'Pressure Off' For Garver as 2023 Rangers Season Approaches
- Matthew Postins
Considering his injury progress and Jonah Heim's presence, veteran catching Mitch Garver doesn't need to push to be ready for Texas Rangers Opening Day.
Under different circumstances, there might be a considerable amount of pressure on Texas Rangers catcher Mitch Garver to not only prove he’s healthy, but be able to take on a primary role behind the plate.
That pressure, however, doesn’t exist. Sure, Garver wants to play as much as he can. But he’s only part of the equation at the position.
Having Jonah Heim around, he says, takes the pressure off.
“I’ve got Jonah here, where’s he’s come in his career and where he’s at right now, it takes a lot of the pressure off,” Garver said before his Saturday start against the Los Angeles Angels.
The plan for Garver has been in place since July when he had surgery to repair his right flexor tendon. That injury, suffered early last season, prevented Garver from even throwing the ball back to the pitcher without pain.
The Rangers tried to work him in as a full-time designated hitter, but his bat didn’t respond as he hovered around a .200 average. Having the surgery at least gave him a chance to be ready for Spring Training ahead of his final season before reaching free agency.
Garver admitted that he’d never had offseason surgery before. Ramping up for this spring was completely different than any other, though you wouldn’t have known it when he reported riding a scooter into the facility.
But the Rangers have handled his progress this spring in steps.
First, make sure he can throw back to the mound and do so without significant soreness. Then, work Garver into the batting order as a DH. Then, start him in a spring game in late February with a pitcher he’s familiar with — Martín Pérez.
Finally, get him consistent playing time behind the plate — about every two or three days — and test his arm throwing around the infield.
In his previous start before the Angels, Garver went seven innings behind the plate and made a really good throw on a stolen base attempt.
“That’s good news for us and good news for him,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You’re always concerned about any setbacks, but we’ve really stayed away from those with him and it’s just gotten better and better.”
Garver says the elbow feels good and that he only deals with a minimal amount of soreness after games, which doctors tell him is normal at this point.
The Rangers continue to stretch Garver out. Bochy feels comfortable playing Garver twice a week behind the plate during the regular season.
Going into the season it was assumed that Heim would be the front-line catcher and that Garver would be the tandem. Indeed, that appears to be the way the Rangers are headed.
But they want to keep Garver’s bat in the lineup at DH on those days he doesn’t catch. After all, Garver registered a 30-home run season in 2019 with the Minnesota Twins.
But having Heim around means Garver can be deliberate as he ramps up for the season.
“It’s not like I have to press forward to try and do more because I have a great partner and he’s going to get a lot of playing time as well,” Garver said.
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