White Sox

Alex Avila: 'Can't wait to kick (Detroit's) ass'

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Alex Avila: 'Can't wait to kick (Detroit's) ass'

The potential for playing time with the White Sox is more important to Alex Avila than the possibility of an awkward moment he might face against his old team.

The veteran catcher said Monday the chance to be more than a backup catcher with the White Sox was the impetus for signing a one-year deal worth $2.5 million.

Last week, general manager Rick Hahn suggested Avila — who previously played for the Detroit Tigers — could split time with Tyler Flowers as the White Sox attempt to improve an offense that finished 14th among 15 American League teams in runs scored.

Though his new home means he’ll have to face Detroit 19 times next season, Avila is excited about the opportunity. He also seems pretty fired up to face the Tigers and letting them know he’s not done.

“It will be interesting for sure facing the Tigers,” Avila said. “Obviously with all the friends and relationships I have there, it will be interesting. It will be a lot of fun. Obviously, seven years is a long time in this game to be in this place. So there’s a lot of relationships I have there.

“It will actually be nice to be able to see everybody off the field. At the same time, I can’t wait to kick their ass.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox believe Alex Avila 'has potential to improve us']

The White Sox would love nothing more than for Avila to take a few names. His productivity has steadily declined as health problems have limited him to 191 games the past two seasons, including only 67 contests in 2015. A year after he might have suffered up to three concussions, the left-handed hitting backstop missed nearly two months with a bone bruise in his left knee last season and saw his OPS slip to a career-low .626.

But the White Sox are starved for good at-bats, and Avila still has provided them. Despite seeing his average slip to .191 last season, Avila finished with a .339 on-base percentage. In discussions about his role, Avila got the sense from Hahn he could see a significant amount of time playing alongside Flowers.

“One of the things that was important to me was obviously an opportunity to play as opposed to being a straight backup catcher,” Avila said. “When we were going through the whole process, to me it seemed like that opportunity was going to be there with me and Tyler splitting time and letting Robin (Ventura) kind of use both of our strengths in order to be as productive as possible.”

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Not only is the playing time potentially there, so too is the familiarity. Avila said he likes that he won’t have to learn an entirely new cadre of hitters by staying in the American League, and he’s even more in tune with AL Central players.

Though Detroit’s decision to let him depart via free agency didn’t seem to surprise Avila, it doesn’t mean moving on is easy. Avila joined the Tigers in August 2009 and was an integral part of the club’s four straight AL Central championships.

But Avila, who turns 29 in January, equally looks forward to joining the White Sox.

“Some mixed emotions,” Avila said. “I wouldn’t say sad but just when you come to the realization that obviously something you’ve known for a long time is not going to be the case anymore, especially with the amount of success we’ve had as a team in Detroit, and not going into the ballpark with the same group of guys and the same faces I’ve seen for the last seven years, obviously that’s the tough part about the game. The relationships you form, sometimes you are not able to continue those.

“It was a little tough for me because a lot went into the last seven years. You put a lot of time and effort into it. But at the same time, I’m extremely excited about something new that is going to be coming into my life. A new place, new teammates, new opportunity.”

As White Sox continue to pile up the strikeouts, Rick Renteria is taking the broad view

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USA TODAY

As White Sox continue to pile up the strikeouts, Rick Renteria is taking the broad view

White Sox third baseman Matt Davidson has in his mind an ideal number of times he’d strike out in a season.

“If I had it my way I’d probably strike out 20 times a year but I don’t know how you do that, really,” Davidson said before the Sox defeated the Royals 9-3 on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

It’s not realistic for an everyday player to go through the season with that few strikeouts, especially on a Sox team that entered Friday’s game with 1,163 of them, the second-highest total in the major-leagues behind the Rangers’ 1,168. The Sox were on pace to strike out 1,570 times, which would break the franchise record of 1,397 set last season.

Against the Royals, the Sox struck out seven times, but made more than enough contact—including three-run home runs from Jose Abreu and Nicky Delmonico—to win for the eighth time in their last 14 games.

With the Sox going through the trials and tribulations that come along with a radical rebuild, perhaps it’s not a surprise the team strikes out as much as it has the past two seasons. They are young, aggressive at the plate and still learning at the major-league level.

“It’s just some of the experience and learning your swing and trying to improve on it every single year,” said Davidson, who went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts Friday night. “I don’t think coming up (in the minors) everybody was striking out as much as we do here so that just shows that the competition is better and we’re just also trying to learn.

“The MLB (web site) has a section just showing how nasty pitches are,” Davidson added. “Guys are really good here. It’s just a part of learning. It’s about seeing the ball, learning the zone, learning counts and understanding when they’re going to throw stirkes and when they’re going to throw balls and also just putting the bat on the ball.”

The Sox were particularly susceptible to the strikeout when they fanned 10-plus times during an eight-game stretch from Aug. 5-13, a franchise record. They fell one game short of matching the dubious major-league record of nine consecutive games with 10-plus Ks set by the Brewers in 2017.

Sox manager Rick Renteria said the cause of all the strikeouts “depends on who you want to look at. You could look at it collectively (or) you can look at it individually. We have one of the young men (Yoan Moncada) who has quite a few under his belt, both looking and swinging (for a major-league leading 172 this season). Two-strike approach obviously is something we talk about a lot and still has to be implemented in practical terms so that it's useful. We don't want our guys swinging out of the zone. We do want them to be able to defend themselves and keep a ball in play possibly when need be.

“But I'm not thinking in regards of how (strikeouts) continue to mount and what that indicates or doesn't indicate,” Renteria added. “We look at all of our guys individually and figure out what it is we can help them with in terms of attacking that strike zone and being ready to hit.”

Rick Renteria still looking for 'a little better effort' from Avisail Garcia despite injury

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria still looking for 'a little better effort' from Avisail Garcia despite injury

Rick Renteria proved once again that he won’t let his boys quit.

The White Sox manager pulled Avisail Garcia from Friday night’s 9-3 victory over the Royals after the outfielder failed to run hard out of the box during a first-inning flyout. It wasn’t the first time Renteria has made a point by pulling a player during a game. Garcia was yanked from a spring training contest for not running hard out of the box and Tim Anderson got the same treatment in July.

“I didn’t think (Garcia) had given me an effort on the Texas Leaguer,” Renteria said after Friday’s victory. “If the ball falls in, you have to possibly advance.”


Renteria was quick to point out that Garcia is playing with a right knee injury that the right fielder said would have to be addressed—likely with surgery—during the offseason.

“He does have a knee that’s bothering him a little bit,” Renteria said. “I told him, ‘you certainly looked like something was bothering you.’ He said, ‘I felt it click when I came out of the box.’ ‘I said you understand you can still give me a better effort out of the box (and) he said, ‘yes, I understand that. I’m feeling this.’ We addressed it a little bit. He’ll be back in there (Saturday night). He realizes he still feels he can give us a little better effort.”

Garcia, who has been on the disabled list twice this season due to hamstring injuries, said he understood Renteria’s decision. 

“I felt a click (in the knee) and I didn’t run,” Garcia said. “Even if I felt a click I can do a better effort if I want to play and I want to play. That’s why they take me out. I felt a click and I was a little bit scared about it but I’m OK.”

Renteria said it is important down the stretch to communicate with Garcia when it comes to managing his knee.

“That’s why we had the conversation,” Renteria said. “He doesn’t want to come out of the lineup. He says he can play every day, he says, ‘I can manage this, I can play through this, I’ll be fine.’ I said then give me a little more effort on some of those plays. I get it that you may feel it but if you feel it, just explain to me what’s going on and we can manage it that way. He really doesn’t want to come out. He wants to play.

“We’ve never had a problem with (Garcia),” Renteria added. “Despite a couple times here or there where we’ve taken him out, if you watch him he busts his rear end pretty much all the time. That was a rarity. At that particular point in time it was my decision to pull him out.”

Garcia said he will continue to play through the knee issue.

“I just have to keep going,” Garcia said. “But I was scared a little bit because I felt like a click. But at the same time, I didn’t run hard enough so I’m OK with it. I’m good to play.”

When asked if Garcia will get the knee taken care of following the season, he responded, “yeah, for sure. One-hundred percent.”