Mitchell making strong case to be swingman

Right-hander has allowed just one run over 14 2/3 innings this spring

Mitchell making strong case to be swingman

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The drama has followed CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova in their battle to serve as the Yankees' fifth starter, but almost quietly, Bryan Mitchell has outpitched them both. It may be enough to punch the right-hander's ticket to New York.

Mitchell looked sharp again on Saturday, limiting the Blue Jays to one hit over four scoreless innings with four strikeouts in a 4-3 Yankees victory. The 24-year-old's 0.61 spring ERA has the organization huddling to determine how he can help at the big league level.

"My goal coming into Spring Training was to make this team in any role, so I feel like I've put myself in a good position to do that," Mitchell said. "I'm not really trying to stress about those things. I'm trying to focus on what I'm doing."

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In 14 2/3 spring innings, Mitchell has allowed just one run and six hits with a walk and 11 strikeouts, prompting speculation that he could be a perfect fit to assume the swingman role that Adam Warren assumed so well last year.

"He's performed really well, and we've talked about some different roles that he could possibly fill," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's doing everything that he needs to do."

In fact, Mitchell said he and Warren compared notes last season: 112 of Mitchell's 117 games in the Minors came as a starter, but like Warren, Mitchell said he has had enough reps coming out of the bullpen to be comfortable with that role as well.

"The biggest thing I've noticed is just kind of the adrenaline coming in," Mitchell said. "Those first few hitters, the blood's really pumping. But once you get through that, the next inning it's like, OK, this is normal."

Mitchell was 0-2 with a 6.37 ERA in 20 appearances (two starts) for the Yankees last season, but catcher Austin Romine sees a different pitcher this spring. For one thing, Mitchell's tempo has increased, working quickly as he continues to pound the strike zone.

"His confidence level; he's ready to go," Romine said. "When he gets on the mound, he's comfortable, he's aggressive. If he misses a pitch, he wants to make sure he gets it right and he does. His overall confidence and composure on the mound. He wants the ball, he wants to pitch, he wants the big hitters and he wants to get them out."

Romine said it seems as though Mitchell is trusting his stuff, which was bad news for Toronto's lineup on Saturday. The Jays' only hit came on Justin Smoak's fourth-inning double, and Romine said Mitchell's curveball was "one of the best" that he has seen.

"I think Mitch is a guy you could use in a lot of different roles," Girardi said. "You want to have a starter that's built up that you can trust, but you also have to weigh the other part of it, too. You want to take your 12 best pitchers, because every month counts, every day counts."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.