going to make a mistake. If you firmly believe that, then you've got to stay with that. They can have that borderline pitch that's a strike or ball. Until you get to two strikes, that's when you've got to defend yourself. Up until then, stay within yourself and get a pitch you can put a good swing on."

Mitchell hopes to break out of his mini slump and be considered for a September call-up to the big leagues. He feels he has put himself in position, and is anxious to prove himself at the major-league level to the organization that had so much patience in him in past years.

"You always want to make it to the league," he said.

"That's the number one goal every year – get to the top. I'm just waiting to see what happens. I'll take it day by day and give it my all every game. I'll let my abilities show and let Oakland make the decision. I'm just happy to have a great year this year and am trying to finish strong and stay healthy."

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