Red-hot Avi Garcia powering White Sox's rise


CHICAGO -- Avisail Garcia has gone from the great unknown in the Chicago White Sox's rebuilding process to one of the most dependable performers this year, and a major reason the club has experienced a revival over the past two weeks.

As the first piece added at the non-waiver trade deadline in 2013, when the White Sox began to strip down their roster, Garcia is only now getting consistent and healthy swings with the White Sox.

He is making them count with a .346 batting average, a .380 on-base percentage, both of which lead the team. His .492 slugging percentage is second on the club to Jose Abreu's .496 mark. Even Garcia admitted he didn't expect to get off to this kind of start.

"No, but I was prepared, but just play hard and try to have good at-bats and try to swing at good pitches and work the count," Garcia said.

It's a mindset that has to be pleasing to the White Sox. He arrived in 2013 as a high-profile return for a deal that cost the White Sox Jake Peavy. Since the deal has gone down, Peavy has won two titles, one with the Boston Red Sox and the other with the San Francisco Giants, while Garcia has become a prime offensive performer with the White Sox.

It has taken some time, though. He had just 53 games of major league experience when he came over to the White Sox, batting .304 with a .327 OBP in the final 42 games on the South Side that season for a team that was well out of the race and would finish with 99 losses.

Last year was expected to be the time to show what he could do, but one week into the season, he suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery and cost him four months of the season. Expected to be gone for the season, he returned in time to play 42 games, batting just .244 with a .305 on-base percentage.

In order to make up for some lost time, the White Sox gave Garcia their blessing when it came to playing in winter ball. His 125 at-bats in his native Venezuela appeared to have played a big role in helping Garcia to reach the level he is at now.

"Yes, it helped me a lot because I lost, like, three months last year and playing and I was able to see more pitches," Garcia said. "They had really good pitchers over there, so I saw pitches, curveballs, sliders, and I made adjustments."

While Garcia has a ton of power, as his four home runs and high slugging percentage suggests, he has not fallen in love with it, showing he is more satisfied with being an all-around hitter. It is not unlike the approach Jose Abreu uses, with each player able to use the other as a reference guide when they start getting out of their games.

"Avi, he's an intelligent player, he pays attention, has drive and wants to be good," manager Robin Ventura said. "So those are things that rub off on each other and they're both good for each other to be right next to each other not only in the lineup but in the clubhouse."

Where Garcia had some visible holes in his swing when he first arrived with the White Sox, and his pitch selection left plenty to be desired, his strides in those areas seem to be what is taking him to a new level now.

"It's baseball, you're still going to swing at bad pitches," pitching coach Todd Steverson said. "Nobody's going to go up there and be perfect. But in terms of being able to lay off some of the sliders down and away or some of the tough backdoor curveballs, backdoor cutters, he's done a good job. Hopefully he stays there."

Since April 24, Garcia's .403 batting average is second best in the American League. And since May 5 when the White Sox started their current 9-3 run, Garcia has batted .353 with a .588 slugging percentage, three home runs and 11 RBIs.

"He's got a high ceiling," Steverson said. "But you don't want to sit there and put that kind of pressure on him right now. Let him go play. With everybody, let them go play. He's a great part of our lineup right now and let him go play."