The Minnesota Twins entered Wednesday with a 26-15 record and a four-game lead in the American League Central over the Cleveland Indians, Unfortunately for the Twins, they’ll have to maintain that lead without one of their top performers — at least for the next 10 days. On Wednesday, the Twins announced they had placed catcher Mitch Garver on the injured list with a high ankle sprain he suffered as part of Tuesday’s game on a play at the plate:
Believe it or not, Garver had been the best hitting catcher in baseball. His .329/.418/.747 slash line translated to a 204 OPS+ — the highest among backstops with 80-plus plate appearances. No other qualified catcher had an OPS+ above 170. Garver, 28, had already homered nine times this season, a notable accomplishment given he entered the year with seven home runs in his first 125 career big-league games.
The Twins would seem to be in good position to make due without Garver in the short term. Manager Rocco Baldelli is likely to turn to a timeshare between Jason Castro and Willians Astudillo, each of whom has hit well this season: Castro has a 156 OPS+ and five home runs, while Astudillo has a 107 OPS+. If it wasn’t clear by those numbers, the Twins have received more offensive production from their backstops than any other team in baseball.
The schedule favors the Twins, too. After concluding their series at home against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, the Twins will head west for four games against the Seattle Mariners and then another three versus the Angels. From there, the Twins will return home to host the Chicago White Sox. Ankle injuries can linger, so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether Garver will be back at that point. If not, then the Twins will likely start to feel the effects of being without him, as they’ll play nine consecutive games against playoff contenders: the Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays, and that aforementioned Cleveland squad.
Miguel Sano, for his part, is likely to see action at third in place of Marwin Gonzalez. He’ll try to course-correct after a miserable 2018 that saw him hit .199/.281/.398 in 299 plate appearances. The Twins could also use Sano at first base and at designated hitter — especially as Minnesota’s normal DH, Nelson Cruz, continues to recover from a wrist injury.