When Jared Mitchell tore a tendon in his left ankle at Spring Training and missed the entire 2010 season, it figured it would take him a little while to get back to normal.
His first step was simply getting healthy, and in 2011, he played 129 games with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and hit .222 with nine homers and 58 RBIs.
On Friday, the White Sox prospect took another big step in moving on from the injury, hitting his first Double-A homer and driving in a career-high five runs in Birmingham's 10-0 victory over Mississipppi.
"Being away from the game for a whole year, not seeing pitching and everything, it was tough to come back from that," Mitchell said. "It makes it a little bit easier when you're another year into it, another year into playing again. Your body gets used to it again and it definitely helps."
Mitchell's first at-bat didn't exactly foreshadow a career night. He came up in the bottom of the first with the bases loaded and grounded into an inning-ending double play.
With two men on in the third, the 2009 first-round pick sent a fastball from starter Luis Avilan (0-3) over the right-field wall. It was his first homer since July 8 in the Carolina League.
"[The pitch] was up and in and I just got good wood on it," he said. "It felt pretty good. Our field here is pretty big, so I didn't know if it would get out or not, but it ended up carrying."
With Corey Smith and Jose Martinez in scoring position in the fourth, Mitchell singled home both runners. He eclipsed his previous high of four RBIs, established on April 10 against Huntsville.
"Closer to the end of the game I realized, 'Oh, yeah, [career high].' We talked about that a lot, the timely hitting," he said. "[After my first at-bat], I just wanted the same opportunity."
Mitchell ended up 2-for-5, bringing his average up to .298 and giving him a Southern League-leading 15 RBIs in 16 games. The performance was another sign the former two-sport standout is back to being the athlete who won national championships in both baseball and football at LSU.
"For me, it's just moving along every day," the 23-year-old center fielder said. "It's a long year, you just come out here and try and get better. Every day is a work in progress, you just keep going."
The Barons also benefited from s standout performance on the mound from White Sox No. 2 prospect Nestor Molina. Acquired from Toronto last December in the Sergio Santos trade, the Venezuelan right-hander struck out five over seven scoreless innings. Molina (2-1) dropped his ERA to 3.80 and has 16 strikeouts against two walks over 23 2/3 innings.
"[Molina] threw well, filled up the strike zone a lot. It makes it easier to play defense," Mitchell said. "He commanded the zone well with his pitches, really handicapped a pretty good hitting team. It's fun to play behind him when he's throwing like that."
White Sox No. 9 prospect Tyler Saladino contributed three hits, including two doubles, and scored three times. Andrew Wilkins (No. 16) got into the act with a double, single and an RBI.