SHANNON DRAYER

Mitch Garver has interesting insight on Mariners’ pitchers, trade additions

Jan 31, 2024, 5:17 PM

Seattle Mariners Mitch Garver Jorge Polanco Twins...

Mitch Garver of the Minnesota Twins congratulates Jorge Polanco on scoring a run in 2018. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

(Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

New Mariners DH Mitch Garver joined Seattle Sports’ Hot Stove on Tuesday night, and he gave up the goods in a fun, insightful, two-segment visit.

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There was a lot to tackle with the former Rangers and Twins slugger, who in the last six months won a World Series, signed with a division opponent, and saw the birth of his second child – the latter with the assist of his new team. As it turns out, Garver’s wife went into labor in Colorado while he was flying to Seattle to take the team physical and sign his contract.

“The Mariners were great,” Garver said. “The travel guy moved up my flight about two hours so I was able to get in and out of Seattle in about 90 minutes, and I was back on another plane home to have another baby. (Mariners traveling secretary Jack Mosimann) crushed it. The original flight got in two hours late. I don’t know if I would have made it home in time. It was a tight schedule and we were able to pull it off.”

Mom and new baby boy – no word if he was named Jack – were just fine, and the search for a new team was completed. It is a team Garver has had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the past two seasons as a division opponent in Texas, and the knowledge he has gained has him excited about the future.

Garver, who is a catcher by trade, is sold on the Mariners’ pitching staff and what he called “exciting additions” to the lineup, a couple of which he is very familiar with having played with them on the Twins. Garver and Jorge Polanco were teammates from 2017 to 2021, and Luke Raley was in the organization from 2018 to 2020, appearing in some MLB spring training games for Minnesota in 2019.

“Jorge Polanco, he’s one of my good friends. Good teammate. He’s a great player,” he said. “Luke Raley, I played with him too on the Twins. Great power, had an incredible year last year. Mitch Haniger, super exciting player to be around, and we are not even talking about the future MVP in Julio (Rodríguez). He’s kind of a nuisance to play against because of how talented he is but I am super excited to be on his team. The future is very bright for him.”

With all eyes on Polanco, the Mariners’ newest addition acquired in a trade Monday night, Garver was asked for a more detailed breakdown of his game.

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“He’s one of the better bad ball hitters that I played with,” he said. “He has a knack for getting hits, getting on base. He’s got some speed. He can do a lot of things offensively that are pretty special. He played a really good second base. He’s just a smart baseball player. He understands the game, he has a knack for making good baseball plays.”

Eyes on playoffs

In total, Garver sees a Mariners group that has a good opportunity to return to the postseason.

“It’s a division that is within reach,” he said.

Garver believes the additions and the pitching can keep the Mariners in the hunt. It’s pitching that perhaps at this point is taken a bit for granted. Having faced it, Garver paints a more vivid picture of what the Mariners have as a staff.

“Not only do they have stuff, but the way they pitch, their aggressiveness,” he said. “I think the analytics and advance department does a really good job breaking down opposing lineups. They are able to attack hitters’ weaknesses and they are pretty stubborn about it. They are relentless in their approach.”

Garver took his breakdown of the Mariners’ pitching staff a step further, pointing out a unique quality of the group that makes it even tougher on opposing hitters.

“It’s been well documented over the years that the M’s staff has one of the lower arm release heights on the mound. It throws off the hitter’s perception of what the ball is actually doing,” he said. “It’s pretty unique in that aspect. It’s something they go for. It makes the velo play up higher. It makes the breaking ball perceive a little different. It’s very hard to game plan for.”

While the numbers would indicate Garver has not enjoyed facing the Mariners throughout his career, there is one pitcher in particular he did not like seeing on the hill.

“Logan Gilbert. I’m excited not to face him for a few years,” he revealed. “He’s so tall and when he releases the ball, he throws like a very humble 97-98 mph, but it’s right on top of you. The extension, the spin, the way it gets on you it’s very uncomfortable. Add in the slider, splitter, the curve ball, it’s just not the most fun at-bat for you.

“But I could say that about anyone on that staff,” he continued. “Facing (Andrés) Muñoz is a problem. Facing Matt Brash is a problem. These are guys where you just want to put the ball in play. You are not trying to do damage. That makes it really hard to score a run.”

Garver gets into the numbers

Of course, driving in runs is a big part of Garver’s job, and to that end, he is a devoted student of the hitting game.

“You have to be adaptable,” he said enthusiastically, admitting to being an analytics nerd. “You have to be unique and you have to be able to change things on the fly to be successful.”

That is an approach that is embraced by the Mariners. Garver comes to the team with a reputation as being a good clubhouse presence and leader. He brings not just experience but fresh World Series experience, something this clubhouse has not had.

It goes a step beyond, however, as Garver realizes just how close he and the Rangers came to not having that experience. Texas along with the Mariners and Astros headed into the final week knowing one of the three AL West teams would be going home after the final Sunday. It’s experience that brought important perspective that he will take into the season.

“That’s why you play 162 games, because little things matter,” he said. “It’s all about when you get hot. You just have to make it into the tournament. At that point it’s kind of a crapshoot. It’s any man’s game at that point.”

To hear the conversation with Garver from the Hot Stove, plus a talk with general manager Justin Hollander on the latest moves, listen to the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

On the second hour of the show, Mariners farm director Justin Toole joined to discuss development in the minors, we had an opportunity to meet top prospect Colt Emerson, and VP of marketing Gregg Greene detailed the full slate of upcoming promotions. Listen to that podcast at this link or the player below.

The Mariners Hot Stove can be heard every Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. on Seattle Sports.

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Mitch Garver has interesting insight on Mariners’ pitchers, trade additions