No. 1 prospect Mitchell sidelined with injury

May 7th, 2021

After a promising professional debut, , the Brewers' top prospect, will be sidelined at least through the weekend with a muscle strain behind his left knee that the organization does not believe will prove a significant setback.

Mitchell strained the popliteus muscle in his leg while running through the bag on an infield single on Wednesday night for High-A Wisconsin, his second hit of the game and his third hit in the first game and a half of his pro career. In an Opening Day win the day before, Mitchell beat out another infield single in his first professional at-bat and later scored, then started a game-ending double play on a flyout to center field to seal a 2-1 Timber Rattlers victory.

The Brewers will assess Mitchell’s health at the start of next week, farm director Tom Flanagan said. The team is off Monday, then plays a six-game series at Peoria from Tuesday to Sunday.

It’s an unfortunate pause for Mitchell, especially considering he had to wait 328 days from the date he was drafted 20th overall by the Brewers last June until his regular-season pro debut, with a notable stint in Major League Spring Training mixed in.

“It was just nice being back on the field with fans,” Mitchell said on opening night. “I got a little taste of that in big league camp and then in Minor League camp we had no one. I will tell you that there is no better feeling than having fans out there cheering for you and rooting you on. I’m telling you, that’s how you win ballgames like that.”

Said fellow 2020 Draft pick Hayden Cantrelle, who doubled Mitchell home in the first inning of that game and was on the back end of the double play to end it: “I think all the players in the locker room, we had so much anticipation to be able to come out here to a new city and be able to play some ball. The atmosphere was absolutely electric. We had adrenaline pumping. I know my heart was pounding.”

Both players figure to move around the field a bit for a Timber Rattlers team that had six of MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Brewers prospects in the starting lineup on Opening Day. Manager Matt Erickson said it was Mitchell’s request to see time in the outfield corners in addition to center field. Cantrelle, a switch-hitter, can play second base and shortstop.

The duo represents two-fifths of the Brewers’ crop of picks in the shortened 2020 Draft. Second-round pick Freddy Zamora, third-rounder Zavier Warren and fourth-rounder Joey Weimer all opened the season Tuesday at Low-A Carolina. All five, however, got to know each other a bit during last year’s fall instructional league, beginning relationships that they hope will last.

“You talk about that last inning, that’s trust right there, right?” Mitchell said. “I see him running across and I just trust that if I put it anywhere near, he’s going to catch it. That’s a prime example of that. So when you talk about communication, I’ll tell you that when we’re here at the ballpark, which we’re going to be for the next five months … we’ve got a good relationship going and it’s going to continue to grow every day.”

How loss helped Taylor love baseball again

Tyrone Taylor has already been up, down and back up again this season as he helps the Brewers navigate Christian Yelich’s absence for a bad back.

Taylor, a 2012 second-round Draft pick who endured some struggles and injuries in the Minor Leagues, shared the emotional story of how he is able to always “be where my feet are,” as he put it.

“A couple seasons there in Double-A, I was struggling a little bit, and it just makes you think of yourself as a person,” Taylor said. “All I knew was myself as a baseball player, so I just had to look in the mirror and figure out what I care about in life and what’s important to me, and I realized there are a lot of things that are important to me other than baseball. Also, I experienced some loss in '17, so that changes your perspective and just makes you more grateful.

“In the Vegas shooting [when a gunman opened fire on an outdoor country music concert in October 2017], I lost a close friend. I feel like at the end of the day each of us have a choice. I could have been reckless after that and been upset about it and carried it on, or I could choose to live with her in mind, like she would want me to. That’s why I enjoy myself, that’s why I have this perspective on life and I’m just thankful to be here.”

Taylor said he carried a different mindset into the 2018 season after that experience, and it turned his career around. He batted .278 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs at the Triple-A level that season, then earned his first callup to the Majors in 2019.

“I started becoming more thankful for baseball and I found my love for it again,” Taylor said. “Since ‘18 I’ve carried that perspective. I’ve just been having fun.”

Last call

• The Brewers are hopeful that catcher Manny Piña will return from the injured list on Saturday or Sunday in Miami. He has been on the 10-day IL with a fractured big toe on his left foot and was eligible for reinstatement beginning Friday. Omar Narváez, the Brewers’ other injured catcher, “ran significantly” this week in Philadelphia, manager Craig Counsell said, and was scheduled to do some catching this weekend. He is eligible to return from a strained left hamstring beginning Tuesday.

• Old friend Hernán Pérez, designated for assignment by the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, has signed a Minor League deal with the Brewers. He appeared at every position except catcher for the Brewers from 2015-19 before stints with the Cubs and Nationals.

• More news from the Brewers’ Minor Leagues: Fred Dabney -- who was to be the pitching coach at Low-A Carolina in his 18th year as a coach in Milwaukee’s farm system, and who played a role in the development of essentially every Minor League pitcher who made it to Milwaukee in that span -- decided at the end of Spring Training to depart to focus on his small business in South Florida. Carson Cross, who was scheduled to be a pitching coach in Arizona this summer, was promoted to that role at Carolina.