Why this Ranger is excited for 2023

February 4th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ARLINGTON --  hasn’t played in a live baseball game since July 10. He hasn’t caught a game since May 8, due to an injured flexor tendon in his right arm that resulted in season-ending surgery

After a long six months of rehab and physical therapy following his surgery, the Rangers’ catcher is on pace to return for Spring Training. According to Garver, his rehab is going well, and he’s been able to long toss about 200 feet multiple times a week with no setbacks or restrictions. 

With a revamped rotation -- headlined by ace Jacob deGrom, followed by Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney and Martín Pérez, with Dane Dunning and Jake Odorizzi as depth pieces -- Garver knows how exciting and important it’ll be to get back to being behind the plate. 

But if you ask him, it might be easier than anybody expects. 

“This will be the best staff I’ve ever caught,” Garver said. “It's the kind of staff that actually drive themselves, if that makes sense. Like driving a Ferrari, it’s not hard to do. All these guys have eight-plus years in the big leagues. They all know how to pitch. We all know what makes them successful. The part that [catchers Jonah Heim, Sam Huff] and myself will have to do is guide them and give them the best opportunity to be themselves.

“That's where Spring Training is important. We learn a lot about them. We're going to feel like we want to follow their lead a little bit because they're so experienced, so talented, that it's going to be our job to learn what they do well and what makes them tick.”

Garver and Heim -- who caught 111 games in Garver’s absence last season -- are more likely to split the reps behind the plate 50/50, at least early in the season. But Garver has emphasized his desire to catch as much as possible after his limitations these last few seasons. 

On the opposite side of the field, Garver thinks the swing improvements he’s made this offseason will translate to vastly increased offensive production. A Silver Slugger Award winner in 2019, Garver has struggled to repeat that year’s performance in the following seasons, mostly due to injuries.

Garver slashed .300/.345/.660 in May 2022 and seemed to be hitting a groove until IL stints related to his forearm injury stalled his work at the plate. He finished with a .207/.298/.404 slash line, explaining that he felt like his body was protecting itself and he could never swing to his fullest potential. 

After working with a hitting coach in Colorado, where he resides in the offseason, Garver is comfortable with his mindset heading into Spring Training. 

“I'm not reinventing anything,” Garver explained. “There were some things that just opened up a whole new avenue for me. … It might not look different, but there are a few different mechanical things. We're trying to create a little bit more loft in the swing and we want to be able to hit some more offspeed pitches. I'm excited.”