Rangers catching coach Bobby Wilson prides himself on emphasizing the relationship that’s built between pitchers and catchers. So when the Rangers traded for catcher Mitch Garver right before the start of a shortened Spring Training, Wilson knew it was going to be an uphill climb to build those relationships with an entire pitching staff.
Eight games into the season, it’s still developing.
“It’s a lot of new things to take in,” Garver said. “I mean, there’s only so much you can do in a short period of time. It’s gonna take some games just to learn everybody. And there’s going to be a growing period with it. It’s not like I can be more proactive about it, I can’t go out to the bullpen and catch them there and then take them into the game. It’s a win-now mode. It’s been an adjustment for sure.”
While it is hard for Garver to build relationships with an entire pitching staff in just a month’s time, he’s doing everything in his power to learn all that he can early in the season. Co-pitching coaches Doug Mathis and Brendan Sagara provided Garver with a notebook containing full breakdowns on each pitcher for him to review even when he isn’t catching.
He’s doing his homework and being proactive in trying to learn as many pitchers’ tendencies as possible.
“We’ve had really good conversations about the technical part of catching, but we’re still improving that and going to make that better,” Wilson said. “Our No. 1 priority has been the pitcher-catcher relationship and will always be that. It’s definitely a challenge. But I think that he’s really smart, he understands our values. So he’s actually done a really, really good job, better than I expected, with all the information.”
When the Rangers traded for Garver — who was a Silver Slugger Award winner in 2019 — it was with the intent to add more pop to a lineup that was in much need of it. And while Garver wasn’t a defensive liability by any means, and is a better pitch framer than many give him credit for, Wilson’s goal has been for him to improve every defensive part of his game tenfold.
Once the pitcher-catcher relationships are developed and solidified, the defensive improvements are sure to follow.
“Bobby’s been amazing,” Garver said. “I’ve played with him. I’ve said it before, he’s a great role model for me. So to have him now as one of my coaches, it’s great. He’s very clear on communication. We have specific goals in mind, and we’re working every day to get to those goals.”