White Sox

Why Avisail Garcia wants to remain with the White Sox 'forever'

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USA TODAY

Why Avisail Garcia wants to remain with the White Sox 'forever'

CLEVELAND — Similar to Jose Abreu’s earlier comments about his uncertain future, Avisail Garcia reiterated he wants to stay with the White Sox.

The 2017 All-Star — who didn’t appear in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians — loves the direction in which the White Sox are headed.

Garcia is a fan of the culture instilled by manager Rick Renteria. He believes it has had an impact on his breakout season. And he’d love to be on the South Side when the White Sox eventually turn things around.

“Everybody wants to be a part of a winning team and I want to be a part of this team forever,” Garcia said. “I love this team. I love the coaches. I would like to stay here.”

Garcia’s breakout performance certainly has him in a much better position to stick around than he was in heading into this season. He might not have been afforded the opportunity to stay in 2017 had the White Sox chosen to compete.

But once the exodus began, the White Sox figured they’d give Garcia one more chance and it has paid off handsomely. Garcia, who lost approximately 18 pounds in the offseason and has maintained it, produced a career year. He hit .330/.380/.506 with 18 home runs and 80 RBIs in 561 plate appearances and played well in right field. He reduced his strikeout-rate to a career-low 19.8 percent, produced a ridiculously high .392 average on balls in play and finished the season worth 4.2 f-Wins Above Replacement. Optimistic as Renteria is, even he couldn’t see this kind of season from Garcia.

“I did not,” Renteria said. “I saw him improving.

“He came in very fit, and you also saw how committed he was to everything that was going on. He put together the first half of the season that was a little bit of a surprise. But not really because this was his fourth year in the big leagues. It takes a little time for people to settle in. And then our question was, is he going to be able to sustain this after the All-Star break? And he certainly has.”

“Is he always going to be a .330 hitter? I don’t think so. But he certainly has shown me that he has the ability and the approach that might potentially let him be able to do that if he stays consistent.”

Garcia thinks his season is a product of many things, including Renteria’s influence. Clearly the weight loss has helped and the way he’s felt this month has encouraged him to work as hard in the offseason. The experience and improved focus have also been keys for Garcia. Throw those aspects in with Renteria’s drive and Garcia put it all together. It’s the kind of manager Garcia thinks can help the White Sox turn their fortunes around as his own have.

“He pushes everybody to do their best every day,” Garcia said. “No matter what happens, we prepare to win the game the next day. He’s a great manager. I’m happy he’s here with us. I love Ricky. He’s that kind of guy that pushes you every day. He’s that kind of guy that even if you don’t hit, he’s always got your back. Big, big part.”

Carlos Rodon makes an appearance on the South Side as his rehab moves toward next phase

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AP

Carlos Rodon makes an appearance on the South Side as his rehab moves toward next phase

Though he’s seemingly become the forgotten man, Carlos Rodon still has much a chance as anyone to be a part — a big part — of the White Sox rotation of the future.

Rebuild-loving White Sox fans are always hungry for the next batch of box scores from the minor leagues, following guys like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning from one start to the next like they’re big leaguers and not pitching, in two of those four cases, for a Class A team.

That hunger coupled with Rodon’s status as a player in recovery instead as one on a major league mound makes it easy to forget that the 2014 first-round pick, who’s just 25 years old, should very much be included with all those minor league guys (not to mention Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez) as potential aces of the future for the rebuilding White Sox.

But he’s got to get back to pitching first.

Rodon will soon do that, he informed reporters while making an appearance at Guaranteed Rate Field. Still rehabbing from shoulder surgery that brought his 2017 campaign to an early end, Rodon was back in Chicago to meet with the doctor, and he'll also throw for pitching coach Don Cooper. Rodon provided the update that he’ll soon be pitching in games, starting with extended spring training contests before making a minor league rehab assignment and eventually making his way back to the South Side.

Recently moved to the 60-day disabled list, he’ll be eligible to come off at the end of May, which is around the time the White Sox have discussed him potentially being ready to return.

“Hopefully by the end of this 60-day deal, maybe,” Rodon said when asked when he’ll be back. “You never know what could happen, setbacks and whatnot. Those things can lengthen out the process, but if everything goes well, hopefully by the end of (May). I don’t know. I can’t really put a date on it. I’m hoping, but we’ll see.”

“Timetable’s the same as it’s always been. We expect him to be back sometime roughly in late May, early June,” general manager Rick Hahn said Friday. “I think the earliest he can come back is May 28 because we put him on the 60-day, so it’ll be after that date.”

White Sox fans haven’t seen much of Rodon in the last two seasons of South Side baseball. Last year, his start was delayed until late June because of a spring arm injury. Then came the shoulder surgery last September. Almost a month into this season, Rodon’s combined innings total in 2017 and 2018 stands at just 69.1 in 12 starts last summer.

But he showed some flashes of brilliance in those outings that brought to mind why the White Sox spent the No. 3 pick in the draft on him. He had three games of at least 10 strikeouts, including punching out 11 Cubs hitters in just four innings last July.

This time, he’ll miss roughly the same amount of time in the season before making his debut, give or take a few weeks. But at least he’s got experience to lean on when it comes to dealing with his absence.

“It is tough, not starting the season off with the boys. I miss being here,” Rodon said. “It’s definitely frustrating. No one likes to be injured, for the team and for the fans. You don’t want to be in Arizona when your boys are out here pitching and hitting balls and winning games. Sometimes it’s part of the process, as dumb as that sounds. It really is true. It’s a different kind of feeling this year knowing more so what’s going on.

“I kind of know more of a plan now compared to last year. I kind of was clueless. You never think surgery is a good thing, but in this case it’s not bad at all, considering plan-wise and time-wise, we’re a little more set in stone.”

Trayce Thompson ready to hit reset button and work his way back into White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

Trayce Thompson ready to hit reset button and work his way back into White Sox rebuild

Had the White Sox rebuild started a year earlier than it did, there’s a good chance that Trayce Thompson would have factored heavily into the front office’s long-term plans.

He certainly wouldn’t have been swapped for Todd Frazier in that win-now three-team deal before the 2016 season. And with his age what it was, he might’ve been viewed as a key cog in those now-so-omnipresent 2020 lineup projections.

At least, that’s where Thompson always wanted to be.

“Getting traded from here, I was devastated,” Thompson said. “Playing for the Dodgers was special, but I wanted to be with the White Sox. I was drafted by this team when I was a teenager. I wanted to be here for as long as I could possibly think of. … These guys took a chance on me when I was a teenager and they stuck with me when I was not good in the minor leagues. They always believed in me, so I always hope for the best for this organization.”

More than two seasons later, Thompson is once again with the White Sox, acquired in a Thursday trade with the Oakland Athletics. But this time he’ll have to work his way into talk of the team’s bright future. Though he’s still a young player at 27, he’s not named Eloy Jimenez or Luis Robert or Micker Adolfo or Luis Alexander Basabe or Charlie Tilson or Ryan Cordell or Daniel Palka or Luis Gonzalez.

But none of those guys have the opportunity Thompson does now: to impress this coaching staff and this front office at the major league level.

“I think like that anywhere I go,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m in Chicago or L.A. or Oakland. I always thought that I had the ability to play every day. I feel like I showed that when I was here in ’15. I know it was brief, small sample size. I know that. But then in ’16 I thought I did the same thing in L.A. There was a point there in the middle of that season where I was hitting in the middle of the order for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I was 25 years old, and I know it was a sample size, but I know I’m that same player. It’s up to me to go prove myself again.”

In this developmental season, where contenting for a championship isn’t expected, why not?

Of course in order to earn that consideration, Thompson will have to play much more like he did that last time he wore a White Sox uniform than how he has since he left. In 44 games with the South Siders in 2015, Thompson opened a lot of eyes with a .295/.363/.533 slash line and 16 extra-base hits in 122 at-bats. After getting dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers, however, he slashed just .225/.302/.436 in 80 games in 2016 and was much worse in 27 games last season: .122/.218/.265.

“Last year I was terrible,” Thompson said. “I was terrible last year. I have to prove that I’m the same guy I was before that, and I think I’m ready to. I had a full offseason to work out and get ready, so like I said I’m ready to go.”

Thompson is likely to get plenty of opportunity. After a red-hot spring, Adam Engel is looking much like he did last season, entering action Friday with a .179 batting average in 14 games. Nicky Delmonico has quietly been one of the team’s more reliable hitters, with a .283 average and a .377 on-base percentage, but as expected his splits are heavily skewed: He’s hitting .316 against righties and is just 1-for-8 against lefties.

“I think he’s going to provide an option at all three outfield positions,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Certainly, at the bare minimum, he’ll provide some defensive assistance late in ballgames like we’ve used Leury Garcia for that purpose a few times.

“I think now with Trayce in that role could potentially give Nicky a little time against certain lefties. I think we’re real pleased with the way Nicky battles against lefties and righties, and he’s not necessarily screaming out for a platoon partner per say, but there’ll be a couple of matchups where Trayce could help with that. And he plays a very strong center field, and we’ve got a guy in Engel right now who’s sort of struggling to get back to where he was all spring, and hopefully he can find that soon and in the interim Ricky now has another option to go along with that out there depending on how he sees the set lineup.”

Thompson can increase that opportunity by playing well, obviously, and if he plays well enough, perhaps he can work his way into the discussion for what’s looking like a real crowded outfield of the future.

Before the rebuild, Thompson captured the imaginations of White Sox fans looking toward the future. With all eyes focused there now, Thompson’s task becomes putting himself in that picture once again.

“I think it’s an extremely exciting time,” Thompson said of the rebuilding White Sox. “You get to see a lot of the guys that are going to be here for the next hopefully decade or so. I think it’s a really exciting time to see a lot of the talent that’s out on the field, not just here but also in Charlotte or in Birmingham, wherever all those young guys are that I got to see in spring training a lot. It’s pretty impressive.

“I’ve known those guys, like I said, since I was 18 years old and they’re pure baseball people. So it’s an exciting time and everybody’s going to do their absolute best to go out and win a game that day. Fans have to be patient, but like I said, I think it’s exciting because look what happened in Houston or look what happened a couple years with those Royals teams. It took them a little while to get going. So I think it’s the start of something great here.”