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02/20/09 10:00 AM EST

Mitchinson focused on staying healthy

Aussie prospect expected to bypass World Baseball Classic

While most big league organizations are going to see their Minor League Spring Training camps slightly reduced in number as various prospects head off to represent their countries in the World Baseball Classic, it looks like the Oakland Athletics could be one of the few to see their backfields remain intact.

Of the seven Athletics named to provisional 45-man rosters, five are established big leaguers (pitchers Brad Ziegler and Joey Devine of Team USA, pitcher Santiago Casilla of the Dominican Republic, pitcher Edgar Gonzalez of Mexico and outfielder Chris Denorfia of Italy).

The two remaining A's on provisional rosters are right-handers Scott Mitchinson of Australia and Ricardo Penalba of Panama. But at this point, with just a few days left before final 28-man rosters are announced, it seems that Mitchinson would pass if given a slot for his home country, while the 20-year-old Penalba is a long shot to make his club.

For Mitchinson, national pride is important, but his health -- which has been elusive -- is even more so.

"Oakland is supportive that if he wanted to do it, he could," said Athletics Minor League pitching coordinator Gil Patterson. "But the key for all of us is his staying healthy."

Since turning pro as a teenager in 2004 with a phenomenal debut season with the Philadelphia Phillies, Mitchinson has been tantalizing but fragile.

The 24-year-old from Leeming, Western Australia, won the Phillies' Paul Owens Award as their top Minor League pitcher that summer when he went 7-0 with a 1.75 ERA in 10 starts in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He struck out 60 while walking one over 62 1/3 innings.

No, that's not a typo. His command has been his calling card throughout five abbreviated seasons.

The following summer, he moved up to the Phillies' more advanced short-season club at Batavia in the New York-Penn League, where he had a 5.35 ERA in 13 starts. In '06, he fanned 64 batters in 61 1/3 innings at Class A Lakewood, walking 18 and posting a 3.96 ERA in 15 starts, but missed more than two months at midseason.

He also missed most of the first three months of '07 following shoulder surgery before pitching sparingly in the Gulf Coast League and at Batavia and Lakewood. Over 67 1/3 innings, he struck out 75 while walking 24.

That December, the A's took a flyer on Mitchinson in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft and so far, they have been delighted with the acquisition.

Mitchinson started last summer at Class A Kane County and dominated Midwest League hitters with a 1.74 ERA in 14 games, striking out 78 over 77 2/3 innings while walking 11.

However, he still wasn't free of the injury bug as he missed several weeks, this time with a sore elbow. Once he was back on the mound, he finished the summer at Class A Advanced Stockton with a 1.69 ERA in two regular-season starts.

The Oakland coaching staff has nothing but great things to say about Mitchinson, both on and off the mound.

"The top thing about him is he's a very good person, a good character and wonderful to work with," Patterson said. "As far as his pitching, he's not overpowering but he locates the ball well and isn't afraid to throw strikes."

Patterson added that Mitchinson's work with Kane County pitching coach Don Schulze added some movement to his fastball and developed a nice changeup.

"If there were any chinks in the armor, it was just that you sometimes need recovery time to let everything heal," Patterson said of the recurring injuries. "We have a wonderful medical and conditioning staff here, so with that in place for this year, we're really hoping he can go the entire season."

Other Athletics on Classic rosters

RHP Ricardo Penalba is on the Panamanian provisional roster. The 20-year-old, who stands 5-foot-11, picked up his first stateside save in the final game of the 2008 Arizona League season, posting a 3.86 ERA over 9 1/3 innings. Prior to that, he made two starts in the Dominican Summer League, where he pitched 30 innings in '07.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.