Mitchell Hopes Patience, Versatility Pays Off





PHOENIX When Russ Mitchell reported to spring training last month, he was under no illusions about where he was likely to start the season.

With talented veterans Casey Blake and James Loney anchoring the corners of the Dodger infield, Mitchell is once again ticketed for Albuquerque, where he hit .315/.363/.535 and set career highs for homers (23) and average in his first Triple-A season last summer.

But that doesn't mean he had to make the move an easy one for the coaching staff.

"You just block that stuff out," Mitchell says. "If it happens (and) I do get sent back there, when I'm there I'll play hard, do what I did last year and wait for my time.

"It's out of my control. I just have control over what I do on the field. Hopefully I come out and have a strong spring and show them that I'm ready to play in the big leagues."

That didn't happen early in the Cactus League schedule, with the 26-year-old Mitchell going hitless in his first four games. But he got just five at-bats in those games. He had a better chance to showcase his skills last September but he faltered then, too, batting .143 in 42 at-bats.

Yet Mitchell, a 15th-round pick in the 2003 draft out of Cartersville (Ga.) High, says the experience was an educational one.

"I know what I have to do to get ready," he says.

One of things he and the Dodgers decided he needs to do is become more versatile. He played at first base, third base and in the outfield during his short stay in the majors last season. And in the minors he's played every position but catcher, center field and pitcher.

"Obviously playing a couple of positions is good, being a guy off the bench that can play multiple positions," says Mitchell, who has progressed rapidly under the Dodgers' minor league ladder the last three summers. "I do what they ask me to do. And being able to play more positions is big."

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

Xavier Paul, battling for a reserve outfield spot, was given a good look early in the spring but failed to impress, striking out in half of his first eight at-bats.

• If infield prospect Dee Gordon was disappointed when he showed up at camp and was issued No. 70, an offensive lineman's uniform number, he managed to hide it. "It's better than having no uniform at all," he said.