TORONTO — Avisail Garcia was a middle-of-the-order hitter in the White Sox’ lineup last season, often batting behind Jose Abreu, the slugger generally regarded as the Sox’ best hitter.
The roles might be reversed in 2018, with Garcia opening the season in the second spot — where he batted only twice last season — and Abreu providing protection by batting third.
Garcia likes it a lot so far, and the 481-foot home run he launched in the fifth inning of the Sox’ 14-5 loss Tuesday to the Blue Jays suggests the 2-hole likes him back.
‘‘You think so? I think so, too,’’ Garcia recently said of the benefits of batting behind Abreu. ‘‘He’s one of the best.’’
With right-hander Miguel Gonzalez being roughed up for six runs (five earned) and eight hits — including homers by Josh Donaldson and Aledmys Diaz — in five innings and the bullpen taking its lumps for the second consecutive game, the Sox are 2-2 after two defeats in two nights at Rogers Centre. But Garcia’s homer was something to behold. It was the longest homer by a Sox player since the beginning of Statcast measurements in 2015 and had an exit velocity of 116.7 mph.
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The bonus of having protection from a hitter such as Abreu, who has five hits in the first two games of the series, is that pitchers are likely less likely to nibble or pitch around the strike zone because they fear a walk with a home-run threat on deck.
Garcia will take every bit of that. And with Yoan Moncada batting first, the Sox are optimistic about a Moncada-Garcia-Abreu trio filling the upper third of the lineup. They’ve scored 25 runs in their first four games and lead the American League with 12 homers after Garcia and Yolmer Sanchez hit their first and Tim Anderson his third.
‘‘I think it looks good,’’ Garcia said. ‘‘I feel comfortable. Everybody is comfortable.’’
‘‘Avi likes hitting second, and we try to put him in the best position to be successful on a comfort level,’’ bench coach Joe McEwing said. ‘‘He can do a lot of things with the bat.’’
Garcia, who had three hits, often batted behind Abreu last season, hitting fourth in 71 games and fifth in 40. But the Sox like his speed at the top of the lineup.
McEwing said the lineup can produce without hitting homers, as it did when Anderson singled, stole two bases and scored on a groundout by Adam Engel in the sixth.
Anderson’s low walk total (13 last season) and low on-base percentage (.290 in his career) aren’t ideal at the top, so manager Rick Renteria will allow Anderson to provide pop from the sixth and seventh spots in the order for now. Anderson (3-for-4) is batting .375.
‘‘Timmy in that sixth or seventh slot puts the ball in play with a positive outcome on a high level,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘There’s a chance that he’s going to have guys on base and take advantage of his skills a little bit more.’’
The homers are well and good, Renteria said, but ‘‘ultimately you can’t just win on the long ball. I know that’s the big thing in the game today, but when you face good pitching, you have to execute in all facets of the game.’’
That said, Renteria enjoyed watching Garcia’s monster shot.
‘‘I don’t think I’ve seen one struck as well as that,’’ he said. ‘‘It was an impressive blast. Anybody who is a fan of baseball must have been impressed by that.’’