Brewers outfielder Garrett Mitchell has been cleared to begin a rehab assignment, per Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. He’ll head to Triple-A Nashville to get some game action on his way to rejoin the big league club.
Mitchell, now 25, made his major league debut with a splash last year, hitting .311/.373/.459 in 28 games down the stretch. He wasn’t going to sustain a .548 batting average on balls in play and his 41.2% strikeout rate was concerning, but it was an encouraging debut regardless.
He cracked this year’s Opening Day roster but suffered a shoulder injury after just 16 contests. That ailment was eventually revealed to be a left shoulder subluxation. Mitchell required surgery and manager Craig Counsell relayed that the rest of his season was in jeopardy.
Now it seems that it’s possible he could make it back before the campaign is done. There are still a couple of weeks left in the regular season and the Brewers are a virtual lock for the playoffs. They have a lead of 4.5 games over the Cubs in the National League Central and would surely still be in the mix for a Wild Card spot even if the Cubs manage a late surge.
That gives Mitchell a chance to act as a real wild card himself in the weeks to come. His major league performance has been inconsistent thus far, with the negatives being a 40% strikeout rate and .469 BABIP. But he’s nonetheless hit .286/.341/.462 in his 44 games, stolen nine bases and received strong grades for his center field defense.
Most of Milwaukee’s center field playing time has gone to Joey Wiemer this year. He’s considered a strong defender but has hit just .204/.283/.362 for the season. Sal Frelick was called up in July and has started to cut into Wiemer’s role, walking in 14.9% of his plate appearances and producing line of .252/.363/.374 while also providing above-average defense.
Perhaps the return of Mitchell could push himself or Frelick into a corner role, if the club wants them both in the lineup. Tyrone Taylor, Mark Canha and Christian Yelich are also in that mix, though the latter two have been dealing with minor injuries of late and could perhaps get some time off. There’s also the designated hitter slot, where the Brewers have been using Josh Donaldson and Rowdy Tellez recently. Donaldson has hit well in his four games since being called up but is having a poor season overall, dating back to his time with the Yankees, whereas Tellez is also struggling through a down year. Of course, any other injuries sustained in upcoming games could change the entire equation.
However the club decides to divvy up the playing time, they are surely happy to have extra options for the next few weeks. It’s also just a good sign for Mitchell to get back this year, something that wasn’t necessarily seen as likely a few months ago.