There are several unanswered questions as the Twins prepare to hit the sun-drenched fields in Fort Myers, Fla., for spring training.
But as pitchers and catchers officially report to Hammond Stadium on Thursday, no one is asking questions about the Twins catching situation.
The position will be manned by two guys and, probably, a turtle.
The reason the Twins are so comfortable with their catching setup is the arrival of rookie Ryan Jeffers, who got his feet wet last season during a 26-game stint with the club, batting .273 with three home runs and seven RBI.
He also flashed solid catching skills behind the plate, at least enough to please the bosses. With Mitch Garver injured and struggling with a .167 batting average after hitting 31 homers in 2019, Jeffers ended up starting both games of the Twins' wild-card series against Houston.
Now Jeffers, 23, is expected to share some of the catching duties with Garver. Fan favorite Willians Astudillo — "La Tortuga" — will get a shot to make the roster, where he can help out behind the plate and at corner infield positions.
Keep in mind that Jeffers played 24 games at Class AA Pensacola in 2019 — batting .287 with an .856 on base-plus-slugging percentage — before opening last season at the Twins' alternate training site in St. Paul. He ended up on the playoff roster, which is quite a rise for the second-round pick in 2018 out of North Carolina-Wilmington.
"It was crazy," he said. "Going into the year, I had this goal in my head: 'OK, let's start at Double-A or a little bit lower, then let's play Triple-A and let's hope that by the end of the year, I can get my shot at the big leagues.' Some things have to fall right, like it always does.
"Going into major league spring training and spending some time with the pitchers and the coaches, I started building that relationship with guys. I started building trust with the pitchers. Then we, all of a sudden, got shut down. We don't know what's going to happen.
"Summer camp rolls around [and] I'm at Target Field with all the other big-league guys. I was the only prospect over there. It gave me the opportunity to build on those relationships. It made the transition easier and was an unbelievable experience."
Jeffers was on the Twins' radar from the first time manager Rocco Baldelli saw him in spring training before the 2019 season. Baldelli said then that Jeffers probably was able to step up to the majors and catch if the team was in a jam.
“It's not a left-right punch. But we can both hit and catch, and that's a benefit most teams don't have.”
A year later, Jeffers proved it. Much of his seemingly seamless transition to the majors came because he was able to work with the staff in spring and summer camps and didn't feel like the new guy when he was called upon.
"I had a meeting with Rocco early on in spring training, in late February," Jeffers said. "He was like, 'Hey, we don't really care what you get out of this spring training from a performance standpoint. You need to build these relationships so when your time comes, you can hop right into the game without wondering what Jose Berrios throws.' "
Garver didn't have a great 2020, missing a month with a right intercostal strain (muscles between the ribs) while his average dropped below .200. But he won a Silver Slugger Award in 2019 when he hit .273 with 31 homers and 67 RBI.
There could be times Jeffers and Garver are in the lineup together, with Garver playing first base and Jeffers catching. It would depend on matchups — more likely an option to use two righthanded hitters against lefthanded starters — and health.
"It's not a left-right punch," Garver said from his home in Albuquerque, N.M., "but we can both hit and catch, and that's a benefit most teams don't have."
If Astudillo, a Baldelli favorite as well, makes the 26-man roster, it would provide even more flexibility to deploy Garver and Jeffers in the same lineup.
"It gives us a great opportunity to put our catchers in a great position to succeed," Baldelli said. "Ryan did a fantastic job for us coming in last year. Mitch Garver, as we know, has been one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. He more than holds his own defensively and does a very nice job there.
"There are ways to get both of these guys in the lineup regularly, keep them rested and play a full season. The days of catchers catching five, six days a week, although it's still seen in the game, I think it's more of a rarity at this point.
"I'm actually looking forward to being able to work on some sort of catcher rotation this year because we have guys that have tremendous ability, and guys who are above average at what they do."