Looking good only half the battle for Avisail Garcia
GLENDALE, Ariz. — No more sweets for White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia.
OK, maybe a little every now and then. But Garcia, looking fit with his weight down to 250 pounds, is determined to reach his goal of 247 by the end of spring training.
‘‘I’m close; I will do it,’’ Garcia said. ‘‘When I eat sweets, like candy, that’s when I have trouble.’’
It’s an important season for the 25-year-old Garcia, whose .245/.307/.385 slash line with 12 homers and 51 RBI in 2016 fell below the high ceiling once projected for him. The Sox traded right-hander Jake Peavy in a three-team deal that reeled in Garcia from the Detroit Tigers in 2013.
Sox management hasn’t given up on Garcia, and the plan this season is to play him in right field, where he hasn’t excelled. Garcia is aware of the expectations and, while he remains confident in his ability, senses the urgency to turn a corner.
‘‘I’m taking every fly ball that I can,’’ Garcia said. ‘‘Just working hard.’’
Fitness is only part of it, of course. Manager Rick Renteria is all for looking good, but he is looking for results, not good looks.
‘‘[Garcia] has huge strength,’’ Renteria said Sunday. ‘‘If he drops weight, the only concern is, are you weakening yourself? But he’s not. He’s eating well. He’s sustaining what he needs to perform. But I want him to become a hitter, so he can take advantage of his power.’’
Garcia said he feels great, is throwing well (thanks to a long-toss program) and is happy with how he’s swinging the bat. He is 14-for-39
(.359) with two home runs, two doubles, two walks and 10 strikeouts this spring.
‘‘I feel better and am throwing and hitting better,’’ he said. ‘‘Just have to keep working and be better this year.’’
While Garcia’s numbers were uninspiring in 2016, he led the majors with a .415 batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs and was fourth in the majors with a .355 average with runners in scoring position overall.
‘‘When we have men in scoring position . . . it’s like I like to compete,’’ Garcia said. ‘‘If we score, we have a chance to win. Don’t try to do too much. Sometimes if I do too much, I strike out. Just get a pitch and drive him in with a man on third and no out. Relax. Forget about that runner. Make [the pitcher] throw a strike because I know I can hit. I just have been swinging at too many balls. If I swing at strikes, I can hit.’’
For someone who has the ability to hit tape-measure-length homers, Garcia hits too many ground balls. He led the Sox in that category
(55 percent) last season.
‘‘A lot of those ground balls come from pitches he’s reaching for,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘If he catches them deeper in the zone, he’ll still be able to elevate and drive them. So it’s just about contact point.
‘‘And a lot of [ground balls] come on breaking balls, sliders, even changeups. He’s just getting out in front of them a little bit. But his swing path still generates loft.’’
Garcia feels good about his weight loss and said it isn’t just for now. He’s determined to keep it off during the season.
‘‘I will do it because I’m doing it right now; I’m sacrificing,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not going to be eating like crazy this season because I want to have a good season.’’
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