The Padres were hoping a change of scenery would suit Mitchell. They acquired the hard-throwing 27-year-old right-hander from the Yankees, along with third baseman Chase Headley, as the prized part of the package.
But Mitchell struggled, going 0-3 with a 6.47 ERA in seven starts. After Mitchell recorded only seven outs in the Mexico Series against the Dodgers on Saturday, manager Andy Green pointed him toward the bullpen.
"I just have to go out there and dominate in whatever situation I get put in," Mitchell said. "That is the plan."
The blueprint out of Spring Training was Mitchell being a steady starter. But he allowed 38 hits and 26 walks in 32 innings, leaving Green little choice.
"I wouldn't say I was surprised," Mitchell said. "At the end of the day, it's a results-based game, and I wasn't getting it done. So we had to make a change."
Green said Mitchell will return to the rotation if his production out of the bullpen warrants it.
"That's kind of the message that I received," said Mitchell, who made 19 relief appearances for the Yankees last season. "I've been in this game for a long time, and nothing is guaranteed. Ultimately, if that is what I want -- to start -- I have to earn that. It's not like it is just sitting there waiting. I've got to prove that I deserve it."
Lyles starting Thursday While the bullpen gate swings open for Mitchell, Jordan Lyles exits it in the opposite direction. Lyles will start Thursday's series opener against the visiting Cardinals in a spot once reserved for Mitchell.
"I think [Lyles] has worked much more aggressively," Green said. "The way he has attacked hitters, the aggressiveness of the fastball and just the energy he has on the mound. He is going at guys."
Green said Lyles "found his curveball" during his stint in the bullpen. The right-hander pitched to a 3.66 ERA in 13 games, although he didn't receive a decision in his 13 innings.
"I think the mentality of going to the bullpen has been constructive for him," Green said. "Instead of pacing himself for five or six innings, he is going right at hitters. We want him to take that same mindset when he pitches for us as a starter. Don't hold anything back."
Lyles started five games for the Padres last season, going 1-3 with a 9.39 ERA.
Jay Paris is a contributor to MLB.com based in San Diego.