Ex-Tiger Garcia aims to build on All-Star season with White Sox

Jack Thompson
Associated Press

Glendale, Ariz. — Avisail Garcia is trying to pick up where he left off last year. So far, so good.

The Chicago White Sox All-Star right fielder arrived early in camp to deal with his salary arbitration case, which he won. Since he was at spring training anyway, he stuck around and got some extra work in.

“Nothing changes. I’ve been doing my workouts, my routines. Hopefully I can stay healthy,” the former Tigers outfielder said Monday on the first official reporting day for the full squad at Camelback Ranch. “We play (Friday), so I got to be ready.”

At 26, Garcia is coming off his best season, batting .330 with 18 homers and 80 RBIs. Only MVP Jose Altuve had a higher batting average in the American League.

And an arbitration panel ruled in his favor last Wednesday. Garcia will get a raise to $6.7 million; the White Sox offered $5.85 million. He made $3 million in 2017.

“I’m excited,” Garcia said of the arbitration victory. “Nobody likes to go through it, but it’s part of the business.”

Part of the reason for his success last season was attributed to his arriving in camp in better condition. He lost 18 pounds through a combination of early workouts and changing his diet from red meat to more fish.

Garcia says he has stayed with his routine, and wants to take his game even higher this season.

“I just try to improve myself, have better numbers every year,” he said. “You got to test yourself.”

Since arriving from Detroit in 2013 as part of a trade that sent shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Tigers, Garcia had been projected to be a star, but injuries and slumps kept him from realizing his potential until last season.

Manager Rick Renteria, in his second year at the White Sox helm following one season as bench coach under Robin Ventura, has noticed how Garcia has improved.

“I think everybody was hopeful that at some point in his career that might happen,” Renteria said of Garcia’s breakthrough.

“He’s come into camp full of confidence and obviously his routines have remained consistent. He has to just go out there and try not to do too much. Let the numbers take care of themselves and trust the work that he puts in, and he’ll have an opportunity to continue good output and have a positive result.”

Garcia, for his part, never lost the faith despite entering last season as a career .258 hitter.

“I believed,” he said. “I put in a lot of sacrifice. Play hard every single day.”

As Renteria said, Garcia continued his offseason routine after experiencing his best season. The 6-foot-4 Venezuelan said he weighs 251 right now, down from 258 at this time a year ago.

“I lost seven more pounds. I don’t get tired so fast. I feel better, sleep better, everything.”

Garcia, along with first baseman Jose Abreu, had been mentioned in some trade rumors in the offseason as the White Sox continue to seek deals for younger players. So far nothing has come about, and as he did with the arbitration case, Garcia said he didn’t let that affect his approach.

“I don’t worry about that. I just worry about day by day,” Garcia said.

“I just prepare myself for the season because rumors are always going to be there. You never know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Perhaps even stealing more bases, as Abreu has hinted he might do this season? Abreu had three steals last year while Garcia had five.

“Maybe. He can do it, I can do it too. Let’s see what we can do,” Garcia said.