Mitch Garver is in the Twin Cities, trying to stay active for the moment until baseball is reactivated.
Earlier this week he posted a video on his Instagram account of him hitting flip throws from teammate Max Kepler. The drill usually is done with the flipper in proximity to the batter, but Garver and Kepler practiced social distancing, with Kepler flipping from several feet away.
The camera angle showed off the background, which happened to be the workout area Joe Mauer set up in one of his family’s auto dealerships in Inver Grove Heights during his playing days.
“I wish I could hit like him,” Garver said.
The former Twins catcher might have yearned for some of the current Twins catcher’s power, as Garver exploded with 31 home runs in 93 games in 2019 to become one of baseball’s most improved players. Garver spent the offseason working to add more to his game, especially defensively, but the improved version of Garver won’t be on display until the coronavirus outbreak is under control and baseball can resume.
Until then, Garver is staying ready. In addition to getting swings in at Mauer’s facility, Garver went to a local Target to purchase kettle weights and other gear so he can use the time wisely.
“It takes that mind-set to go out there and put in whatever work you need to do for that day,” Garver said during a conference call with Josh Donaldson on Thursday. “Mark off your checklist and try to get maybe 1vpercent better every day and be ready for whatever happens.”
While Donaldson elected to remain at his home in Alabama, Garver was among a few Twins who opted to head for the Twin Cities and wait for the green light. He could have headed back to his home in Albuquerque, N.M., where the weather is warmer and he’s familiar with the surroundings. But he wanted to stay in baseball mode, and home is where he gets away from it all.
So Garver, his wife, and their two dogs moved to Minnesota about two weeks ago.
“Being in my hometown, that’s where I have my offseason and when the season is over and you get back there’s usually a month to where you are totally taking it off,” he said. “I think being back there, it almost felt like offseason mode where I felt like I was kind of sitting in neutral and being ready for whatever happened. So moving up here to Minnesota has been great.
“I’m getting to see around the city and working with Kep and being in that situation where we are both kind of pushing each other to be better and try new things and we are both accountable with each other, making sure we are on time and are getting our work in.”
He meets Kepler in the mornings to hit, then the pair find a place to get some throwing and running in. He works out in the afternoon, then spends time catching up with friends, family and teammates. Donaldson has all the equipment he needs at his home but also spends time on the phone and computer, trying to stay in touch.
Both have their diversions. Garver is getting requests to stream video baseball games. Donaldson loves golf and has a way to enjoy it indoors.
“I just got back into my house in Alabama and I have a golf simulator,” Donaldson said. “I’m sure that will be something I’ll be on, playing Pebble Beach a few times a day.”
Garver batted .273 last season with the 31 home runs and 67 RBI while winning the AL Silver Slugger award. While he’s made progress defensively, he wants to continue to improve. He has a strong arm, but threw out just six of 37 baserunners attempting to steal. He ranked 29th in catcher framing, according to FanGraphs, so he reported to camp looking to improve and trying to build off an encouraging spring training.
“Confidence is high for this year,” he said. “I feel good. I feel strong. My catching has really, really improved this spring training and I was even working on some things that were more of a spin-off or more advanced from what I did last year. I was feeling more confident behind the plate.
“We were getting to that point in spring training where I was just about feeling game ready in the box and I’m trying to carry those feelings over. I do my homework every day and I kind of watch a little bit of film on some things I did well, some things I didn’t do well last year. I’m just trying to keep my mind in the baseball mode and think of new ways to improve and always feel like I’m doing something productive.”