Even though he won’t perform baseball activities for three months, Avisail Garcia hypothetically could be ready to return to the field by mid-October.
The White Sox have earmarked Garcia -- who is scheduled this week for surgery for a torn left labrum -- as expected to be ready for action by next spring. But the outfielder’s timeline for baseball readiness is closer to six-to-eight months, according to injury expert Will Carroll.
The only aspect of his game that might not be 100 percent, and could take additional time to recover, is Garcia’s ability to hit home runs. But the White Sox decision to take their time with Garcia, 22, is a sound one, Carroll said.
“Could you put him out there? Maybe,” Carroll said. “But is there any value in it? Absolutely not. He’s young. … By the time he gets to spring training next year, other than the power, everything should be there.”
Whereas labrum injuries are more common with pitchers, they’re rare in hitters. New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp both suffered the same injury as Garcia. McCann’s numbers dipped when he played through the injury in 2012 -- his .230 batting average is a career low -- before his power returned in 2013.
Kemp’s power still hasn’t fully returned, though that could be because of other injuries, Carroll said.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn used the labrum injury suffered by Oakland’s Josh Donaldson -- who opted for rehab over surgery -- as a comparison on Thursday.
Carroll expects Garcia will have the most difficulty with inside pitches as he works his way back from the injury. Earlier this week, Garcia, whose natural ability lends to balls hit up the middle and to the right side, began to pull the ball with power. He homered twice on Tuesday, both on inside pitches.
“You’re going to have a hard time extending, anything on the outside portion, trying to adjust down,” Carroll said. “Where I think the biggest problem is, and where Brian McCann had problems, any time he gets busted inside, if you’re trying to pull your hands inside the ball, and kind of inside-out it, if you go through the motion you’ll feel almost that you’ll pull the shoulder in. Any time you’re trying to pull that shoulder in and it’s going to kind of grind across that labrum, that’s where it’s going to get taxed.”
That’s how Donaldson said he discovered the severity of his injury.
Though he injured himself on a check swing in the 2008 Arizona Fall League, Donaldson didn’t know how badly he was hurt until he was hitting flips in the cage that offseason.
“The guy who was throwing to me threw one inside, and when he threw it inside I went to turn on it, and it hurt really bad,” Donaldson said. “That’s when I called the A’s and told them I need an MRI.”
With a 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame the team believes Garcia has massive power potential. Paul Konerko speculated in spring Garcia could one day be a 40-home run hitter. But that power might not immediately return, Carroll said.
In Donaldson’s case, after he hit 15 homers in 110 games in 2008, he only hit nine in 124 games the next season. McCann hit 20 home runs last season and saw his OPS rise nearly 100 points from the previous year.
The one factor that works in the team’s favor, however, is the healing power of trainer Herm Schneider.
“Herm Schneider is a sorcerer,” Carroll said. “Anything that is probably the average, I would probably take the under on anything he gets his hands on. A lot of times you’ll see doubles power come first. … When I’m watching guys who are rehabbing especially from wrist injuries, which is where you’re watching for it most often, I just want to see long fly balls, gap power, line drive, even if they’re at somebody, he’s at least showing it’s still there.”