Avisail Garcia on his breakout season: Ask me in October

CLEVELAND — White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia turns 26 on Monday, and he has much more to celebrate than a birthday that happens to match his jersey number.

Everything seems to be falling into place for Garcia, who is enjoying an All-Star-caliber start to this season after four years of performances that fell well below lofty expectations.

Garcia, who hit his 13th double and scored a run in the Sox’ 4-2 loss Sunday to the Indians, will take a .332 average, 10 home runs and 42 RBI into a four-game series against the Orioles that starts Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field. Fans who wanted him left out of the Sox’
future plans now are supporting him in All-Star balloting (fifth among American League outfielders).

To Garcia’s credit, he is taking this less-than-three-months body of work in stride. Not getting too high after a big game or too low after a bad one is serving him well.

Avisail Garcia rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home against the Mariners on May 20, 2017, in Seattle. (AP)

‘‘It’s baseball,’’ he said. ‘‘You’re going to have good games and bad games. You have to forget what happened, even if you hit a home run or grand slam. And the game is not over if you strike out your first at-bat. You have to keep working. That’s hard to do sometimes, but you have to do it.’’

That’s not to say Garcia isn’t stepping back and enjoying what is happening.

‘‘Yes, 100 percent,’’ he said. ‘‘But there are a lot of games left.’’

For Garcia, who played in the World Series as a 21-year-old for the Tigers in 2012 — ‘‘That was amazing,’’ he said — an All-Star experience would be rewarding.

‘‘For sure,’’ he said. ‘‘But I want to have a good full season. I don’t want to think about the All-Star Game. If it’s going to come, it’s going to come. The season ends in October, not when the All-Star Game is played [July 11].’’

The Sox are starting to believe Garcia can be a piece of their rebuild, but they probably want to see him put together a good full season before entertaining thoughts of a contract extension before he hits free agency. Garcia, who avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $3 million deal before the season, isn’t eligible for free agency until 2020, and he said the Sox haven’t broached the subject of an extension.

‘‘No, no, no,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not the time to think about that. Obviously, I want to stay here for my whole career and have success here
because I like Chicago, the coaches, the team. But let’s see what happens. . . . I don’t want distractions, you know what I’m saying?’’

In the meantime, Garcia said he’ll keep doing what manager Rick Renteria sees him doing — a better job of putting a bad game and a bad at-bat behind him.

‘‘I’m hoping he continues to do that the rest of his career,’’ Renteria said.

‘‘This game is tough,’’ Garcia said. ‘‘You have to forget. Even the best hitters in the world strike out five times. Even the best hitters strike out with the bases loaded.’’

Renteria said he is enjoying watching Garcia come into his own.

‘‘I honestly wish I could analyze it from Step A, B and C that this is what has propelled him into [where he is],’’ Renteria said. ‘‘The truth is, maturity, the skill set he has, the work he has put together, all that has played a part in it.

‘‘But the only one who should take credit for his success is him.’’

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

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