Avisail Garcia continues strong start as White Sox beat Twins

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Questions reverberated on the South Side this offseason about whether Avisail Garcia could live up to the potential he brought with him in 2013.

Back then he was the prize return to the White Sox in a three-team trade with Detroit and Boston that sent Jake Peavy to the Red Sox.

Three lackluster MLB seasons later, the Sox are still waiting for Garcia to deliver the middle-of-the-order, power-hitting bat they anticipated.

It’s early in the 2017 season yet, but Garcia is showing signs that he may have turned a corner.

Garcia has eight hits in four games, including a triple and a home run during Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. His three-hit effort fell a double short of a cycle, and he added two runs and three RBI.

“I’m just trying to put my hands more inside and not try to do too much,” said Garcia, who noted his focus has also been to keep his head down as he swings through the ball. “I’ve been missing fastballs because, you know, my head was a little bit off.”

Garcia’s time with the Sox got off to a rocky start after he missed most of his first full season with a shoulder injury following a diving catch attempt.

His batting average the next two seasons hovered around .250 with an on-base percentage idling at just above .300. He entered this season with 39 career home runs.

He drew comparisons to Dayan Viciedo – a former Sox prospect with tremendous potential and hype who fizzled out of baseball after a few too many lackluster seasons of his own.

It’s easy to forget, though, now in his sixth season in the majors, that Garcia is only 25 and could still have All-Star seasons ahead of him.

“He’s more relaxed at the plate,” Sox pitcher Miguel Gonzalez said of Garcia. “He’s not trying to do too much. He has power no matter what, so he’s just staying through it and making good contact. You can tell by the way things are going for him right now.”

Garcia put in extra work this offseason. He improved his fitness routine, lost nearly 20 pounds and adjusted his diet to cut back on red meat.

“Last year I was eating steak today, and the next day steak, and then chicken, and then steak,” he said with a laugh. “Right now, I’m eating a steak, then fish, chicken, fish. … I don’t want to get fat.”

Garcia lined a triple to right-center field in his first at-bat Saturday. His two-run homer in the sixth went to the same part of the field and, for the second time in the game, scored Todd Frazier.

His triple in the second inning came with two strikes, a situation in which he’s made extra effort to improve.

“He’s finding when he chokes up a little bit with two strikes it allows the ball to travel a little bit deeper,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s a strong man. If he puts the barrel on the baseball it has a chance to travel, and it happened today.”

Garcia agreed, adding he’s more in control of his at-bats now with two strikes.

“You know you don’t have to do too much,” he said. “You just got to see the ball and hit it. The homers are gonna come. I know I have power.”

Garcia signed a one-year, $3 million contract in the offseason, so it’s safe to say this could be his last chance to make an impression with the White Sox.

Asked whether Garcia has something to prove this year, Renteria said: “Every player is trying to prove themselves every single day.”

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