Call it an early birthday present for Russ Mitchell, who turns 27 on February 15. After being placed on assignment last Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers utility infielder has cleared waivers and will return to the Dodgers Organization in 2012. The reigning defensive player of the year for Triple-A Albuquerque will be invited to camp to compete for a roster spot with LAD, but has been outrighted to the Isotopes as of this week.
Mitchell, 26, was not claimed on waivers by any of the 30 MLB clubs during the two business day signing period. He will remain on the roster list for now, and likely will serve as depth for the Dodgers while beginning a third consecutive stint with the Isotopes. Mitchell’s 2011 season ended with wrist surgery on September 27 to repair torn cartilage, and he is still progressing towards a full recovery.
Fans most commonly know Mitchell as an all-around utility fielder for the Albuquerque Isotopes. In 92 games last season with the ‘Topes, he made appearances at first, third, left and right, recording 22 errorless games at first base. Overall, Mitchell committed only seven errors in 352 defensive chances during the 2011 campaign. The nine-season veteran has also begun developing his catching skills to increase his versatility for the Dodgers.
At the plate, Mitchell posted a very unique stat line for Los Angeles in 2011, making 43 outs in 58 at-bats, but smacking four homeruns with his 15 hits. At the Triple-A level, he hit .315 and .283 in 2010 and 2011 respectively, slugging over .500 in both seasons. Mitchell currently holds Isotopes batting records for most runs scored in a game (4), most walks in a game (6) and most consecutive at-bats with a hit (8).
With increased plate discipline, an even wider skill set in the field and a little luck, Russ Mitchell may see more and more time at the major league level. And while Isotopes fans would hate to see him go, it seems a safe bet to know exactly what Mitchell will be wishing for Wednesday.