With so many top prospects suiting up for the Charleston RiverDogs, one might think hitting would dominate the headlines for the Yankees' Class A affiliate. But just a few days into the new season, it's pitching that has reigned supreme so far.
New York's No. 20 prospect Bryan Mitchell faced one batter over the minimum in six innings of work and he and three RiverDogs relievers combined to two-hit the Rome Braves in a 1-0 victory Sunday.
"It was great," said Mitchell, who threw 45 of 66 pitches for strikes in his South Atlantic League debut. "I wanted to have a good game, so I could not have dreamed it up better."
Charleston pitching has now allowed just one run on six hits over the first three games of the season.
In the middle contest of the three-game series on Saturday, three RiverDogs surrendered a run on three hits in a 2-1 victory. One day earlier, Jose Campos combined with Pedro Guerra and Philip Wetherell on a one-hit shutout against the Braves.
"I was just trying to stay down in the zone and get ahead of hitters," Mitchell said. "Some guys were swinging early and I tried to get ahead with my changeup, but normally I was working off my fastball and using my curveball as the out pitch."
Gary Sanchez, MLB.com's No. 53 prospect, and No. 73 Mason Williams are batting a combined 7-for-21 (.333) in three games this year, while Dante Bichette Jr. -- the organization's No. 8 prospect -- has five of Charleston's other nine hits. But it has been pitching that has helped the RiverDogs to a perfect 3-0 start.
On Sunday, Mitchell was just as sharp as the starters who preceded him in the rotation.
He retired the first nine batters he faced before Elmer Reyes led off the top of the fourth inning with a single to left field. But Mitchell struck out the next two batters and catcher Francisco Arcia threw out Reyes trying to steal second base to end the threat.
"It was a jam shot," Mitchell said of Reyes' base hit. "It was a fastball inside that I think broke his bat. It was one of the bloops that just happened to fall in."
After a perfect fifth, Mitchell surrendered a two-out walk to Fernando De Los Santos, who promptly stole second base to give the Braves their first runner in scoring position. Reyes worked the count full, but Mitchell induced an inning-ending ground ball from shortstop Cito Culver with his 66th and final pitch of the afternoon.
"I think we have really good offense and defense," said the 6-foot-2 right-hander who was signed away from the University of North Carolina. "Everyone has stepped up and I think we have the team to win a lot of games.
"I wouldn't say we get overlooked, but you do have to give a lot of credit to the pitchers who keep putting up zeros."
Fred Lewis worked around a hit and a walk in the seventh, Zachary Varce pitched a hitless eighth and Pedro Guerra spun a perfect ninth for his first save of the year.
Selected by the Yankees in the 16th round of the 2009 Draft, Mitchell came into the 2012 season with just 15 Class A Short-Season games under his belt. He went 0-1 in his only New York-Penn League appearance with the Staten Island Yankees in 2010, and he posted a 1-3 record with a 4.09 ERA in 14 starts with the Yanks in '11.
On Sunday, Rome starter A.J. Holland (0-1) allowed one unearned run on three hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings in the losing effort. He struck out four batters.