White Sox’ Leury Garcia thriving on full-time work
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — All center fielder Leury Garcia needed was a chance.
It took rookie Jacob May’s 2-for-36 start after he won the Opening Day job for Garcia to get an opportunity to play every day, and the 26-year-old outfielder/infielder is running like the wind with it.
After May was demoted to Class AAA Charlotte on May 2, Garcia went hitless for three games before embarking on a hitting streak he extended to nine games with a single and a double in the Sox’ 7-6 loss in 11 innings Tuesday to the Angels. Tim Anderson homered in the top of the 11th, but the Angels came back with two runs in the bottom of the inning. The winning run scored on a bases-loaded single by Albert Pujols.
The Sox rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to tie the score at 5-5. Avisail Garcia doubled home one run, and Todd Frazier drove in two more with a single that barely dribbled through the infield.
Bench coach Joe McEwing, who playfully pinned the nickname ‘‘Leury Legend’’ (with a wink and a nod to basketball great Larry Bird) on Garcia a couple of years ago, always has liked Garcia’s upbeat and loose demeanor. But some, including McEwing, at times saw him as too carefree, especially in his attention to detail.
‘‘He still is [loose],’’ McEwing said. ‘‘But the focus from pitch to pitch, where you can’t let down, [isn’t happening]. He’s more focused from pitch to pitch both offensively and defensively.’’
The results have been excellent for Garcia, who is batting .312 with four homers and 14 RBI. He has cut down on his swings-and-misses and strikeouts, and whether we are seeing a player coming into his own after four seasons of bouncing around between the majors and minors — his career high for games played is 74 in 2014, when he batted .166 — or just a temporary flash will be answered in the coming weeks and months because Garcia figures to hold down center field for as long as he’s here.
‘‘It’s different when you get up in the morning and know you’re in the lineup,’’ Garcia said Tuesday. ‘‘When you play every day . . . your timing is better than when you’re playing one day a week.’’
Angels center fielder Mike Trout ran down Garcia’s gapper in the first, but Garcia extended his hitting streak when he lined a single in the sixth. Yolmer Sanchez followed with a home run against C.J. Ramirez, cutting the Angels’ lead to 3-2.
Garcia is young enough to be part of the Sox’ rebuilding plan as it unfolds in the coming years. But if he keeps up his level of play, he might be traded to a contending team that needs bench help for a prospect or two.
‘‘I’ve got him as a super-utility guy on a contender and a second-division regular in center field or wherever you want to put him — at shortstop or second base,’’ a National League scout said. ‘‘The little guy can hit one out of the park for you, too.’’
Sox left-hander Derek Holland allowed three runs in six innings, two of them on Pujols’ two-run single in the third for his 1,845th and 1,846th RBI, breaking a tie with Carl Yastrzemski for 13th all-time.
After Holland exited, the Angels scored two in the seventh against relievers Gregory Infante, Dan Jennings and Chris Beck. Garcia threw out Pujols trying to score from second on Jefry Marte’s RBI single to end the inning, but not before pitching coach Don Cooper was ejected by umpire Tripp Gibson for arguing balls and strikes on a bases-loaded walk.
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