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Twins’ Garver tries to stay both patient and ready

Minnesota Twins catcher Mitch Garver takes batting practice during spring training baseball camp Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Mitch Garver made a brief appearance at Target Field on Wednesday. His next one remains TBD.

Garver, an Albuquerque native and catcher for Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins, recently returned to Minneapolis to “get ready to play baseball.” He dropped by the team’s home ballpark only to pick up some workout equipment and baseball gear.

“We can’t work out there,” Garver said in a phone interview, “so everything’s really quiet. I’m just finding ways to stay ready on my own. It’s definitely weird to be home so much this time of year. It’s a strange, strange time.”

Garver, like athletes in virtually every major sport, is trying to wait out the coronavirus pandemic that has largely shut down everyday life for many Americans.

Just a month ago the 29-year-old former La Cueva Bear and New Mexico Lobo was enjoying spring training in Florida, preparing for what figured to be a memorable season. The Twins are defending AL Central Division champs after a 101-61 season, and Garver is pencilled in as the team’s “everyday” catcher for the first time in his career.

Being sent home in mid-March with no set return date was frustrating, he said, but he is willing to wait for a return to baseball normalcy. He’s not entirely sold on a concept being floated this week that could have all 30 MLB teams playing games in Arizona by May or early June.

Under that preliminary plan, most games reportedly would be played at spring training facilities with no fans in the stands. Players and game staff would be sequestered at nearby hotels for the season’s duration to avoid COVID-19 exposure.

“The logistics of that seem very difficult,” Garver said. “Trying to cram 30 major league teams into one city where only a few even have clubhouses would be hard.

“Then, you’re talking about keeping players away from their families and playing in Arizona where it’s 120 degrees in the summer. Sounds pretty rough to me.”

Garver prefers the idea of an abbreviated season that may not require such extreme limitations.

“I’d like to see about a 100-game schedule from August to October,” he said. “That seems like a doable timeline if things settle down in the country.”

Regardless of when (or if) the 2020 baseball season begins, Garver intends to be ready. He works out at home three to four times a week and is doing his best to keep his swing intact.

“I have a friend who owns a batting cage (in Minneapolis),” Garver said. “(Twins teammate) Max Kepler and I have gone over there a couple times to get some work.”

Garver posted video of his latest batting session Wednesday on Twitter, with Kepler pitching from behind a screen and Garver hitting balls into a net.

“We’re the only ones there and we’re not close together,” Garver said, “doing our social diligence.”

Garver, who owns a home in northeast Albuquerque with his wife Sarah, spent 10 days in New Mexico when spring training was first shut down. The Garvers also maintain an apartment in Minneapolis and decided to ride out the pandemic there.

“We packed up the dogs and drove up here,” Garver said of their 1,226-mile trek in late March. “The roads were pretty much deserted, which was weird, but now we’re spending most of our time at home like everyone else.”

Garver, a ninth-round draft pick in 2013, made his big-league debut in 2017 and spent all of the past two seasons with the Twins. He enjoyed his best year in 2019, hitting .273 with 31 homers and 67 RBIs in 93 games.

After splitting time behind the plate with left-handed hitting Jason Castro for two seasons, Garver is in line for more playing time. Castro signed with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent during the offseason, and the Twins signed veteran Alex Avila to back up Garver.

Now, all Garver needs is for the season to start, but he’s keeping things in perspective.

“We all want to get back to our normal lives,” he said, “but we have to stick together. I definitely believe we’ll get through this as a country and sports will follow. It’s just a matter of time.”

ONE-INNING WONDER: Garver said he’s comfortable tossing batting practice to Kepler, but he’s not looking to pad his career pitching stats. The right-hander worked one inning in mop-up duty in 2018 and remembers it well.

“We were getting blown out by Cleveland,” he said, “and I got the call. I gave up a single to (Francisco) Lindor and one deep fly ball to center, but it was a clean inning.”

Garver did not record a strikeout but technically led the Twins with a season earned-run average of zero.

“If that’s my career pitching line, I’ll take it,” Garver said.”

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