Rick Renteria

Still sore, Avisail Garcia looks for strong finish to breakout campaign

Still sore, Avisail Garcia looks for strong finish to breakout campaign

Avisail Garcia wants nothing more than to finish his breakout campaign with a flourish. He doesn’t intend to let his sore fingers get in the way, either.

If Thursday’s performance is any indication, Garcia has done a good job managing the situation. The White Sox outfielder went 5-for-6 with a home run and a career-high seven RBIs in a 17-7 victory at the Detroit Tigers. The effort was yet another in a string of good ones for the All-Star, who has been on a tear since he returned from the disabled list with a strained ligament in his right thumb in early August.

“I’m just trying to deal with it,” Garcia said on Wednesday. “It’s not easy, but I’ve got to play. I’ve got to help my team to win and trying to do my best. The season is almost done so I’ve got to continue to play hard and trying to do my best and trying to stay on the field.”

Garcia suffered a series of injuries right before the All-Star break, which brought his doubters back in full force as it appeared as if he was falling back to earth after a fantastic start.

First was the knee injury he suffered June 28 against the Yankees that kept him out of the lineup until July 4. The day after he returned, Garcia suffered the first of two finger injuries, the latter of which landed him on the DL from July 26-Aug. 7. While Garcia was in good enough shape to appear in the All-Star Game and play in center field, he hit .216/.259/.333 with two home runs and three RBIs in 54 plate appearances in July.

The right fielder wore a guard to protect his hand while on the DL and waited for the swelling in his fingers to subside so he could return to action.

While Garcia’s reached a manageable state, he’s still not pain free.

But it hasn’t affected his play. Including Thursday’s victory, Garcia is hitting .413/.464/.571 with four home runs and 23 RBIs in 140 plate appearances since he returned.

“There is a lot to it,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Obviously you’re holding the handle of the bat in your hand. If you’re uncomfortable it’s very difficult to put in a pretty good swing. He worked through it, he battled through it. He’s still dealing with it, but it’s in such a minimal place in terms of discomfort. But he’s still playing and being able to do what he needs to.”

Garcia said he’s receiving treatment on his fingers every day with hot and cold water. Thursday’s effort against his former team is likely to have him feeling even better.

[MORE: Tim Anderson got his swag back] 

Garcia singled in the first inning and walked in the third. He singled in two runs in the fourth and blasted a three-run homer -- his 17th -- to right in the sixth inning. He added RBI singles in the seventh and eighth innings to become the first White Sox player with at least six RBIs in a game twice in the same season since Tadahito Iguchi in 2006.

Overall, Garcia is hitting .333/.380/.509 with 17 home runs and 77 RBIs in 503 plate appearances this season and a 137 wRC+.

"It’s not been easy but I’m just trying to be on the field every day,” Garcia said. “You’ve just keep your head up and trying to do my job and trying to do my best and trying to help my team win.”

Risky steal attempt another sign Tim Anderson's got his swag back

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AP

Risky steal attempt another sign Tim Anderson's got his swag back

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tim Anderson’s confidence increasingly continues to return.

The White Sox shortstop chose the right moment to take a big risk when he stole third base in the ninth inning on Wednesday afternoon.

It’s the kind of call that either earns a player kudos if it works or an earful from the manager if it fails. Turns out Anderson’s risky decision to steal third base with All-Star catcher Salvador Perez behind the plate helped the White Sox win their first road series since June. 

Only minutes after a similar play backfired for the Kansas City Royals, Anderson’s steal allowed him to easily score on a go-ahead sacrifice fly by Jose Abreu. The White Sox tacked on another run to topple the Kansas City Royals 5-3 at Kauffman Stadium. 

“He wanted to get there for (Abreu),” manager Rick Renteria said. “A steal of third has to be 100 percent or otherwise it’s fruitless. He had a good feel for it. He wanted to get over there and he did.”

Anderson’s 11th steal in 12 tries was the latest big moment in a resurgent second half. The second-year player slumped through July as he struggled to cope with the May death of close friend Branden Moss. Moss was shot and killed attempting to aide an assault victim outside of a bar near the University of Alabama campus on May 7.

But Anderson has looked much more like himself since he began to see a counselor in late July. Once again, the 2013 first-round draft pick is playing free of restriction and with the kind of confidence he displayed often throughout a rookie campaign in which he produced 2.5 f-Wins Above Replacement.

How else to explain running on Perez — who has thrown out 159 of 470 runners in his career (33.8 percent) — with one of the hottest hitters in baseball on deck? 

If Anderson is thrown out, questions about his thought process with Abreu coming to bat with a man in scoring position are asked. It’s the same type of questions asked on sports talk radio about Kansas City's Alcides Escobar after he made the final out of the eighth inning with the score tied.

But Anderson trusted the instincts that made him a top-50 prospect before the 2016 season and his read of pitcher Scott Alexander’s move. With Yoan Moncada at bat and a 3-2 count, Anderson, who went 2-for-5, his seventh multi-hit game in the last 10, took off running and beat Perez’s throw.

“Really just going off the pitcher,” Anderson said. “He was giving me slow deliveries and I feel like with my speed I was able to get there.”

“I wanted to take it in such a key moment.”

Three pitches later, Abreu drove a fly ball to deep center to bring in Anderson and give the White Sox a 4-3 lead. 

Anderson hasn’t attempted to steal bases at similar rate to what he did in the minors when he was 100 of 128, including in Arizona Fall League play. But he’s been more effective in the majors, swiping 21 of 24 tries (87.5 percent). And the confident Anderson promises this only the beginning as he gets more comfortable with pitchers around the league and their moves.

“It’s just a matter of time before the stolen bases keep coming,” Anderson said. “I was able to get a pretty good jump on it. 

“It’s definitely the more attempts I can get and more comfortable I can get that I feel like I can run more.”

Rough first inning taught Dylan Covey some valuable lessons in White Sox loss

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USA TODAY

Rough first inning taught Dylan Covey some valuable lessons in White Sox loss

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Early Tuesday, Rick Renteria said he hoped Dylan Covey would trust the White Sox defense and the movement on his pitches and attack hitters.

While Covey eventually reached that point and got into a nice rhythm, the adjustment didn’t happen until it was too late. The rookie pitcher walked three batters in the first inning and dearly paid for it before he settled down. Covey yielded a Brandon Moss grand slam that propelled the Kansas City Royals to a 4-3 victory over the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.

“I was struggling with command early on and you’d like to make the adjustment on your next pitch and that’s what I was trying to do,” Covey said. “It came a little later for me. I think halfway through the Moss at-bat I started kind of getting in the rhythm and got a feel for it. Unfortunately, he got a hold of one, but the walks did me in.”

The no-doubter Moss hit was the only damage Kansas City did against Covey, who was otherwise outstanding. The right-hander recovered almost instantly and offered the potential the White Sox saw when they selected him in the Rule 5 draft last December. Covey retired 14 of the next 15 batters he faced and lasted into the sixth inning.

Covey recorded five outs on grounders and induced a bunch of weak contact in the air, essentially becoming the pitcher the White Sox hope he develops into.

But before Moss’s round-tripper, Covey wasn’t the same.

He started the game with a six-pitch walk to Whit Merrifield, including two fastballs that were just off the edge of the zone. Two batters later, Covey just missed with two more fastballs and a slider in a four-pitch walk of Eric Hosmer.

The trend continued against Salvador Perez, though the misses weren’t as close to the zone in a seven-pitch walk. After Covey jumped ahead of Moss 1-2 in the count, he missed low with two fastballs and put himself in an unenviable position and Moss made him pay with a 430-foot homer.

“A lesson learned,” Renteria said. “He was working on the fringes and didn’t have his best command early.

Why Covey might tend to nibble at times is understandable. He has taken his fair share of lumps during his rookie campaign, allowing 17 home runs in 49 innings before Tuesday.

But the White Sox think Covey’s capable of getting outs with his sinker and want him to trust it and avoid walks. As Jeff Samardzija often notes, home runs are going to happen — it’s better they do with nobody on.

Covey walked four batters on Tuesday, which raised his total to 27 free passes in 54.2 innings.

“I’ve kind of been prone to the deep ball a lot this year, and I wouldn’t say it’s in the back of mind but these are big-league hitters so I need to throw my best stuff up there,” Covey said. “One of the things is just learning just to trust myself and trust it in the zone and not try to nibble too much at the corners because that’s when I can get into trouble and start putting guys on base.”

Covey said he felt good with the adjustment he made after the grand slam. He and pitching coach Don Cooper talked about the importance of getting ahead early on the bench and Covey saw the impact. While he fell behind by four runs, Covey kept the White Sox within striking distance and they nearly rallied to win it. The White Sox had the tying and go-ahead runs on in the ninth only to come up empty.

“The story for him was once that happened he came back and attacked the strike zone,” Renteria said. “ He did a really nice job. After the initial blow in the first for him to come back and keep us in the ballgame was pretty impressive.”