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Brewers' 2020 first-round pick Garrett Mitchell is still playing the waiting game
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Brewers' 2020 first-round pick Garrett Mitchell is still playing the waiting game

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GRAND CHUTE — Garrett Mitchell is getting used to waiting.

Mitchell, the Milwaukee Brewers' first-round selection in the 2020 Major League Baseball draft, spent four months waiting to see any kind of game action after the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic wiped out the minor league season. And after getting a handful of at-bats during Fall Instructional League games, had to wait a few more months before taking the field in spring training.

Once the big league season began, there was yet another wait before minor league camp opened and a whole month had passed before Mitchell finally made his professional debut last week with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Now, Mitchell is playing the waiting game again thanks to a muscle strain in his left leg that left him sidelined after playing all of two games, but the up-and-coming prospect is expected to return sometime this week.

"He's progressing well," Timber Rattlers manager Matt Erickson said. "If every thing goes right ... we'll get him moving (later this week) and hopefully, you'll see him (during the Timber Rattlers' series at Peoria this week."

Mitchell, 22, began the season as Milwaukee's top-rated minor league prospect after an eye-popping showing during spring training. Appearing in 22 games, he batted .367 with a .406 on-base percentage, .567 slugging percentage and .973 OPS; homered, drove in six runs and drew five walks against seven strikeouts.

"He's a talented kid," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "There’s no question he’s an incredibly talented young player, and there’s also no question he’s got a lot of work to do, a lot of things to get better at."

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Putting up numbers like that only to head to the minor leagues would be understandably disappointing, no matter how unrealistic such an outcome is for someone in Mitchell's position. He insists, though, that wasn't the case and instead, he's using it as motivation during this next phase of his young career.

"Just because I had a good 30 at-bats I’m going to go and skip four levels and play in 'The Show,'" Mitchell said. "It was definitely a boost for me — especially after, really, a year of not playing but I try not to focus on that too much specifically just because that was a small portion versus going through the next 120 games and just trying to stay healthy and as consistent as possible."

Helping Mitchell get better is Erickson's job, and based on what he saw from the prospect during camp, it won't be a difficult process. As much as he impressed Milwaukee's staff with his on-field abilities, Mitchell's mental approach and willingness to learn were just as encouraging as anything he did with a bat or his glove.

"He soaks up information," Erickson said. "He is very intuitive and he knows the game, for sure, but he continues to ask questions about the professional game and he's and he's curious about the experiences that we've had and the knowledge that we can share."

The Brewers were enamored with Mitchell's variety of skills when they chose him out of UCLA with the 20th overall pick in last year's draft. An advanced offensive talent who batted .355 with nine RBIs as a junior before his season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mitchell also displayed above-average speed (five stolen bases), which also played into his defensive abilities in centerfield.

Mitchell put all those tools on display during his brief Timber Rattlers debut. In his first professional at-bat, he reached on an infield hit, and after chasing down several fly balls to the outfield, closed out the game by teaming up with fellow 2020 draft pick Hayden Cantrelle to pick off a runner at second base.

The next day, Mitchell reached twice more — both on infield hits — while also stealing two bases.

"It's been a long time coming," Mitchell said. "I'm just trying to be as consistent as I possibly can, a guy who plays at 100 percent, all the time. You’ll see me flying around the field, trying to use my speed as much as I can. I just want to be a game-changer. At any point in the game you never know what’s the most important catch, but I hope that in those moments I can come in and do something for us as a team."

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