Left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ tested positive for COVID-19 during the intake process and is asymptomatic, Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey announced Saturday. Happ is in Fort Myers, Fla., and will be held out of camp until clearing protocols.
The 38-year-old Happ signed a one-year deal with the Twins for 2021 after 2 1/2 years with the Yankees, adding depth to the back end of a rotation that had two notable departures this offseason in Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill.
“I think he has every opportunity to be ready to go for Opening Day,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “And we're going to go in with that premise, but we're going to wait and see when he gets here and have those conversations with him when the time comes.”
Baldelli said that Happ has all of the equipment he needs, including baseballs and nets, to continue his throwing progression while he waits to be retested and move closer to an arrival date.
“J.A. is ... a guy that knows what he needs to do to get ready for a season. When he gets here, we will evaluate and we'll talk to him, we'll see how he's doing and how he's feeling when he's clear.”
If Happ isn’t able to be ready for the Opening Day roster, right-hander Randy Dobnak would likely get some additional work early on, with he and Happ comprising the back end of the rotation. Dobnak had a 4.05 ERA in 10 starts in 2020 and has made 15 starts total over the last two years.
Garver back in the swing
Catcher Mitch Garver, who slugged .264 in an injury-shortened 2020 -- a year removed from a 2019 campaign in which he hit 31 homers and slugged .630 -- made some discoveries about his swing after the season ended. Garver missed 27 games in late August and early September with a low-grade right intercostal strain.
“There were some things I couldn't do last year because of the intercostal,” he said Saturday. “We kind of picked that apart early in the offseason, that maybe I wasn't able to do certain moves I needed to because I was subconsciously guarding it or it was hurting or it was not in the right spot. So we made those adjustments early in the offseason.”
Garver described going over which motions had been affected, mostly in video review, and realized, “Well, that’s why I didn’t feel good.”
Learning that those changes were precipitated by the injury and compensation for it means that Garver didn’t actually change anything significant about his swing in the offseason -- he’s back to his usual approach, just without that limitation.
A bounceback season from Garver would be a boost for a team that set the single-season record for home runs in 2019, but ranked sixth in homers in ‘20. Between Garver and Jason Castro, Twins catchers hit 44 homers in 2019 to lead the Majors. In 2020, that figure was just seven, tied for 15th in the Majors.
On the defensive side, Garver expects to benefit from the return of Major League coach and catching instructor Bill Evers, who worked remotely in 2020 due to his high-risk status.
“We're happy to have him. He's just that steady presence ... a guy that's been around the game for a long time, he’ll let you know what he's thinking, at any point in time, which is -- it's kind of nice to have around,” Garver said. “He was good for me in ‘19 because we worked well together. He was kind of there for me every day, when it came to receiving drills, blocking drills, game calling, anything involved in catching. He was a big part of my ‘19, and I'm happy to have him back this year.”
Players continue to arrive in camp
None of the 12 pitchers and catchers absent from the first day of organized activities Friday were in camp Saturday. Some position players have begun to arrive, including Luis Arraez, Byron Buxton, Jake Cave, Josh Donaldson, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff and Jorge Polanco, with sightings of Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sanó as well.