White Sox’ Avisail Garcia taking opportunity, running with it

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Has Avisail Garcia turned a corner, or is the 25-year-old right fielder’s encouraging – and surprising – first 30 games of 2017 fool’s gold?

White Sox staff and scouts alike want to see continuing genuine improvement. But they like what they’ve seen so far in what is viewed as a make or break season for Garcia.

“They gave him a full, clean slate to be an everyday right fielder,’’ first base coach Daryl Boston said, “and he’s taken it and run with it.’’

Despite a run of two hits in his last 16 at-bats, perhaps an expected regression all have been waiting for after he blazed his way into Player of the Month consideration for April, Garcia boasts a .336/.380/.531 hitting line with a .911 OPS. He has five homers and 24 RBI.

Tips of the cap have come from coaches, management, scouts and even fans. It’s encouraging, to say the least, for a 6-4, 240-pound physical specimen who came from the Tigers in the Jake Peavy trade in 2013. But people want to see more.

“I still don’t totally trust him because he’s still maturing,’’ one scout said Wednesday. “I don’t trust him yet because with two strikes he’s still swinging at pitches out of the zone. For me, he’s a solid two-way player on a second division team.’’

Garcia made his fourth error in right field in Tuesday’s 7-2 loss, bobbling the ball getting into throwing position on a single. Boston, who works with the outfielders, says Garcia looks better in the field.

“But I’d want to see him for five or six games and see if he’s consistent,’’ the scout said. “He’s making better reads, better jumps. He’s not panicking. I see a big difference in the guy.’’

Boston said Garcia is “more than holding his own this year.’’

Garcia started out as a designated hitter last season and, given a second chance to be the starting right fielder in a rebuilding year in 2017, “he’s taken it and run with it,” Boston said.

“He talked to [strength and conditioning coach] Allen [Thomas] about being more explosive out of the shoot with his first step,’’ Boston said. “And he’s always been a worker. Likes to throw every day during batting practice.

“He’s been up against it and to see him get off to the start he is getting off to is pleasant and we’re all happy for him.’’

By improving his diet, Garcia lost close to 15 pounds before the beginning of the season. Some of it has returned and two weeks ago he was at 248 pounds, Thomas said, but for Thomas the key is that Garcia is much leaner.

“Muscle weighs more than fat,’’ Thomas said. “He took care of his body this year and he feels good.

“If you have a sound mind and body things work for you in any line of work. He’s in a good mind frame. And the manager [Rick Renteria] helps a lot, gives him all the confidence. The way Rick is, he makes you want to run through a wall. There is a good rapport there.’’

“I mean, I’m feeling good, feeling great,’’ Garcia said. “Trying to do better every year, trying to play hard and do my best to help my team.

“In the outfield,  I’m focused. Anticipating the play. That’s what I have to do.’’

Renteria has promoted Garcia to the fourth spot in recent days, which Garcia shrugs off as no big deal. He was penciled in fourth for Wednesday’s rained out game against the Twins.

“Doesn’t matter to me,’’ he said. “It doesn’t change my approach – it’s the same. Do my best and try to get on base for my team.’’


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