White Sox

White Sox won’t force it with Avisail Garcia’s development

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White Sox won’t force it with Avisail Garcia’s development

It’s easy to forget Avisail Garica will only turn 24 in June, given the White Sox outfielder is already in his fourth major league season and has played in more World Series games (three) than every one of his teammates besides Melky Cabrera.

His youth means there’s likely more to his game than his impressive start to the season would show. But his coaches aren’t thinking about where he can grow his game, not while he has a .872 OPS through 33 games.

“Experience is going to the biggest thing for him once he levels out, as far as understanding what people are trying to do to him and go from there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “… (We) kind of stay away from the ‘we’re going to take him a step further’ mentality. Just let him play and continue to understand the strike zone and I think he’s going to be great.”

Garcia’s two-run home run in the ninth inning Sunday helped the White Sox secure a fifth consecutive victory, and over the course of that winning streak he has 11 hits in 22 at-bats with two home runs. Both those home runs have been to right-center, and three of his four homers this year have gone out to center or right.

Eventually, the White Sox believe Garcia will develop the kind of pull power that could turn him into a 20-plus home run player. But Ventura & Co. aren’t going to try to force that left field power out of the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Venezuela native who could pass for an NFL linebacker.

“As far as being able to put the bat on it, he’s great,” Ventura said. “The power is there. Nobody with his size doesn’t really have it. We saw that in Oakland his last at-bat.”

[MORE: White Sox staying confident through ups and downs]

Hitting coach Todd Steverson said he’s been pleased with Garcia’s pitch recognition and his ability to fight off tough pitches until he gets the one he wants. So far, Garcia’s been turning those opportune pitches into hits.

Garcia credited his time in the Venezuelan Winter League as a key undercurrent to his strong start. He played in 34 games this winter, collecting 125 at-bats that have proven critical for a guy who missed a big chunk of time with a shoulder injury in 2014.

“It helped me a lot because I lost, like, three months last year and playing helped me a lot because I saw more pitches,” Garcia said. “They had really good pitchers over there, so I saw pitches, curveballs, sliders, and I made adjustments.”

But another undercurrent to Garica’s hot start has been a .423 batting average on balls in play, a mark that’s unlikely to be sustainable over a full season. The highest BABIP a qualified major league hitter has had since 2007 was .396 (Austin Jackson in 2010), so eventually Garcia is bound to see fewer hits on the balls he puts in play.

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That doesn’t mean, though, that Garcia can’t continue to grow as a hitter and produce at a high level even if his luck turns a bit. Again, he’s only in his age 24 season and is playing in career game No. 175 Monday night.

There’s still plenty of room to grow, but the White Sox don’t want Garcia thinking about the big picture in the middle of a season.

“He’s got a high ceiling,” Steverson said. “But you don’t want to sit there and put that kind of pressure on him right now. Let him go play...He’s a great part of our lineup right now.”

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”