Still making his pitch for the Birds

Andy Mitchell admits he was open to leaving the Orioles organization, where he has pitched since 2001.

For the third winter in a row, he was a minor league free agent. But after nine years and nearly 800 innings, all in the minors, he is back with the organization for another go around. He re-signed in late January.

"I was ready to listen to any offers I might get," the 31-year-old Mitchell said. "I didn't get as many as I wanted and definitely not one as good as the Orioles offer. It ended up being an easy decision to come back. They like me and know what I can do.

"I've never gotten the big league chance but you never know what can happen. As long as I'm playing and I'm at a high level like Triple-A, they might decide they need me one day."

Mitchell was in O's big league spring camp in 2006 and again last March, but he is not this season.

"I never got a big league invite from anyone, so not having one from the Orioles didn't keep me from signing. I was disappointed that didn't happen. They have so many good young pitchers now, those guys have to be in big league camp."

The right hander, a submarine-style pitcher, went 11-5, 5.24 last year for Triple-A Norfolk. He made 37 appearances, 13 starts, pitching 113 innings.

"All the managers and coaches I've been with and instructors have all been great guys. For some reason, they've liked me and fought for me. I moved up every level until I got to Triple-A. They didn't have any money in me (like with a high draft pick) but kept moving me up levels. They treated me like a high-round pick early in my career. I appreciate the opportunity they've given me and the long career I've had.

"I still think I can get better. The last few years I've gotten better with my changeup and think I can put together as good a season as anyone. Having to start some has impacted my ERA facing lefty hitters as a submarine pitcher."

Mitchell, who has been at Triple-A since 2005, believes he is best suited for the bullpen and could help a big league team as a right-handed specialist.

For now he knows he's a minor league lifer and many top O's pitching prospects have passed him by.

"I'm obviously an organizational guy, versatile and can really save a pitching staff by being able to start and go long or short relief, whatever they need. I believe in the big leagues I would not be a starter. I think I could put up numbers in the Majors as a right-handed specialist or long reliever."

Mitchell, who has never had a losing record, is 57-31, 3.83 since pitching with the Gulf Coast O's in 2001. The O's signed him as a non-drafted free agent out of Georgia Tech. He has pitched 768 career innings.

Does he feel like this could be his last season?

"I don't want to think like that. Sometimes those thoughts come into my head. But if I've decided to play this season, I'm going to try and get better and right now not worry about what comes after that."

One stat that Mitchell has going for him is he's a career .300 minor league hitter. He went 6 for 20 at bat back in that 2001 season.

"I was a two-way player for two years at college, so I had done it. The first year, in Gulf Coast, we took BP once and I swung it pretty good. We had a couple of guys go down, so they put me in left field and I got a couple of hits. I have a .300 average on the stat sheet."

Everyone should have a positive outlook like Mitchell. Even after all those bus rides, never once leading to Baltimore, he is not upset with the organization at all.

In fact, it's the opposite. He appreciates the chance the O's gave him. He even applauds the organization for how it handles the minor league hurlers.

"I think it's perfect. They don't overdue it in spring training. They give you a good throwing program and routine to build arm strength and not to cause any strain early, so you can get through the season healthy."

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