The Yankees’ rotation was supposed to be downright nasty this year. After Andy Pettitte committed to a comeback, I was more concerned with who would get left out of the rotation than the Yankees struggling to produce five effective starting pitchers. In a blog post discussing Pettitte’s return, I even said:
“At the risk of jinxing the Yankees, I don’t see any way they’re unable to put together a reliable five-man rotation with their current roster.”
Unfortunately for New York, a torn labrum has precluded Michael Pineda from contributing, and an ERA north of seven is making Phil Hughes look like a bust. Meanwhile, Freddy Garcia has been unable to perform well enough to stay in the rotation. After getting shelled again in his last start versus Detroit, his ERA ballooned to 12.51, and now news has just broke that he will be moved to the bullpen.
Replacing Garcia in the rotation will be David Phelps who has performed admirably–cleaning up the messes left by Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia after their routinely poor starts. Taking Phelps’s spot as the Yankees long reliever will be D.J. Mitchell. In the corresponding move, Cody Eppley was optioned to AAA.
D.J. Mitchell was a pitcher and outfielder for the Clemson Tigers from 2006-2008. In his Junior season, he served as the ace and Friday night starter. He collected 106 strikeouts, still the most in a single season by a Clemson Tiger since 1996. After his Junior year in 2008, Mitchell was drafted in the 10th round and signed with the New York Yankees.
Since then, D.J. has flourished in the Yankees farm system with a minor-league record of 40-21 over 475.1 innings pitched. He competed for a spot as the Yankees long man this Spring Training, but lost out to David Phelps who is now in the rotation. While in the minors this season, Mitchell was 2-1 with a 3.13 ERA in four starts.
His future with the Yankees is uncertain. Upon his return, Andy Pettitte will likely replace either David Phelps or Phil Hughes in the rotation. Either way, one of those two players could potentially head to the bullpen and push Mitchell back to AAA. Hughes could of course be optioned to the minors or Garcia could be designated for assignment, and injuries could open up additional roster spots. Luckily the Yankees have time to figure it out.
For me, this is especially exciting because my first two years as an undergraduate at Clemson coincided with D.J.’s last two years. I had the privilege of watching him play at beautiful Doug Kingsmore Stadium. In addition, D.J. is from Winston-Salem, NC where I will be relocating to this May. I’d like to wish my fellow Clemson Tiger–D.J. Mitchell– the best of luck in Pinstripes.
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Update** I attended a Clemson @ Wake Forest baseball game on Friday and D.J. Mitchell’s father was in attendance (D.J. is from just north of the university). Turns out Mr. Mitchell wanted his son in the outfield, not on the pitchers mound. He was a decent enough outfielder, but he has found his niche on the mound. He is not currently on the Yankees active roster, but figures to be called up at least by September as he pitched to the tune of a 3.3.8 ERA in just 2.2 innings in his time with the Yankees.