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What a headache: Mitch Garver leaves Twins' loss because of injury; Rich Hill calls start "pretty pathetic"

Rich Hill
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Rich Hill heads to the dugout after he was pulled in the third inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS — Mitch Garver’s already difficult season might have taken a turn for the worse on Wednesday night at Target Field.

The catcher left the Twins’ 9-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers after he struck out swinging in the sixth. Garver went down to one knee and was in obvious discomfort after Brewers starter Brett Anderson struck him out and Alex Avila came in to catch the seventh. The Twins announced that Garver had been removed with soreness in his right side.

Garver had one single and two strikeouts in his three at-bats as he continued to struggle in the first 25 games of this 60-game regular season. Garver is slashing .154/.262/.212 with one home run and two RBIs in 17 games. His two strikeouts on Wednesday give him 24 in 52 at-bats.

“We have some concern,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said when asked about Garver’s health afterward. “We’re going to kind of wait and assess it and figure out over the next 24 hours really what we’re dealing with. No way to really know that at the moment. He was uncomfortable so we’re going to find that out. Obviously, a few things going on recently in the health department. We need to use this time to get straightened out and we may end up taking advantage of our depth in some ways.”

Garver had a breakout season in 2019, slashing .273/.365/.630 with 31 home runs and 67 RBIs in 93 games to earn American League Silver Slugger honors at the catching position. He joined five-time honoree Joe Mauer as the only Twins catchers to earn the Silver Slugger.

Baldelli said Garver’s approach at the plate had improved in the past week. “Garver’s had much better at-bats,” Baldelli said, “I think he was feeling better simplifying the swing and hitting balls. You start looking up (at the scoreboard) and you see the 108 or 107 (miles per hour) off the bat. That’s the guy we know, those good quality at-bats. We’re starting to see them more and more. I’m sure he’s definitely frustrated. Again, we’re not really sure what we’re dealing with (from an injury standpoint), so it’s not something that we want to get too far ahead on until we find out more.”

If Garver does miss time, it’s likely the Twins will bring over catcher Willians Astudillo from the squad of players they have had working out at their alternate training site in St. Paul. The Twins currently have three players on the injured list, including third baseman Josh Donaldson (calf), righthander Homer Bailey (right biceps tendinitis) and reliever Cody Stashak (lower back inflammation).

Here are nine other tidbits from Wednesday:

  1. Rich Hill’s second start for the Twins didn’t go nearly as well as his first. Hill, who gave up no runs and two hits in five innings in beating the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, lasted only 2.2 innings in his return from the injured list before being chased by the Brewers. The 40-year-old lefthander faced six batters through the first two innings — Keston Hiura hit into a double play after Christian Yelich’s single in the first inning — but the Brewers pounced on Hill after he retired the first two hitters in the third. A walk to Orlando Arcia was followed by a two-run homer to left by Ryan Braun to give Milwaukee a 2-1 lead. Yelich then walked, Hiura singled and Jedd Gyorko walked to load the bases. Avasail Garcia hit a two-run single to left to bring an end to Hill’s night after only 53 pitches. Hill gave up four runs, four hits, walked three and struck out one.
  2. Hill didn’t get any favors from plate umpire Ed Hickox in the third while facing the penultimate batter of his outing. Gyorko took a 74.4-mile per hour curveball on a 3-2 count that caught the inside corner of the plate but was called ball four. Instead of the Twins being out of the inning only down 2-1, Garcia hit his two-run single to make it 4-1. Hill, to his credit, did not try to sugarcoat his rough start, calling it “not acceptable,” and adding later, “I hold myself to a really high standard and that was pretty pathetic.”
  3. Twins second baseman Ildemaro Vargas made a head’s up play in the first inning by allowing a pop from Hiura to drop in front of him with Yelich on first. Hiura watched the ball, assuming it would be caught, and Yelich stayed close to first. This allowed Vargas to start an easy 4-6-3 double play.
  4. Miguel Sano went 2-for-10 in the Twins’ four-game series against Kansas City to open the home stand, striking out in seven of his at-bats. He did double in Monday’s series finale and then doubled twice more on Tuesday before being lifted for a pinch-runner in the seventh inning. Sano extended his doubles streak to three with a shot down the left field line in the second inning Wednesday.
  5. Left fielder Eddie Rosario made two outstanding plays in left field against the Royals, including a great sliding catch to start a double play in the sixth inning of a 4-2 victory on Sunday, but Rosario is also known for his miscues on defense and we saw one Wednesday. On Garcia’s two-run single to left, Rosario came up throwing toward home to try to get Hiura. Rosario’s throw was wild and sailed to the backstop, enabling Garcia to take second on an E7.
  6. The Twins needed lefthander Lewis Thorpe to eat innings so when he entered in the fifth there was no immediate plan to remove him, no matter how bad it got. The Brewers sent nine men to the plate in the fifth, got home runs from Yelich and Garcia, and scored four runs to increase their lead to 8-1. Despite his struggles, Thorpe pitched that inning and came back for three more, giving up four runs and six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
  7. Ehire Adrianza started at third base for the Twins but ended up pitching the ninth with Minnesota down by seven runs. That made Adrianza the first position player to pitch for the Twins this season. He gave up a home run to Hiura to lead off the inning.
  8. Byron Buxton, who returned from the Twins’ last road trip having increased his average to .298, is 1-for-21 with seven strikeouts in the first six games of this seven-game home stand. His average now sits at .221. Max Kepler pinch-hit for Buxton in the ninth inning Wednesday.
  9. Second baseman Luis Arraez, who left Tuesday’s game because of knee soreness, was replaced by Vargas for Wednesday’s game. Arraez is dealing with left patellar soreness and is day-to-day. The Twins optioned righthanded reliever Zack Littell to the team’s alternate training site in St. Paul to make room for Hill on the 28-man roster. Littell has appeared in four games, giving up five runs on eight hits in five innings. Cory Gearrin, another righthanded reliever, cleared outright waivers and also was assigned to the Twins’ alternate training site.