Preview: Twins vs. White Sox
MINNEAPOLIS — Victories have been hard to come by at times this season for Minnesota so after notching a pair Friday in a double-header against the Chicago White Sox, it’s understandable if the Twins were in a good mood.
Perhaps nobody in the Twins’ clubhouse felt better Friday than Mitch Garver, who returned to action for the first time since suffering a concussion back on Sept. 12. The rookie matched a career high with four hits and set a personal best with six RBIs in the second game of the twinbill.
The big night was a relief for Garver, who had established himself as the Twins’ catcher of the future with a strong start to the season. He was batting .260 with seven home runs, 39 RBIs and a .734 OPS when he took a foul ball to the face mask in a game against the Yankees. He passed the concussion protocol at first but started to develop symptoms in the days following the incident, leading to a two-week break from action.
“I think he settled in on both sides with his offense and his catching,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We just saw a steady growth of Mitch as a hitter. There’s been a lot of times particularly in the second half where he’s taken pitches to the opposite field in run-scoring situations to cash in some people. We always talked that the bat played and the more at-bats he’s gotten, the more confidence and results.”
He was finally cleared this week by Major League Baseball and got his first taste of action Wednesday night in a pinch-hitting appearance against the Tigers.
Garver admitted he wasn’t sure if he would play again this season.
“That was definitely in the conversation, that we’re not going to come back at all, and just shut it down and take it into the offseason and get better but I wanted to end on the right foot,” Garver said. “I wanted to come back and get into the offseason knowing that I’m healthy and I can really shoot for 2019 really feeling great. Now I’m back, and it’s nice to be on the field again.”
Molitor didn’t say whether or not Garver would be back in the lineup when the series continues Saturday at Target Field. It’s also not known if Joe Mauer will play as he continues what might be his last weekend of baseball.
Mauer went a combined 4-for-8 with a walk in Friday’s two games and with the Twins leading big in the sixth inning of Game 2, Molitor pulled the 15-year veteran, who tipped his helmet to a standing ovation.
“It worked out with the lead and an opportunity to get that last hit of the day,” Molitor said. “It was a nice moment for the crowd to recognize.”
Saturday will mark the final start of the season for Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson. Gibson has a 3.04 ERA in four September outings and held the A’s to a run over 7 1/3 in his last outing.
He goes up against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon, whose September hasn’t been nearly as impressive. Rodon has a 6.84 ERA this month after allowing a season-high six runs to the Cubs in his last start.
“We’ve been really happy with how he has progressed,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “I think he’s trying to make pitches, get contact, get outs and help us.”
Rodon last faced the Twins back on Aug. 22, when he allowed just two runs over six innings of work.