DETROIT -- When Jason Castro's season was derailed in early May with a meniscus tear in his right knee, manager Paul Molitor and the Twins' staff had to devise a plan to get through the year without an everyday catcher. After reviewing the eye test and analytics, the answer was
DETROIT -- When Jason Castro's season was derailed in early May with a meniscus tear in his right knee, manager Paul Molitor and the Twins' staff had to devise a plan to get through the year without an everyday catcher. After reviewing the eye test and analytics, the answer was to split the duties between Bobby Wilson and Mitch Garver.
Garver was in the lineup for the Twins' series finale against the Tigers in Detroit on Sunday, marking his 77th game of the season. Wilson has played in 43 games.
Garver, drafted by the Twins in the ninth round of the 2013 Draft, is just getting his first taste of something resembling consistent playing time as a Major League catcher this season. His bat has been fine, as he entered Sunday hitting .261 in 222 at-bats. But Garver is still growing into himself as a catcher.
"It's been steady," Molitor said of Garver's progression behind the plate. "It encompasses all areas of catching, from mindfulness of game-calling, blocking balls, catch-and-throw abilities, framing, and just the overall sense that my pitchers have gotten a lot more comfortable throwing with him as this season has gone on."
Garver ranks 84th among Major League catchers with a 2.09 average pop time to second base, according to Statcast™. Wilson has an identical pop time. The league average is 2.01 seconds. Garver's increased sample size means he's thrown out nine runners, compared to Wilson's six. (For perspective, Castro threw out six runners in 19 games before getting hurt.) Molitor mentioned that Garver has also made progress in framing pitches, thanks to his work with first-base coach Jeff Smith.
Molitor said he's been trying to tilt more innings in Garver's direction.
"I've tried to shift it to Mitch's side a little bit, three out of five [games] or whatever it might be, just to get him a little more time," Molitor said.
Wilson still gets his chances, and in July and August, he's been narrowing the gap with Garver in games played. But a .165 batting average has been Wilson's biggest hindrance. That would be his lowest average in a season with at least 120 at-bats. His career high is .237 in 2016, when he played for the Tigers, Rangers and Rays.
"It's worked out fairly well," Molitor said of the tilt toward Garver. "It's not easy to navigate a season with two guys who aren't really labeled as everyday guys and try to find the best way to do that."
Tyler Fenwick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.