GLENDALE, Ariz. – Jared Mitchell knew the day was coming this spring when he would pack up his belongings in the White Sox major league clubhouse at Camelback Ranch and move down the hall to the minor league quarters.
When the Sox drafted the football and baseball standout from LSU in the first round in 2009, some might have envisioned that the 25-year-old outfielder would be closer to staying in the Sox clubhouse by this point.
But a Sox outfield crowded with recent trades, coupled with Mitchell’s struggles to maintain consistency, pushed him early to minor league camp. He accepted being sent down at the end of last week, knowing the extra at-bats might help him plot a course toward his first major league game.
That’s still his goal, even if the progress has come slower than some in the organization would have liked. At the beginning of 2010, Baseball America ranked Mitchell the Sox’s No. 1 prospect, but a major ankle injury, and fits and starts in his development, have pushed him out of the top 10.
“I’m still here, so that means the most,” Mitchell said. “You never know what can happen in any situation. I’m still here. Every day is a new day. You try to progress, do what you can, and see how that all stacks up whenever you get an opportunity.”
Sox assistant general manager Buddy Bell said Mitchell has played great and looked fast in his showings around camp.
“We’ve seen bits and pieces of what he can really do,” Bell said. “He’s really an athletic kid. He really competes, but he is really hard on himself, and he keeps changing more than he needs to.”
Mitchell said he is trying to simplify his game in an attempt to find consistency. He doesn’t admit to impatience, saying a shot will come in due time.
The Sox outfield currently consists of left fielders Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza, center fielder Adam Eaton, and right fielder Avisail Garcia. Jordan Danks, who Sox manager Robin Ventura recently said has improved markedly after hitting three home runs in two games, also stands in front of Mitchell. Future trades or injuries could provide a window for Mitchell, but he doesn’t want to think too far ahead.
“There are so many things that can happen, and the worst thing you can do is try to figure it out yourself of who might go where and what might happen,” Mitchell said. “You play, and worry about the things you can control. That’s all you can worry about.”