Mitchell (shoulder) likely needs surgery. Here's who could fill in

April 21st, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- The way Brewers center fielder has been feeling the past few days, he expected an MRI scan of his injured left shoulder to reveal good news. But Mitchell and the ballclub got the opposite. 

Mitchell, hurt on a dive into third base during Tuesday’s extra-inning win at Seattle, has significant damage to the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder and faces a surgery that would likely end his season. First, he’ll get a second opinion on Monday in Los Angeles from Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who could perform the repair as early as Tuesday. 

“With how I felt and what I found out, [they are] kind of two different things,” Mitchell said. “I don’t feel that bad, but with what I heard it’s obviously not good. At this time, I don’t really know what I’m feeling exactly yet, but I'm just trying to stay positive.”

While surgery “would definitely put the rest of the season in jeopardy,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said, Mitchell wasn’t ready to close the door on playing during a postseason push, or in the postseason itself should the team get that far. The 24-year-old began the season as Milwaukee’s No. 4 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, before graduating from prospect status on the same day he homered twice in a win over the Mets. Mitchell was slashing .259/.307/.466 through 62 plate appearances. 

It was a fluke play that knocked him out. Mitchell began the 10th inning of Tuesday’s Brewers-Mariners game as the runner at second base and took off for third on a bouncer to first. Seattle’s Ty France made a snap throw to third, and Mitchell avoided the tag while diving past the bag with his left arm extended, then lunged back safely with his right. 

In the process, he felt his left shoulder briefly pop out of its socket. Mitchell underwent range of motion and strength tests at the end of the half-inning and returned to center field, but he felt the sensation again when he caught a fly ball and threw home in the bottom of the 10th. At that point, he left the game.

“Obviously, it’s a freak accident,” Mitchell said. “There’s nothing I could’ve done to change what happened. If I had to redo that play 100 times,  I would do it the exact same way. The amount of times I’ve had to dive into a bag is more times than I can count in my career, so I wouldn’t change what I did. It’s unfortunate it happened that way, but I wouldn’t have changed what I did.”  

Asked about what lies ahead, Counsell said, “You’ve just got to do the rehab, get yourself better, push yourself through a tough summer when these things happen, and then he’ll be back to normal and ready to go.”

Brewers' No.3 prospect and rookie made a second straight start in center field on Friday and stands to carry most of the load there in the near term. , called up Wednesday when Mitchell landed on the 10-day injured list, is also considered a plus outfielder who is more than capable in center. 

Future options include , who has been sidelined since early in Spring Training with a right elbow injury but is in his first week of games in extended spring camp. If all goes well, he would advance to Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday. 

“This is the start of Spring Training for him, and there’s an injury, so we have to let him play and let him get into playing shape where he’s able to come here and play and has the number of at bats under his belt,” Counsell said. “There’s not a certain number, but he’s not going to play two games in Nashville.”

Another option in the Minor Leagues is No. 2-ranked Brewers prospect , but he jammed his left thumb while sliding on the same night Mitchell went down. Triple-A Nashville placed Frelick on the seven-day IL and he was in Milwaukee on Thursday to be examined and undergo an MRI scan of his own. Mitchell and Frelick actually crossed paths while going to their appointments. 

Frelick’s results were still pending as of Friday afternoon. 

“Joey’s been playing all three positions; he has a lot of time in center field,” Mitchell said. “He’s going to be fine. The organization, all the fans, everyone should be happy, excited for him. He’s going to do a good job.”