Through 53 games this season, Jared Mitchell was lost.
“I was actually seeing the ball really well, but I was so bad with my timing that once I made the decision to swing, everything was off, everything was out of whack and didn’t play,” said Mitchell.
Through June 14th, the 25-year-old was batting just .199 and had struck out in exactly half of his at-bats (78 of 156).
The following day, word came that he'd been reassigned to Class AA Birmingham.
There, the former White Sox No. 1 prospect rediscovered his timing and rhythm at the plate, and he's returned to Charlotte looking more like the player Chicago thought it was getting with its first-round pick in 2009.
At no time was the change in Mitchell more apparent than in his first at-bat in Friday’s 7-1 Knights win over the Norfolk Tides in front a sold-out crowd of 10,448 at BB&T BallPark.
Mitchell worked the count full against Tides’ starter Tyler Wilson and then fouled off four consecutive pitches before taking a slider inside for ball four.
The 10-pitch at-bat – one he likely wouldn’t have been able to put up back in June – set the tone for the Knights to take a lead in the first inning that they would never relinquish.
“The improved timing has cleaned up my bat path,” he said. “When I’m on time, I don’t need to rush to get to pitches, so I’m able to see pitches deeper, so it’s helped that way.”
Wilson – clearly frustrated that he’d lost Mitchell – started the Knights’ next batter, Marcus Semien, off with two straight balls, before running the count full.
This time, wanting to avoid back-to-back walks, he came with a fastball over the heart of the plate and the result was a 350-foot home run that sent fans scattering as it landed at the base of the grassy hill in left field.
“It means a lot when the leadoff guy makes the pitcher work like that,” Semien said of Mitchell’s at-bat. “(Wilson) didn’t have as good of command right after that. He didn’t want to walk me so he threw me a fastball and I was ready to hit it.”
Mitchell would go on to finish the night 1-for-3 with two walks, a stolen base and three runs scored. The hit – a single to lead off the third inning – extended his current hitting streak to a season-high seven games.
He did not strikeout.
In 19 games since his return to Charlotte, Mitchell's hit .312 (25-for-80) with three home runs, 13 runs scored, 12 RBIs and 21 strikeouts.
“No one wants to go down a level, but I saw it as another opportunity,” Mitchell said. “You’d rather be doing that than being sent somewhere else. For me, it was another chance to get things figured out and iron things out and get going on the right path.”
In 111 games split between Birmingham and the Knights this season, Mitchell has raised his average to .262 (103-for-393), with 18 home runs, 68 runs scored, 46 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.
“I’ve known Mitchell’s had the ability the whole time,” Semien said. “He’s just putting things together now and having good at-bats. As long as he keeps it up, we’ll be good.”