White Sox’ Avisail Garcia leaves game with knee inflammation

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Avisail Garcia misses the catch on a single hit by the Cleveland Indians’ Jose Ramirez during the first inning Monday, (AP)

If Avisail Garcia keeps up this kind of pace for another few weeks, he’s going to find himself in the All-Star Game conversation. It’s only mid-May, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but the White Sox right fielder has been steady in what will be his first full season in the major leagues if he stays healthy.

“He’s got a high ceiling,” hitting coach Todd Steverson said. “But you don’t want to sit there and put that kind of pressure on him right now. Let him go play. With everybody, let them go play. He’s a great part of our lineup right now and let him go play.”

The Sox hope Garcia will be in the lineup Tuesday after he came out of Monday night’s 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians in the 10th inning with inflammation in his right knee. After he led off the inning with a walk against Zach McAllister, Garcia received a visit at first base from trainer Herm Schneider and manager Robin Ventura and came out of the game. Conor Gillaspie singled pinch runner-J.B. Shuck to second, and Shuck scored on Carlos Sanchez’ single to left against Zach McAllister with two out to end the game.

“He did something the other day in Oakland, I think it might’ve been yesterday, he just felt something there,” Ventura said. “Even talking to him tonight it’s more inflammation. He felt something in his knee and we’re just being really cautious with him to make sure. He felt he could probably stay in there but we had a guy that could run so you put Shuck in there and figure it out tomorrow.”

Garcia went 0-for-3, dropping his team-leading average to .338 to go with four homers and 17 RBI. He has been consistent hitting safely in 19 of his last 22 games and he’s had six multi-hit games in his last nine. In those 22 games, he has three homers, four doubles and 14 RBI.

When Garcia wasn’t going well last season, he almost always attributed it to chasing breaking balls out of the strike zone.

“Just play hard and try to have good at-bats and try to swing at good pitches and work the count,” he said Monday.

Steverson says Garcia’s pitch recognition is much improved.

“A lot better,” Steverson said. “It’s baseball, you’re still going to swing at bad pitches. Nobody’s going to go up there and be perfect. But in terms of being able to lay off some of the sliders down and away or some of the tough backdoor curveballs, backdoor cutters, he’s done a good job. Hopefully he stays there.”

“He’s doing a good job of swinging at strikes. He’s taken some tough pitches and has been able to fight off some tough pitches to keep the at-bat alive. He’s come up in a lot of situations and he’s come through.”

Garcia isn’t expected to stay at .338, and when it does drop down, he’ll have to draw on his relatively small portion of major league experience under his belt — he was limited to 177 at-bats last season because of a left shoulder injury.

“Experience is going to the biggest thing for him once he levels out, as far as understanding what people are trying to do to him,” Ventura said.

Steverson likes the approach he’s seen from Garcia but he wants to see it in big situations.

“There’s more to be had in those situations sometimes,” Steverson said. “A younger player can discount the approach of the situation and go on emotions. When he gets really good with that part of it, that’s when he’ll really shine. He’s doing a great job right now but when you can separate emotion from approach, that’s when you really start maturing as a hitter.”

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