GLENDALE, Ariz. — Leury Garcia might not be in huge demand from White Sox autograph seekers or have the hottest-selling jersey, but before his career is over, he might have more service time than many of his more popular teammates. Versatility doesn’t sell shirts, but it keeps players in the major leagues for a long time. And Garcia gives the Sox a lot of that.
The Sox have played 13 Cactus League games, and Garcia already has appeared at all three outfield positions, shortstop and third base. He has played more games in his career at second base than any infield position, so he can cover that, too.
It’s no wonder the Sox are keeping Garcia, acquired from the Rangers as the player to be named in the Alex Rios trade in 2013, on board for a seventh season, which makes him the second-longest-tenured Sox player in the clubhouse next to reliever Nate Jones. Garcia is not only versatile in the field, he switch-hits and is one of the fastest players on the team. And, oh, he pitched an inning against the Red Sox in 2014 (he took the loss in the 14th inning) and Athletics in 2015 (a scoreless inning in a 17-6 loss).
Remember the three-Garcia outfield of Avisail, Willy and Leury? Leury is the sole Sox survivor. He even has multiple nicknames — bench coach Joe McEwing calls him “Leury Legend,” and manager Rick Renteria affectionately calls him “Leroy.”
“Leroy is really, really flexible playing every outfield position and every position in the infield other than first base, and I’m sure if I asked him to play first, he’d give it a shot,’’ Renteria said.
The ultimate test of versatility would be playing all nine positions in one game, as Andrew Romine did for the Tigers at the end of the 2017 season. If the Sox had a candidate for that feat, it probably would be Garcia. That’s where Garcia draws his utility line, though.
“No way,” he said. “I don’t want to catch. I have much respect for the catchers.’’
In an emergency, if Welington Castillo and James McCann were unavailable, that job could fall on Jose Rondon, Renteria said. Rondon has played third base, shortstop, second base and first base in his career, and he played the outfield in winter ball this year to expand his versatility even further. Yolmer Sanchez has played second, third, shortstop and right field and probably would volunteer to catch, Renteria said.
As versatile as those guys are, they’re not in Romine territory. McCann, a Tiger at the time, had a front-row seat in 2017 and said it was something to behold when Romine joined Bert Campaneris (1965), Cesar Tovar (1968), Scott Sheldon (2000) and Shane Halter (2000) as the only players to play all nine positions in the same game.
“It was pretty cool,” McCann said. “It speaks to the versatility of the player. You play at this level, you’re obviously one of the greatest in the world, but for a guy playing every position, that is at a different level.’’
McCann’s position was the biggest challenge, although Romine had caught some bullpens, earning him emergency-catcher status.
“It’s not something like, ‘Oh, I’m going to catch today,’ and you’re comfortable with 95 [mph] coming at you,’’ McCann said. “It’s something you have to see.’’
It’s something Garcia doesn’t want to see. Anything else, he’s good with.
He should be. It will keep him in the game awhile.
“Yeah, I know that,” he said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get in the lineup.’’
NOTES: The Sox were off Wednesday, but right-handers Ivan Nova, Ervin Santana and Kelvin Herrera were scheduled for sim games.
† On deck: Brewers at Sox, Glendale, 2:05 p.m. Thursday, 720-AM, whitesox.com, Zach Davies vs. Carlos Rodon.