Mitchell earns spot in starting rotation

Published 11:31 am Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mississippi State pitcher Ross Mitchell delivers against Georgia last weekend. Mitchell, MSU’s best relief pitcher, was named the SEC’s Pitcher of the Week on Monday and also moved into the starting rotation. Bill Simmonds/Mississippi State sports information

Mississippi State pitcher Ross Mitchell delivers against Georgia last weekend. Mitchell, MSU’s best relief pitcher, was named the SEC’s Pitcher of the Week on Monday and also moved into the starting rotation. Bill Simmonds/Mississippi State sports information

After throwing a complete game in his first start in two years, Mississippi State’s Ross Mitchell has convinced coach John Cohen to make him a weekend starter.

The junior left-hander was among the nation’s best relievers last season, going 13-0 with a 1.53 ERA in a school record-tying 34 appearances for the national runner-up Bulldogs. The plan was for Mitchell to remain in a relief role. But Ben Bracewell and Brandon Woodruff have underperformed, and Cohen wanted to get a look at Mitchell as a starter before the meat of the Southeastern Conference schedule comes.

Cohen liked what he saw Saturday. Mitchell allowed one run and four hits in a 6-1 victory that started a doubleheader sweep at Georgia.

On Monday, Mitchell was named the SEC Pitcher of the Week for the second time this month. He also earned the award on March 3.

“We were kind of hoping we’d keep him in the bullpen because using him twice instead of once a week would be valuable,” Cohen said Monday. “We can’t afford that luxury. We’re going to need him to start on the weekend.”

The 6-foot-1, 162-pound Mitchell’s only other start was a two-inning, no-decision outing against Mercer when he was a freshman. His performance Saturday improved him to 3-1 this season and 19-1 in his career. Left-handed batters are hitting .148 against Mitchell in 36 innings this season.

All-America closer Jonathan Holder, who blew two saves early in the season while pitching with a finger injury, picked up his second save Saturday. In his last two outings he’s given up two earned runs in seven innings.

The Bulldogs are adjusting offensively after losing All-American and first-round draft pick Hunter Renfroe and leadoff man Adam Frazier, who led the nation in hits last season. They’re 15-8 and coming off their first series win at Georgia since 1997.

“We’re hoping our best baseball comes down the stretch,” Cohen said. “No one remembers regular seasons. Everybody remembers what you do in the NCAA Tournament.”