The news of Avisail Garcia’s season-ending injury has the outfielder crushed and prompted general manager Rick Hahn to describe Thursday as “lousy.”
The White Sox learned Thursday they will be without an outfielder they believe is key to their future for the rest of 2014 after an MRI revealed a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
The good news — if there’s any — is the White Sox expect Garcia should be ready to go when the club reports to Glendale, Ariz. for spring training in 2015. But in between, the 22-year-old will be sidelined for what could have been a critical, full year of development in the majors. Hardly a finished project with all kinds of potential, the team’s plans for Garcia, acquired in a three-team deal last July for Jake Peavy, are on hold for a full year.
[RELATED: Garcia injured against the Rockies]
“We would rather have him out there playing on an everyday basis here in Chicago and continuing to show some of the progress he’s shown as recently as the last few days in Colorado,” Hahn said. “But it’s not the kind of thing he can’t come back from; it’s not the kind of thing that he’s going to have lingering affects on his ability or his ceiling. It’s just an unfortunate development that’s pushed him back a year in terms of being an everyday guy in Chicago.”
Though much of the early emphasis has been placed on first baseman Jose Abreu, Garcia is a significant part of the White Sox plans. Hahn emphasized the team is pleased that Garcia is still under control for five more seasons. In spring training, Paul Konerko listed Garcia as one of the players he’s most intrigued by. Garcia has plenty of work ahead, Konerko said, but an equal amount of potential.
“He can go any direction,” Konerko said. “He can run, he can hit, he can hit with power. I know he’s going to do well, I just want to see where that’s going to go because he can be average and power, he can go out and hit .260 with 40 home runs. He really has the potential to be a monster in this league.”
Just this week, Garcia had begun to demonstrate some of that potential after a slow start. Hitting coach Todd Steverson, who called the injury a blow to a young player in his first full season, cited better pitch selection and more complete at-bats as one reason for Garcia’s recent success. Steverson and manager Robin Ventura also said that Garcia, who started the season 4-for-24, had begun to put himself in a better position to handle inside pitches.
Naturally a player whose power is up the middle and to the right side, Garcia made adjustments on inside pitches and put two of them in the left-field bleachers at Coors Field on Tuesday night. Steverson felt as if he and Garcia have just begun to develop a bond, which would have allowed them to make more progress.
“It’s not about going up to try to pull the baseball, it’s about being in position to be able to get the right contact point to do it,” Steverson said. “And I think that’s what he was starting to understand is timing mechanism, where I can still keep my strength and be able to have a different contact point when balls are a little closer to me. It’s a process and the process was slowed on us obviously. I think we had enough rapport to this point where he understands when he’s watching now what he’s watching, what he’s looking at.”
Steverson thinks Garcia, who was unavailable for comment, can benefit from watching games from the bench. Unlike when he’s playing, Garcia can dissect games with teammates or Steverson and the coaches while he rehabs. But Ventura knows it’s going to be a difficult period for his young player given the timing.
“It’s harder on him, especially him getting his first shot at it for a full year,” Ventura said. “Guys just have to keep going. But it’s tough. You feel for him first, the opportunity he had. Hopefully they fix that and get it back going and get ready.”
The White Sox know everyone will eventually reach that point of moving forward. But for now, even Hahn had trouble finding many silver linings in the disruption of Garcia’s progress.
“It stings for the kid, who is crushed right now, who is very disappointed,” Hahn said. “He was hoping this was going to be a temporary thing, but obviously understands the medical situation and the realities in front of us and what they are. He's taking very hard. It stinks for White Sox fans who are going to be deprived of the opportunity of seeing this kid on a daily basis this year. It's really just one of the crueler realities of sports and the business we're in.”