White Sox’ Avisail Garcia taking opportunity, running with it

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Avisail Garcia watches as his 2 run home run against the Minnesota Twins leaves the park in the tenth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 16, 2017, in Minneapolis. The White Sox won 3-1 in 10 innings. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Has White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia turned a corner, or is his encouraging — and surprising — first 30 games this season fool’s gold?

The Sox want to see continuing improvement, but they like what they’ve seen so far in what is viewed as a make-or-break season for Garcia, 25.

‘‘They gave him a full, clean slate to be an every-day right fielder, and he’s taken it and run with it,’’ first-base coach Daryl Boston said.

Despite only two hits in his last 16 at-bats, Garcia is batting .336 with five home runs and 24 RBI. He has a .380 on-base percentage and a .531 slugging percentage for a .911 OPS.

Tips of the cap have come from coaches, management, scouts and even fans. It’s encouraging, to say the least, but people want to see more.

‘‘I still don’t totally trust him because he’s still maturing,’’ one scout said before the Sox’ game against the Minnesota Twins was rained out Wednesday. ‘‘I don’t trust him yet because with two strikes he’s still swinging at pitches out of the zone. For me, he’s a solid two-way player on a second-division team.’’

Garcia committed his fourth error in right field in the Sox’ 7-2 loss Tuesday, bobbling the ball while trying to get into throwing position on a single. Boston, who works with the outfielders, and the scout both said Garcia looks better in the field.

‘‘But I’d want to see him for five or six games and see if he’s consistent,’’ the scout said. ‘‘He’s making better reads, better jumps. He’s not panicking. I see a big difference in the guy.’’

Boston said Garcia is ‘‘more than holding his own this year.’’

Garcia was relegated to designated-hitting duties last season because of his poor defense. But given a second chance to be the Sox’ regular right fielder in a rebuilding season, ‘‘He’s taken it and run with it,’’ Boston said.

‘‘He talked to [strength and conditioning coach] Allen [Thomas] about being more explosive out of the shoot with his first step. And he’s always been a worker. He likes to throw every day during batting practice.

‘‘He’s been up against it, and to see him get off to the start he is getting off to is pleasant. We’re all happy for him.’’

By improving his diet, Garcia lost close to 15 pounds before the start of the season. Some of it has returned — he was 248 pounds two weeks ago, Thomas said — but he is much leaner.

‘‘Muscle weighs more than fat,’’ Thomas said. ‘‘He took care of his body this year, and he feels good.

‘‘If you have a sound mind and body, things work for you in any line of work. He’s in a good mind frame. And the manager [Rick Renteria] helps a lot, gives him all the confidence. The way Rick is, he makes you want to run through a wall. There is a good rapport there.’’

Garcia agreed with Thomas’ assessment.

‘‘I’m feeling good, feeling great,’’ he said. ‘‘Trying to do better every year. Trying to play hard and do my best to help my team.

‘‘In the outfield, I’m focused, anticipating the play. That’s what I have to do.’’

Renteria has promoted Garcia to the fourth spot in the batting order in recent days, which Garcia shrugged off as no big deal.

‘‘Doesn’t matter to me,’’ he said. ‘‘It doesn’t change my approach; it’s the same. Do my best and try to get on base for my team.’’

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com


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