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Has catching helped Mariners’ Mitch Garver hit? Pierzynski’s take

Jun 19, 2024, 1:50 PM

Seattle Mariners Mitch Garver A's 2024...

Mitch Garver of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by Josh Rojas after homering against the A's on June 6. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

When the Seattle Mariners signed Mitch Garver to a two-year contract this offseason, the idea was that he’d be ditching the catcher’s gear to serve as the team’s primary designated hitter.

Mariners Insider: An unexpected move that may pay off for all involved

Garver was primarily a catcher over his previous seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers, but had been hampered by a slew of injuries. By slotting him as the primary DH, the hope was it would help the 33-year-old veteran stay healthy.

However, after Garver struggled at the plate for the first two months this season, the Mariners decided to mix things up. For each of George Kirby’s past four starts, Seattle has put Garver behind the dish. And with Seattle designating Seby Zavala for assignment on Tuesday, Garver is now the club’s backup catcher.

In the process, Garver’s offensive production has improved. Prior to his season catching debut on May 29, Garver was hitting just .171 with five home runs and a .601 OPS in 46 games. Since then, he’s batting .204 with three homers and an .840 OPS in 16 games.

Is there something to the idea that catching can actually benefit a hitter by keeping him more involved in the game?

Former two-time All-Star catcher A.J. Pierzynski shared his perspective Wednesday during an appearance on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. Pierzynski said it was harder to hit on days when he was the DH.

“The first couple times I did it, I’m like, ‘This sucks, man,'” Pierzynski said. “Pinch-hitting is the hardest thing in the world to do, and it felt like you were getting four pinch-hits a game, because you’re not really involved in the game.

“So then you start trying to figure out how to stay into the game. Do you take swings in between at-bats? Do you go on the treadmill and run? Do you go on the bike? Do you do push-ups? Do you drink a beer? Whatever it takes to get you ready for the next at-bat. And trust me, I tried everything. And the one thing I figured out was it never always works, so you’ve gotta try something different every time.”

Garver hasn’t had success at the plate in the four games he’s caught this season, going 0 for 12 in those contests. But last season with Texas, there was a notable difference in his offensive splits in games when he caught and games when he was the DH.

In 28 games as a catcher last year, Garver batted .347 with eight homers and a 1.100 OPS. In 57 games as a DH, he hit .234 with 11 homers and a .768 OPS.

“It’s hard, but some guys thrive at it,” Pierzynski said of designated hitting. “Mitch Garver was the DH a lot last year for Texas and he did (decent), so (the Mariners) thought, ‘Hey, we’ll just keep him there to keep him healthy.’ But unfortunately it hasn’t worked.

“Since he’s been catching that one game a week (for) George Kirby, he’s been swinging it. So maybe (manager) Scott Servais and the Mariners figured it out.”

Listen to the full conversation on Brock and Salk at this link or in the audio player near the middle of this story.

More on the Seattle Mariners

• ESPN’s Passan: Could Mariners win World Series with current roster?
• Mariners Insider: An unexpected move that may pay off for all involved
• Mariners’ Josh Rojas has elite ‘instincts,’ Gold Glove case at 3B
• Why Seattle Mariners should be eyeing a top-two seed in the AL
• Seattle Mariners Trade Deadline: A look at three routes with Passan

 

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