FORT MYERS, FLA. – Mitch Garver has been a catcher in the Twins organization since being drafted in the ninth round and signed quickly in June 2013. He has shared catching duties for the Twins for three seasons, including his Silver Slugger season of 2019 and his slump-ridden mini-season in 2020.
Garver said the reason many teams are splitting catching duties in equal hunks than in the past goes well beyond the physical wear.
"Catching is so much harder, more complicated, than in the past,'' he said. "We are using so many more pitchers and the stuff they are throwing is so much better.
"Every single guy has a specific way to pitch that gives him the best chance to be successful, and against particular hitters. That adds up to a tremendous amount of information that we look at every night and are expected as catchers to take into each at-bat.''
Garver, 30, will be splitting catching duties with Ryan Jeffers, 23, and a second-rounder in the 2018 draft.
"Ryan is farther along as a catcher than I was at his age,'' Garver said. "Part of the reason for that could be instruction. From the time he was drafted, he's been working with coaches focused entirely on catching,''
Garver had Ray Smith and Jeff Reed, two former big-league catchers, for his first 28 pro games with the rookie team in Elizabethton, Tenn., but after that there was not a roving instructor as a catching coordinator in the minors. There's now a "catching group'' with the Twins.
"We used to talk about receiving, throwing and blocking balls in the dirt,'' Garver said. "That was catching. Then, when they started adding the strike zone box to more telecasts, that made things tougher for the plate umpire, but also the catcher.
"If a pitch is near the corner and not called a strike, it's the catcher's fault, because the pitch wasn't 'framed.' ''
How about when you're on a roll at the plate, as Garver was often in 2019, and still have to take a seat, as Garver did to watch Jason Castro for the same share of starts that season?
"It's give and take,'' Garver said. "You could be having a tough week, not hitting, and it might help to have a break. When you're going good, yes, it's tough not to be in the lineup. But not long ago, all you had to do was catch. The job is much harder now.''