Cameron Garfield had a very simple goal as he completed his rehabilitation from knee surgery this spring: Once he was allowed to be back on the field, stay off the disabled list.
That may seem modest for the former second-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers, but with the way the catcher’s career has gone, his goal was not only realistic, it might have been considered lofty.
Garfield injured his knee early in the 2011 season. When he was in Arizona rehabbing the injury, he ended up re-injuring it, causing him to have surgery. In all he played just 15 games of the season due to the knee injury and he was sidelined into the 2012 season.
He was finally cleared to begin playing games in late April and after a month of time in extended spring training, he joined the Timber Rattlers in late May.
“Especially after last season, I just wanted to be able to contribute to the team and be consistent throughout the season,” Garfield said. “It’s definitely a good feeling to be able to stay healthy and put together at-bats.”
Garfield is hitting .282, with nearly half of his hits going for extra bases. The power potential he flashed in high school, but was not apparent in his first couple of pro seasons, has been prominent in 2012.
His two home runs Monday night against the Beloit Snappers at Pohlman Field brought his total up to eight, double his career high, in just 156 at-bats.
Rattlers manager Matt Erickson believes that the future is bright for the San Diego native.
“I’m excited for him,” Rattlers manager Matt Erickson said. “I had him a few years ago when I was the hitting coach, and you could see the potential that he had then. This year he’s getting some opportunities to play more consistently, and he’s putting up some numbers. If he can stay healthy, he’ll continue to progress and get better. He’s a kid that you cheer for and get excited about.”
A major question facing Garfield is whether he can stick long-term at the catcher spot.
The fact the Brewers have developed two solid major league catchers in Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldanado (originally an Angels farmhand) gives Garfield hope for his future behind the dish as well.
“I’ve come a long way from when they signed me, and (catching instructor) Charlie Greene is a big reason for that,” Garfield said. “That being said, there’s a lot more room for improvement, too. I take a lot of pride in working with the pitching staff, and feel like their ERA is my ERA, too.”
Erickson made no bones about the fact that Garfield’s work behind the dish needs to get better.
“It’s a work in progress,” Erickson said. “He battles back there and he’s certainly not afraid to get dirty. He’s an excellent blocker, and he’s getting better at calling the game too. The arm has been a question. When he first came up here, he had a nice arm, but inconsistent. He’s getting a little better with his footwork, but he’s going to need to continue to improve there.”
With the Timber Rattlers already in the playoffs by virtue of their first-half title, there isn’t much pressure the team feels from glancing at the standings. Garfield says that has been a little challenging.
“It’s really hard right now,” he said. “We are just really trying to focus on each game instead of looking at the bigger picture, but we have been ready to start the playoffs now for a long time.”
Garfield comes from a military family and was born in Germany. Although he only stayed there a short time before heading to the United States, he still has plenty of family in the country and might even receive an opportunity to represent Germany in international competition.
“The German National team just gave me a call and they want me to play for them in the qualifiers of the World Baseball Classic,” he said. “That’s right after the season, and it’s actually in Germany. I still have to talk with the Brewers about it, but I’d love to play.”
After many difficult days filled with long hours of rehab, things finally seem to be coming together for Garfield.