CHICAGO — Mitch Garver was getting excited. After a lousy April, after worrying that the hitting stroke that carried him to one of the best seasons by a catcher in Twins history wasn't coming back, he got on a roll in May.
He walked as often as he struck out. He added more than 50 points to his batting average. He posted a 1.017 OPS for the month, by far the best on his team. "I really had it going. I had a feeling it was a very good year for me," Garver said, a real relief following his abysmal 2020.
Then came Baltimore. Then came Trey Mancini's foul ball. Then came groin surgery. And even when he returned two months later, he was beset by injuries to his rib cage and most recently, his lower back.
“I want to show the team I'm healthy going into the offseason. he said. And maybe [show] anyone else that's watching. You never know.”
So how would Garver describe his season now?
Wrecked by injuries, absolutely," he said Tuesday, shortly after being activated from the injured list. "Wrecked is an understatement."
The 30-year-old catcher could have declared his season totaled, actually, given the symptoms he felt earlier this month. "I couldn't bend over. Had trouble sleeping," he said. "I lost all mobility for a while."
Yet there he was Tuesday night, back behind the plate, and trying to start another hot streak with a line-drive single that left his bat at 106.3 mph, one of his hardest-hit balls of the year.Garver finished the night with three singles in the Twins' 9-5 victory over the Cubs, not quite the splash of his two-homer game upon returning from the groin injury, but still impressive for a guy who says he's playing with less than total health.
How much less? "Let's just say, I'm here. I'm not going to give you a number," Garver said. "I'm not 100 [percent] and it's not zero. But I can play at a major league level. I wouldn't have come back if I couldn't."
He's motivated, he said, to finish strong, to salvage something from the wreckage. To play as well for two weeks as he possibly can. And one more thing:
"I want to show the team I'm healthy going into the offseason," he said. "And maybe [show] anyone else that's watching. You never know."
If he's worried about his status with the team, particularly with three seasons remaining before he's eligible for free agency, his manager doesn't share those doubts. And while the Twins have used Garver's absence to develop Ryan Jeffers, the rookie has batted only .198.
"When Mitch has been out there this year, he has been fantastic," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "You can hit him anywhere in the lineup, [and] he has good at-bats. He gets on base. So it's really nice to get him back."
And not just at the plate, but behind it, too. The Twins' pitching staff is considerably younger now than it was at the start of the season, and the Twins hope Garver will help them weather the inevitable bumpiness.
Though he has only three years in the majors, "I consider Mitch a veteran at this point," Baldelli said. "The character and makeup of your catchers, it matters a lot [because] those are the guys that are working directly with your pitchers. Every one of those interactions and conversations are important."