The Twins season has been full of stops and starts so far. Weather delays, winning streaks, losing skids, injuries to stars, etc. It’s been hard to get a handle on our 2018 hometown squad.
During this chaotic two months, catcher Mitch Garver has been thrust into the limelight. After making his major league debut in August last season, Garver made the opening day roster in April and was tabbed to back-up veteran Jason Castro. When a torn meniscus in Castro’s right knee ended his season in May, it was up to Garver to take over one of the most important positions on the field.
A 9th round pick out of the University of New Mexico in 2013, Garver entered the picture after hitting .291/.387/.541 with 17 homers in 372 plate appearances at Rochester in 2017. He also played in 23 games with the Twins and picked up 9 hits. While still adjusting to his new role, Garver’s minor league numbers indicate he’s got more offensive upside than Castro.
The 27-year-old and I chatted near his locker during the Cleveland series last week.
DZ: Obviously for you personally, it’s been a pretty eventful year. How would you assess the first two months?
GARVER: Things are going well personally. I think I’ve grown and developed a lot early on this year. With Castro’s injury, I had an opportunity to step in and really just get some solid playing time. I think I’ve not only improved, but I think I’ve grown a lot already. I’m learning the league, I’m learning this pitching staff and how successful we can be. It’s been fun so far.
DZ: Going back to spring training, did you approach it like, “Yeah, I’ve got to make this team?”
GARVER: Yeah. That was definitely my biggest goal was to make a good impression and make this team and be a player that Molly (manager Paul Molitor) can count on to get the job done. When I found out I made the team, it was a huge sigh of relief, but I knew that there was a lot of work yet to be done.
DZ: How much did having a little experience last year help you coming into this year?
GARVER: That was huge for me. Not only did I get to have a little bit of playing time, but I got to experience that post-season feel and learn a lot from the guys who were around me. I’ll forever cherish that. Definitely I think getting that exposure last year gave me some confidence going into the off season, and in the spring training that I can make the team.
DZ: Does it feel any different when you’re called up in the middle of the season versus being on opening day roster?
GARVER: Oh, yeah. Opening day roster means a lot. At that point, you’re one of the best 750 guys to play baseball at the beginning of the year, so that was a huge honor for me. Hopefully there’s a lot more to come, but I do know that it can be taken away at any time, so that work needs to continue.
DZ: When Castro got hurt, did you have any nerves at all being the full time catcher…?
GARVER: It was new. There was nothing I could do about it, having those nerves, because I was backing up (Castro), I was still learning a lot. I would watch him on a daily basis and watch how he works and prepares himself. All the sudden it’s thrust on me that I have to do that job, and that was something I took full on. I think my pitching staff noticed it, and I kind of grabbed the bull by the horns there and really just ran with it so that was nice.
DZ: What is that transition like? Do you have to talk to coaches more, or do you have more meetings?
GARVER: It’s really just about showing the staff that you have confidence in yourself. I think the first couple starts I was a little worried about it. I wasn’t quite playing my game the way that I knew how, but as we progressed further and further, and there’s still a lot to go in the season, I think these guys will see that we put them to work to study the hitters and study the league, and I give them the best opportunity to be successful.
DZ: Are you able to talk to Castro much, or even Bobby Wilson, or even Joe Mauer about catching?
GARVER: Yeah, I talk to Bobby a lot. When (Castro) was here, I talked to him a lot. I’ve kind of stayed out of his way while he’s in his rehab process because I know that’s a task in itself, but I talk to Bobby a lot. I talk to Joe a little bit over here, which is nice to be by him (in the clubhouse). There’s a lot of guys here that offer a lot of leadership. Zach Duke (a 14-year major league veteran) was my locker mate right over here. He told me one time, “If you don’t get nervous before the game, it’s time to retire.” He still gets nervous. He still has those nerves. I was like, “All right, so I’m not the only one,” which is good.
DZ: Also, one last thing. I was on Twitter, and I noticed you’re a big fan of Fortnite. I’ve never played that game before. What’s your attraction to that game?
GARVER: It’s probably the best video game I’ve ever played. It’s unique. You can build, you can express yourself a lot in that game, and it gives me an opportunity to play with guys down in the minor leagues, or my family. My brother plays, and a couple guys back home in Albuquerque, so it’s a social thing, which I think is fun, but also we like to play video games and take our minds off baseball for a little bit.