Avisail Garcia awaits reward for strong half-season
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DENVER — To see Avisail Garcia representing the White Sox as their only All-Star on Tuesday is to see a player, written off by many but believed in by some who matter, who looked in the mirror and made a decision.
At one time or another, manager Rick Renteria says, every player “has to look from within to make a determination as to where they’re at.’’
Garcia looked and saw his own untapped potential and a fleeting opportunity to maximize his ability.
So he made some changes.
“There’s got to be an actual realization to what you’re doing and not doing,’’ Renteria said. “You’ve got to believe in the process that you’re taking on. He’s come to the point where you start to realize and look in the mirror that you have to do better. I think he’s owned it.’’
Garcia, 26, who’s batting .310 with 11 home runs and 51 RBI, came to the Sox with high expectations and World Series experience but had a .257/.310/.385 slash line in his first four seasons with the team, topping out at 13 homers and 59 RBI in 2015.
He owned it by, among other things, playing winter ball in Venezuela.
“Not a lot of guys play winter ball anymore,’’ Renteria said.
Garcia also ate better, dropped a little weight and came to spring training leaner and in tip-top shape. He worked harder and is dedicated to a daily routine that finds him spending more pregame time in the batting cage and/or on the field and less at his locker.
“I think all those experiences have helped him,’’ Renteria said. “He’s a fighter.’’
To say Garcia has arrived, All-Star prize or not, would be premature. But he has turned an important corner.
“It’s half a season, and there’s still the whole season ahead,’’ Renteria said. “There’s a long way to go, and we’ll see how he’s going to respond in the second half.’’
In fact, Garcia missed seven of the last 10 games leading to the break with knee and finger injuries, and he goes into the All-Star Game in the worst slump of the season, a stretch that extended to a woeful 1-for-30 with an 0-for-3 day.
With his right hand and left foot wrapped after the game, Garcia looked like a prizefighter sitting in the corner of the visitors’ clubhouse after the Rockies’ 10-0 victory Sunday. He got jammed on pitches a couple of times by Kyle Freeland’s cutting fastball during the rookie left-hander’s bid for a no-hitter, fouled a pitch off his left foot and got hit below the neck by a Todd Frazier foul ball while he was standing in the on-deck circle in the second inning.
Renteria, who pulled Garcia from right field with a double switch in the seventh inning, said he was “110 percent,” but that appeared to be an over-the-top declaration of optimism.
As for Garcia’s slump, Renteria said: “It would have been incredible to keep the pace that he was at.’’
Incredible is how some would describe Garcia being in the All-Star Game, his talent notwithstanding.
“I can’t wait,” was how Garcia described the anticipation.
“I mean, just have fun,’’ he said. “Forget about everything and just enjoy the moment. And have fun with my family.’’
Garcia’s child, his expecting wife and other family members will be there.
“You never know if you’re going to make it again,’’ he said. “Hopefully, I make it 14 more times.’’
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.