January 29, 2023

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Garver continues to find his stride in DH spot

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HOUSTON — When the Rangers activated catcher Mitch Garver off the 10-day injured list ahead of the series opener against the Astros, they knew they were only getting him on one side of the field. 

That only amplified the production needed from the former Silver Slugger Award-winning catcher. In Sunday afternoon’s 5-2 loss to the Astros, Garver provided it. He capped off his first series back from the IL with a solo home run into the Crawford Boxes in the fifth inning at Minute Maid Park.

After going hitless with a walk in the Rangers’ loss on Thursday, he recorded a hit in each of the subsequent games. 

“He’s a good catcher and a good leader back there,” manager Chris Woodward said. “He brings a ton of value on the catching side. But obviously, with the bat in his hand, he’s had some monster years. If we can tap into that, that’s huge to have in the lineup. … We obviously activated him not able to do anything but hit for a reason. We can’t wait to see him catch fire.”

Rangers’ DHs were slashing .169/.236/.272 entering Sunday. The majority of those reps had been taken by a combination of Willie Calhoun and Nick Solak, both of whom have been optioned to Triple-A this month.

With Garver holding down the spot for the foreseeable future, Texas should rightfully expect more production from that spot in the lineup. For Garver, it’s important for him to contribute to the team in any way possible. And if that’s by solely DHing, then so be it.

“I think it’s important to produce on all nine spots,” Garver said. “Everybody has to produce hits, that’s why baseball is the way that is — you feel confident that you can put anybody in that spot.  But because of my limitations right now, I’m that guy. …The biggest thing I want is to be able to help in any way possible. So this is the way that I can do that, and I’m going to try to be the best at whatever I’m doing.”

Garver has struggled with injuries a few times in his career, but each season, he’s successfully produced consistent at-bats, including his Silver Slugger Award-winning season in 2019.  

He did get off to a slow start at the plate this season, though, hitting just .177 in the month of April. But he opened May scorching hot with five hits over his first four games before he hit the IL with the flexor muscle strain. At the time of the injury, Garver said it was unfortunate, because he felt like he was hitting a stride.  

That stride seems to have carried over early into his return.

In his last seven games — three before the IL stint and four after — Garver is slashing .280/.357/.640 with three RBIs and two homers.

“I’d say I’m feeling back on track,” Garver said. “Even if I’m not getting hits, I think I’m putting up quality at-bats, and I’m hitting the ball hard. I lined out a few times in the first game [against the Astros], and I hit the ball hard in the second game. Things are starting to come together. Results are somewhat turning around, but just putting [together] consistent at-bats is something I take pride in and something that I feel like helps out the team.”

It’s still unknown how long it’ll be before Garver is back behind the plate, considering he’s not even cleared to throw yet. He was getting the bulk of catcher reps before his injury. Jonah Heim, who is batting .268 with four homers on the season, is the starting catcher now with Sam Huff serving as the backup.

Soon, the Rangers will face a depth issue with three power-hitting catchers. But for the time being, Woodward will have to find at-bats for all three of them. Huff went 2-for-4 in the finale against the Astros, and Woodward calls Heim the Rangers’ “most consistent hitter” right now.  

“I’ve got too many good-hitting catchers right now,” Woodward joked. “It’s a problem I love to have, too many good players, too many options. If Mitch was able to throw, you could probably find a way [to get all three in the lineup]. So it is a good problem.”

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