BOSTON — Avisail Garcia could play for the White Sox again in 2014.
Once ruled out for the season with a torn left labrum, the outfielder has progressed enough in the 12 weeks since his shoulder surgery to be cleared to resume baseball activities on Monday afternoon.
And though he wouldn’t take the leap, because of the many hurdles to clear before he could play again, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Garcia appears in the majors again this season.
“Yes it is possible,” Hahn said. “However, we are still many steps in the rehabilitation away from that and ultimately the decision about whether Avi plays at the big league level this year will be dictated primarily by his health and secondarily by what’s best for his development. The club’s performance, the club’s won-loss record, the situation of the club later in the season once he has progressed to that level will not be relevant in deciding whether or not he’s going to play. It’s going to be decided by his health and what’s best for his development going forward.
“Our doctors feel very good 12 weeks post op that physiologically the fracture and the repair have healed so now it’s just a matter of slowly progressing him back into baseball activities and see what timeline that leads to in terms of a potential return.”
Initially, the White Sox were hopeful Garcia, who suffered the injury on April 9, would be able to recover in time to play winter ball this season so he didn’t go 10 months without seeing live pitching before spring training 2015. But Garcia’s timeline has been expedited as the 22-year-old has continued to progress at what the White Sox medical staff has described as an “impressive” pace.
Only 2 1/2 weeks after he began to travel with the club again — normally a good sign of an injured player’s progress — Garcia has been cleared to start working out with his teammates. Garcia had been taking fly balls before batting practice and working with trainer Herm Schneider in the indoor batting cage to get extension.
But Garcia can take yet another step as the medical staff said his fracture and repairs have healed, Hahn said.
While the White Sox were on the road late last month, manager Robin Ventura liked what he has seen from Garcia —acquired in a three-team trade from Boston for Jake Peavy last July — and didn’t rule out a return in 2014.
“At this point he looks pretty healthy,” Ventura said. “If a guy is injured and supposed to be out for the year, you kind of expect him to be on crutches or a wheelchair. But you see him walking around doing stuff and it looks good.”
Garcia, who the White Sox see as a central figure in their long-term plans, admitted he was devastated by the injury enough to being unable to watch the team’s games. But the player ex-Tiger teammates called “Mini Miggy” has been enthusiastic as he got closer to a return and held out hope he’d be cleared to take batting practice.
“You have to keep working hard,” Garcia said. “That’s the part — work hard and see what happens.
“I want to play. My team is playing hard, trying to win games. I want to be with them game by game. I miss that. I miss competing.”
The White Sox have lamented the development time Garcia has lost to the injury. They love Garcia’s potential and hoped to spend this season helping him to refine his approach at the plate.
So if there’s a chance to get him back on the field, they’ll take it.
“He’s still a young kid,” Hahn said. “Getting him those repetitions at the big league level, those plate appearances is very important. So yes, there is, from a developmental standpoint, a benefit to getting late decent ABs if, again, his health and prudence dictates that makes sense. We do see benefit in that.”
The question now doesn’t seem to be if Garcia will play again in 2014 but when. Hahn would love for it to occur in the regular season with the White Sox. But if they have to push it back to the Arizona Fall League or even winter ball, Hahn’s OK with it. He admitted to being a little excited given all the difficult injuries the White Sox have faced this season.
But he’s also still trying to temper his optimism.
“Initially there seemed to be some question about whether winter ball was possible or not,” Hahn said. “The timeline we’re on right now seems to be opening the door to at least that if not more.
“We’ve had enough negative injury issues around here right now that I’m going to be pleased we had one going our way. The surgeons obviously did a great job and Herm and our rehab people and Avi himself have worked extremely hard to get to this point. We’re pleased where we’re at today, but we’re by no means at the end of this process. We’re just taking the next, and an important step, in his rehabilitation.”