Oakland A's Spring Q&A: Mike Mitchell, RP

Since the first bullpen sessions of the spring, there has been a buzz in Oakland A's camp about reliever Mike Mitchell. He impressed coaches and catchers alike during those bullpen sessions with his hard, sinking fastball and that good impression has carried over into game play. We spoke with the right-hander about his success in camp.

Mike Mitchell may not have been a household name to most Oakland A's fans before this season, but he is quickly becoming a well-known commodity. Mitchell increased his profile further on Tuesday night when he threw 1.1 scoreless innings against the San Francisco Giants in a game that was telecast on FoxSportsNet Bay Area. Many A's fans got to see first-hand what Catcus League hitters have been seeing all spring: Mitchell's nasty sinking fastball.

Mitchell has been one of the stars of what has been a productive major league spring training camp for a number of the A's prospects. The right-hander has thrown 6.1 scoreless innings over five appearances thus far this spring. He has allowed only two hits and two walks, while striking out four.

The Missouri native is coming off of a solid 2006 campaign that saw him earn a trip to the California League All-Star game and to the Arizona Fall League. Mitchell earned the praise of a number of scouts at the AFL and is now among the A's top relief pitching prospects.

We spoke to Mitchell on Wednesday, a day after his big performance versus the Giants.

OaklandClubhouse: You must be enjoying the day off.

Mike Mitchell: [Laughs] Yeah, it has been nice. I slept in until 10 and am going to play golf later today.

OC: This may be the wrong word, but have you been surprised at how much success you have had in major league spring training games thus far?

MM: Definitely. I mean, I came in here knowing that I have pretty good stuff, but I never expected to be doing this well. This is just beyond what I could have imagined.

OC: Has there been anything in particular that you have worked on this spring, or has it been more working with the stuff you had at the end of last season?

MM: From what I have heard, a lot of times guys come in here [to big league camp] and get a little nervous and scared and they try to be too cute with their pitches and they don't go right after hitters. So my main goal of the spring was to go right out there and just go after guys. Don't get behind in the count. Even though I have been pretty bad about getting behind in the count -- I have been 3-0 a few times -- my main goal is just to get ahead and throw strikes as quick as I can and go right after guys.

OC: Has it been different in games where you have worked more towards the beginning of the game when you would face guys who are already in the big leagues as opposed to the games that you have worked at the back-end against more Triple-A guys?

MM: Maybe a little, but not a whole lot. Honestly, when I go out there, even in my first couple of games up through last night, everyone up here is really good, so I haven't really had a different approach if the player was established. Last night, though, I faced some of their regulars. I noticed that I did try to force in a first pitch strike instead of just letting it go. I try to keep the same approach with each guy, but I did notice myself thinking "alright, make sure you get ahead of this guy because this guy is a good hitter." I've seen these guys on TV, so I don't want to get behind because I have seen what they can do.

OC: Was it different playing in a night game after playing all of the other games during the day?

MM: Yeah, it was. It was nice though, because the days lately have been kind of hot so it was nice to play in a night game. I also like the atmosphere in a night game. It was crowded last night, so it was a lot of fun.

OC: Were you guys aware that the game was being televised back in the Bay Area? Did that add an extra element to the game?

MM: I heard from somebody that it might be televised, but I didn't really know. Either way, at that point, when I get on the mound, it doesn't matter. It's really mono y mono, it's me versus the hitter. I don't think about anything else. Nothing gets into my head about that.

OC: Looking back at where you were a year ago and on your injury struggles early in your career, could you have imagined that 12 months later, you would have pitched in the AFL and now be pitching so well in major league camp?

MM: No chance. Not at all. Everyone has confidence in themselves and I felt like I could have done it, but actually doing it is a different story. I'm very surprised at how it is going so far. Like I said, I know that I have good stuff and I know that I feel like I can do it, but I just didn't expect to be doing so well thus far.

OC: How has your arm felt? [Mitchell had Tommy John surgery in 2003 and missed most of the 2004 season and part of the 2005 season.] Do you feel like you can recover more quickly than you could in the past?

MM: Definitely, yeah.

OC: Did you bring a lot of confidence from your AFL season into spring training?

MM: Actually, yeah, because a lot of times if you have a rough last month or so, it kind of sticks in your mind and you want to get rid of it. Going from the Fall League, knowing that I was throwing well against the caliber of hitters that were there, obviously some of the guys here are better [than the AFL participants] but I still had the confidence where I could go "okay, if you can do it in the Fall League, the hitters are a little better here, but if you throw strikes and get ahead, hopefully you can get the same results." I knew if I did it in the Fall League that I could do it here. Just a matter of having a good approach and throwing strikes, that's all it really was for me.

OC: How has it been hanging out in the major league clubhouse and being in the bullpen with guys who are definitely going to make the 25-man roster? Is there anyone in particular you have looked to for advice?

MM: I kind of keep to myself. I don't talk a lot, but I will kind of pick guys' brains and just ask different questions. Alan Embree is a great guy. I don't talk to a lot of guys about pitching, but just hanging out with him and being in the bullpen, just seeing how [the big league pitchers] work and how they go about getting ready, I soak that up so hopefully I can include that in how I get ready to pitch. It's a lot of fun. Even just shagging fly-balls during BP, you get to talk to a lot of the guys about different things, so it is a lot of fun.

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