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Saturday, January 26, 2013
Mitchell, not Kubel, excites White Sox

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- That quality left-handed bat the Chicago White Sox are looking for figures to come from their own ranks.

The question becomes: How long does it take for him to emerge?

One of the pressing questions facing general manager Rick Hahn this weekend at SoxFest is that left-side compliment the club has yet to acquire to help balance the lineup.

While shooting down rumors that the White Sox are interested in acquiring Jason Kubel, Hahn said former first-round draft pick Jared Mitchell could emerge as that lefty hitter.

“After Buddy Bell returned from instructional league this year, he wouldn’t shut up about where Jared is and we can’t possibly consider moving this guy because he’s ready to bust loose,” Hahn told the crowd at SoxFest on Saturday morning. “Guys who have been working with him since he arrived here on campus are starting to get that excitement in their voice.”


That excitement has been in hiding ever since Mitchell suffered a serious ankle injury in his first big league spring training game in 2010. He ended up missing the entire season -- not an ideal scenario, especially when considering the work needed to be done.

“At LSU, Jared was a part-time baseball player and a part-time football player, so he had a tremendous set of skills, but he was raw from a baseball-player standpoint,” Hahn said. “He needed repetition. Unfortunately he had [the injury], and that set his development back even further than it was being a junior drafted out of the SEC. At this point, now he is starting to catch up developmentally to where we want.”

With a crowded outfield, though, Mitchell wouldn’t have a spot to produce from at the major league level. The fact that he has played only 36 games at the Triple-A level would indicate that a full season at Charlotte is ahead. He batted .231 with a .692 OPS in those 36 games at Charlotte after batting .240 with an .808 OPS in 94 games earlier in the year at Double-A Birmingham.

So what about Kubel, who has been mentioned in White Sox rumors? Hahn wouldn’t address him by name, but it was clear who he was talking about. After all, Hahn said, this rumored player from the National League hits right-handers well, and Dayan Viciedo struggled in that department last year.

“But if you take a step back and look at the long-term good of Dayan and the organization, this guy is 23 years old in his first full year in the big leagues, hit 25 home runs and about .260 or so,” Hahn said. “If we all of a sudden turn him into a platoon player at age 24, he’s never going to reach that ceiling. Not too many guys were able to do what he did at the big league level at his age.

“And a short-term fix could well stunt him from becoming that middle-of-the-order, potentially 40-home run guy that a lot of people in the organization see in him. You don’t want to just drop somebody in there that can potentially compromise a guy’s development that is important for the future.”

For now, the White Sox don’t feel comfortable going past the $109 million to $110 million payroll they already are facing, but Hahn did say there could be more financial wiggle room to add that bat later in the season.

The White Sox will have to compete against a Tigers team heavy on right-handed pitching, but since they don’t play Detroit for the first time until July 9, they will have time to assess if the lefty bat remains a dramatic need.