Bryan Mitchell, who goes two innings Friday, can serve Yanks out of bullpen or in the rotation.
LAKELAND, Fla. – Second baseman Starlin Castro was among the Yankees’ most significant offseason upgrades, but Joe Girardi also “knew we were giving up a really good piece” in parting with versatile pitcher Adam Warren in that trade with the Cubs.
Girardi acknowledged that Bryan Mitchell is a leading candidate this spring to fill that void of staff swingman – as both a rotation fill-in or a long reliever – and the righty got off to a strong start by hurling two scoreless innings as the starting pitcher in a 3-0 loss Friday to the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium.
“I think we have an idea what he’s capable of doing,” Girardi said. “But I think you want to get an idea, can he do it maybe moving around in a sense to where he starts, (serves as the) long man or there’s a day you need him for two or three innings, that sort of thing.
“We’ve always considered him a starter and a starter in the making, but his role (this year) might be a little bit different.”
Mitchell likely entered camp as the Yanks’ No.7 rotation option, with even Ivan Nova possibly headed for a long-relief role if the other five projected starters remain healthy.
“I feel like I’m always here to prove something, but I’m trying to not think too much about that,” Mitchell said. “It’s so early right now, so I’m just trying to get in a good rhythm and throw strikes.
“I think everyone knows where the (roster) spots are, I should say that, and everyone is battling. But I’m not trying to build myself to be shooting for one spot. I’m just trying to pitch.”
Adam Warren was dealt to the Cubs in the offseason deal that brought Starlin Castro to Yankees.
When asked if Mitchell would be more valuable to the organization working as a starter at Triple-A or out of the big-league bullpen, Girardi added, “I think he has a really good opportunity to be on our team.”
Warren threw 131.1 innings in 17 starts and 26 relief appearances last season, pitching to a 3.29 ERA, and Girardi compared his success in that role favorably to ‘90s dynasty teammate Ramiro Mendoza.
“I think it took (Warren) time to develop into that role,” Girardi said. “So whoever takes on this role is probably going to take some time to develop into it. You try to help them along and get the most out of it. So, as valuable as Adam was to us at the end, he wasn’t that guy the first day we brought him up. It took time.”
Mitchell, 24, plunked Ian Kinsler leading off Friday’s first inning, but Kinsler was caught stealing and Mitchell fanned Justin Upton before completing a scoreless frame. He retired the side in order in the second, ending his outing with a strikeout of James McCann.
“I thought he was OK, thought he threw some good breaking balls, but I’d like to see him dictate counts a little better,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said.
Mitchell, of course, was drilled in the face by Eduardo Nunez’s comebacker against Minnesota last Aug. 17, suffering a fractured nose and a concussion. He said he’d eventually like to try MLB’s newly designed protective headwear for pitchers – a cap-helmet hybrid – introduced earlier this winter.
“I haven’t worn it yet. I want to get used to it in bullpens first, if it’s something I’m going to take into games,” Mitchell said. “Right now everyone’s competing and I don’t know if it’s something I want to try to do right now, but once everything goes how it’s going to go, it’s something I’m going to try.”
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