He writes "PUSH" on every glove he uses—Play Until Something Happens. Play hard. Play with enthusiasm. Play with confidence.
This is the new Mitchell, the outfielder who discovered himself at age 26 last year and put together a season that earned him a place on the Athletics' 40-man roster.
Mitchell heads to big league spring training for the first time, fresh off a season when he climbed to Triple-A Sacramento and batted a cumulative .332/.430/.530 with 15 homers and 27 steals at two stops. He broke through even while struggling with a knee injury that required postseason surgery.
While Mitchell may not have a realistic chance to crack Oakland's crowded outfield this season, he has put himself in position to compete for a spot in the future. The recent signing of Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes for four years and $36 million, however, seems to rule out the prospect of a starting gig.
Mitchell, a 2006 fifth-round pick from UNC Greensboro, knows that all he can do is worry about what is in his realm to control.
"As you get older in the game, you mature a lot," Mitchell said. "It was a learning process the whole time. It's still a learning process.
"The biggest thing I work on is how to deal with failure. That was my biggest problem coming through the system, and I'm still learning it. The main thing is to stay positive and believe in yourself."
Farm director Keith Lieppman said Mitchell used to approach baseball with a football mentality, based on his days as a top prep tailback. Mitchell had to learn the different rhythm of baseball and how to deal with stress.
The 6-foot, 216-pound lefty hitter said he plans to work on his basestealing skills at spring training in anticipation of a leadoff job with Sacramento.
He's trying to prove that a late-bloomer can make a big PUSH.
• The A's released 24-year-old infielder Jason Christian, a fifth-rounder in 2008 who had shown promise early in his career before being derailed by injuries. Christian quickly signed with the Reds.
• Righthander Robin Rosario returned to the A's complex in the Dominican Republic to try to re-establish his career. He signed as an outfielder for $350,000 in 2008 but hit just .230 in his first two seasons, prompting a shift to the mound in 2011.