Mitchell Flourishing In New Role

ST. LUCIE, FL – Constant change has been Bret Mitchell's steady companion the last three years. In 2011 the right-hander started in seven games for the Kingsport Mets. He then missed the entire 2012 season with a labrum tear in his hip, but was able to bounce back this year as a closer for the Savannah Sand Gnats before earning a promotion to high-A St. Lucie.

"It was a surprise just because this is my first year out of the pen," Mitchell said when asked about his recent promotion. "I wasn't really sure how it would go and I started the year as like a middle-relief kind of guy, maybe going to be long innings, and then got moved to closer.

"Then that was kind of a surprise there and then getting called up here, you know, never sure what your role is going to be. So it's kind of different, but no it's definitely a surprise."

But while Mitchell's evolution from starter to closer to relief pitcher has been the proverbial curveball for the young pitcher, it has also earned him a very diverse arsenal of pitches.

Aside from having a fastball in the low to mid-90s, Mitchell also has the ability to throw a slider and a changeup, both of which he uses early in counts to get ahead of opposing hitters. He then goes to his curveball as his out pitch.

"He has a good fastball, changeup with depth and again that sharp breaking ball -- probably one of the sharpest breaking balls that I've seen in the league," Mets' skipper Ryan Ellis said.

Aside from adding variety to his pitching inventory, Mitchell's past experiences have also allowed him to quickly adapt to his new role with the Mets.

"It's always nice to have a guy with closing experience to come in any situation," Ellis said. "He's done a good job in that 6th, 7th, 8th inning, you know, those key innings in [every] ballgame. You can bring him in and he'll do a consistent job of throwing strikes and mixing his pitches."

But what Ellis likes best about the relief pitcher is his mentality on the mound.

"He goes after you," Ellis said. "He pitches to contact, even though he has strikeout ability. And whenever he needs the groundball, he'll get the groundball, whenever he needs the strikeout, he'll get the strikeout. So he recognizes those situations, which is good for a young kid like Bret."

Mitchell's success – in 14 games [18.2 innings] the right-hander has given up only three runs – may very well be a byproduct of being mentored by two very different pitching coaches this season.

"In Savannah, Frank Viola is more of like the mental part of pitching," Mitchell explained, "whereas Phil [Regan], you know, he's been around the game for a long time, he's more about the mechanics and working with pitchers just to make them more consistent. So it was nice to have both parts of my game, get to work on them both this year with two really good pitching coaches. It's a privilege."

But while Mitchell has settled into his new role quite nicely, there is still room for improvement. His manager, for instance, would like to see him cut down on walks – Mitchell has given up a career-high 6.3 bases on balls per 9 innings pitched [BB/9], according to baseball-reference.com.

"I think one thing he needs to work on whenever he comes into ballgames – not feeling it out, that first hitter," Ellis said. "He kind of feels out the first hitter and he's been walking a few guys whenever he gets in a ballgame, you know, that very first hitter and then usually it's in a one-, two-run ballgame.

"You're either putting the tying run on first base or putting the tying run at home plate. But after that, after that first hitter, he seems to settle in. If we can get him to settle in right away, coming into a situation which is usually a key situation, he'd be a little bit better off in my opinion."

For Mitchell himself, pitch selection is an area he would like to improve upon, especially knowing how much less margin for error there is for a relief pitcher.

"As a starter you have a game plan to get people out multiple times," Mitchell said, "whereas coming out of the bullpen, those are your guys, you got one inning. You got to let it all out there, really empty the tank in one try, because those are real important innings towards the end of the game, too. You don't have a chance to make up for it later."

But while "trying to make strides every day" is undoubtedly important to Mitchell, more than anything he is just grateful to be back.

"I'm just ready to go out there and play. It's … you know, [I] missed the whole season last year due to injury and it was just cool to get a chance to be on the field again. So I'm just excited and I'll take whatever I get," Mitchell concluded.


Indians Baseball Insider Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"It was a surprise just because this is my first year out of the pen,\" Mitchell said when asked about his recent promotion. \"I wasn't really sure how it would go and I started the year as like a middle-relief kind of guy, maybe going to be long innings, and then got moved to closer.
\r\n
\r\n\"Then that was kind of a surprise there and then getting called up here, you know, never sure what your role is going to be. So it's kind of different, but no it's definitely a surprise.\"
\r\n
\r\nBut while Mitchell's evolution from starter to closer to relief pitcher has been the proverbial curveball for the young pitcher, it has also earned him a very diverse arsenal of pitches.
\r\n
\r\nAside from having a fastball in the low to mid-90s, Mitchell also has the ability to throw a slider and a changeup, both of which he uses early in counts to get ahead of opposing hitters. He then goes to his curveball as his out pitch.
\r\n
\r\n\"He has a good fastball, changeup with depth and again that sharp breaking ball -- probably one of the sharpest breaking balls that I've seen in the league,\" Mets' skipper Ryan Ellis said.
\r\n
\r\nAside from adding variety to his pitching inventory, Mitchell's past experiences have also allowed him to quickly adapt to his new role with the Mets.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's always nice to have a guy with closing experience to come in any situation,\" Ellis said. \"He's done a good job in that 6th, 7th, 8th inning, you know, those key innings in [every] ballgame. You can bring him in and he'll do a consistent job of throwing strikes and mixing his pitches.\"
\r\n
\r\nBut what Ellis likes best about the relief pitcher is his mentality on the mound.
\r\n
\r\n\"He goes after you,\" Ellis said. \"He pitches to contact, even though he has strikeout ability. And whenever he needs the groundball, he'll get the groundball, whenever he needs the strikeout, he'll get the strikeout. So he recognizes those situations, which is good for a young kid like Bret.\"
\r\n
\r\nMitchell's success – in 14 games [18.2 innings] the right-hander has given up only three runs – may very well be a byproduct of being mentored by two very different pitching coaches this season.
\r\n
\r\n\"In Savannah, Frank Viola is more of like the mental part of pitching,\" Mitchell explained, \"whereas Phil [Regan], you know, he's been around the game for a long time, he's more about the mechanics and working with pitchers just to make them more consistent. So it was nice to have both parts of my game, get to work on them both this year with two really good pitching coaches. It's a privilege.\"
\r\n
\r\nBut while Mitchell has settled into his new role quite nicely, there is still room for improvement. His manager, for instance, would like to see him cut down on walks – Mitchell has given up a career-high 6.3 bases on balls per 9 innings pitched [BB/9], according to baseball-reference.com.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think one thing he needs to work on whenever he comes into ballgames – not feeling it out, that first hitter,\" Ellis said. \"He kind of feels out the first hitter and he's been walking a few guys whenever he gets in a ballgame, you know, that very first hitter and then usually it's in a one-, two-run ballgame.
\r\n
\r\n\"You're either putting the tying run on first base or putting the tying run at home plate. But after that, after that first hitter, he seems to settle in. If we can get him to settle in right away, coming into a situation which is usually a key situation, he'd be a little bit better off in my opinion.\"
\r\n
\r\nFor Mitchell himself, pitch selection is an area he would like to improve upon, especially knowing how much less margin for error there is for a relief pitcher.
\r\n
\r\n\"As a starter you have a game plan to get people out multiple times,\" Mitchell said, \"whereas coming out of the bullpen, those are your guys, you got one inning. You got to let it all out there, really empty the tank in one try, because those are real important innings towards the end of the game, too. You don't have a chance to make up for it later.\"
\r\n
\r\nBut while \"trying to make strides every day\" is undoubtedly important to Mitchell, more than anything he is just grateful to be back.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm just ready to go out there and play. It's … you know, [I] missed the whole season last year due to injury and it was just cool to get a chance to be on the field again. So I'm just excited and I'll take whatever I get,\" Mitchell concluded.
\r\n
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