White Sox

Garcia homers twice, Sale bounces back as White Sox top Angels

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Garcia homers twice, Sale bounces back as White Sox top Angels

A huge night for Avisail Garcia. A great outing by Chris Sale. This is how the White Sox drew it up before this so-far underwhelming campaign got underway.

The White Sox young right fielder hit a pair of homers, driving in four runs, and their four-time All Star of an ace held the visiting Angels to just two runs over 7 1/3 innings en route to an 8-2 victory Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

The White Sox entered Monday night’s game losers of eight of their last 10, having been swept over the weekend by the rival Royals in Kansas City, but this was a clinic in how to bust out of a bad stretch.

“I think that says a lot about our team,” Sale said. “Tough road trip, and we played them good, too. Those were three one-run ballgames. Those are kind of hard to swallow sometimes, but what a way to start off at home. We have a few days here so we can definitely build some momentum from this and move forward.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: In 'frustrating' season, Hahn doesn't want to write off White Sox yet]

Sale was excellent, but that’s come to be expected. The bigger highlights belonged to Garcia. After Melky Cabrera drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the first and Tyler Flowers drove a solo homer to straightaway center in the third, Garcia launched a solo shot more than 420 feet into the left-center field bleachers in the fourth to make it 3-0.

Two innings later, Garcia took Angels starter Matt Shoemaker deep a second time, this home run of the three-run variety that grew the White Sox lead to 6-0. Adam Eaton’s RBI single made it 7-0 before the inning was over.

Garcia’s turned it on in a big way of late. After going nearly two months without a homer from June 8 and Aug. 4, he’s hit four in his last six games. He’s picked up a hit in seven of nine games this month and is hitting .285 during that stretch.

After struggling through much of the season, Garcia’s work to correct his issues is starting to pay off.

"Always feels great. I've been working really hard,” Garcia said. “And those guys help me a lot, the manager, (hitting coach Todd) Steverson. I just try to come here and work hard, get better every day and play hard.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: From spot starter to All Star, Hector Santiago back on South Side]

“It think he has to grind through it and fight for it,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Everyone has their level of doing it and when they do and when they make some change and when they want to make some changes. You have to believe in what the changes are. Everybody goes though that a little differently. I think for him it’s starting to click, and there’s some clarity on how you’re going to do it, how he’s going to go about it, how guys are pitching him. I think it should be a fun thing to watch for him, but I think his transition into that and his adjustments have been good.”

Sale, who caused a small panic with back-to-back rough outings in which he surrendered seven runs apiece, was in need of some personal momentum and bounced back in tremendous fashion. He silenced the Angels much of the evening, untouched until the seventh, when Johnny Giavotella drove in two runs in an already out-of-reach game. But overall, the All-Star lefty pitched 7 1/3 innings of two run ball, allowing just five hits and striking out seven.

“You don’t want to let that last too long,” Sale said of his two straight poor outings. “It’s always nice when you get a cushion. You go out in the first inning, score a run and get some big nights by guys. Avi hitting two home runs, and it seemed like Tyler is always doing something for me when I’m out there. Melky is a spark plug. That guy likes to have fun and play the game. I can go on and on. Guys running around the outfield chasing balls, double plays, Alexei (Ramirez) making an unbelievable play under the gun. It’s nice to see after a road trip like we had coming out with energy and fighting. We fought today.”

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Buy an Avisail Garcia jersey shirt]

Fighting today and only today was a theme of Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn’s pregame comments. Despite a season that’s seemed lost at more than one point, the White Sox aren’t ready to quit just yet, as they haven’t been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.

Weekends like the one in Kansas City are the moments that have made this team look incapable of erasing the deficit and passing the teams required to earn one of the American League’s Wild Card spots. But it’s games like Monday’s that at times make the White Sox look capable of pulling off a late-season surge.

“I think when it’s a team win, you feel that way,” Ventura said. “And when guys pitch like that and you hit the ball and play some defense, everybody can feel good about it. That’s part of sticking together and grinding your way through it.”

Eloy Jimenez is swinging some kind of a hot bat in Triple-A, giving White Sox fans visions of the (near?) future

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USA TODAY

Eloy Jimenez is swinging some kind of a hot bat in Triple-A, giving White Sox fans visions of the (near?) future

The White Sox once more dropped to 30 games below .500 on Sunday, providing another reminder that this isn't the season where the team will be competing for a playoff spot or any kind of championship.

But all fans have to do is check the box scores rolling in from Triple-A Charlotte to get another kind of reminder: that a season where the White Sox will be competing for a playoff spot and a championship could be right around the corner.

Eloy Jimenez, the team's top-rated prospect and the No. 2 prospect in baseball, is killing it lately. Since returning from the disabled list in the middle of the month, Jimenez has a .424 batting average and is slugging a jaw-dropping .818 — thanks to three homers and four doubles — in eight games.

These are just the latest superb numbers from Jimenez, who has torn it up all season long, first at Double-A Birmingham and then in Charlotte since his promotion on July 1. Heading into Sunday's game, he was slashing .324/.375/.572 between the two levels. Then he upped those numbers with a base hit in his lone plate appearance as a pinch hitter in Sunday's game.

The only thing that can be seen as a negative for Jimenez this season — and this really isn't too much of one — has been health. While he's avoided the significant injuries that have stolen months of development time away from the likes of Luis Robert, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning, Jake Burger and Micker Adolfo, Jimenez did start the season late with a pec injury and then missed a couple weeks earlier this month with a strained adductor muscle. Judging by the results, neither injury has done much (if anything) to negatively impact his offensive capabilities.

And so with the statistics remaining ridiculously good and getting better, the question that's dogged the White Sox dating back to the end of last season remains: When will Jimenez join the big league roster?

Only the White Sox have the answer to that question at the moment, but it would figure to be some time relatively soon and almost certainly before this season is over. That might not be specific enough for the fans clamoring to watch Jimenez play on the South Side. But take some cues from what general manager Rick Hahn has been saying all season:

First off, the White Sox performance and place in the standings will have no bearing on when Jimenez is promoted. The team will not bring Jimenez up just to inject some life into the final 60 games of the 2018 campaign. Jimenez's development has nothing to do with this team's win-loss record and is completely tied to the team's future, not its present.

Second, Hahn has talked about the benefits of Jimenez receiving at-bats at the Triple-A level and gaining experience facing the kinds of pitchers he didn't face in the lower levels of the minor leagues. He obviously didn't put a number on it, so the argument that Jimenez's 80 plate appearances in 20 games are enough to determine he's big league ready is potentially valid or potentially invalid, depending on what the White Sox have determined they want to see behind the scenes.

Third, Hahn has often said that not everything shows up in box scores. While Jimenez is putting up big numbers, the team is looking for other things that aren't as easy to recognize for those of us who aren't in the player-development business, not to mention those of us who don't even have an MiLB.TV subscription. Hahn said the same thing when Michael Kopech started the season in dominating fashion, and Kopech remains at Triple-A as the White Sox continue to wait for him to reach certain developmental benchmarks.

Fourth, Hahn has pointed to last year's treatment of Yoan Moncada as somewhat of a template for how the White Sox will treat their highest-rated prospects who are close to reaching the majors. Moncada, unlike Jimenez, had a small amount of big league experience before joining the organization in the Chris Sale trade, making his case slightly different. But he, too, was putting up good numbers at Triple-A, with a .282/.377/.447 slash line before his promotion on July 19. Moncada debuted about this time last season after doing well at the Triple-A level, but remember that he played 80 games there after starting the season with Charlotte. Jimenez joined that club in the middle of the season and has played in a quarter of the games that Moncada did before getting the call to make his White Sox debut. Though it's true that Jimenez is putting up significantly more impressive offensive numbers.

So "relatively soon" is perhaps the best we can do right now when trying to predict when Jimenez will reach the South Side. The White Sox have their own checklist when it comes to Jimenez's development, just like they do with every player, and only they will know when he's completed that list.

What is no mystery is how Jimenez is faring at Triple-A. He's swinging a red-hot bat, and few would argue that the numbers don't look major league ready. There's more to it than just the numbers, of course, but it would figure to be a safe bet that White Sox fans will be able to start purchasing Jimenez shirseys before the clock runs out on the 2018 season.

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avisail Garcia returned from his latest disabled-list stint with a bang, smacking a three-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday in Seattle.

The White Sox right fielder hasn't even played in 20 games since late April, when he went on his first DL trip, which lasted two months. A second, also featuring an injury to his hamstring, made it two weeks between games.

But when he has been able to step to the plate this summer, Garcia has been tremendously productive. He came into Saturday night with a .333/.347/.783 slash line and a whopping eight home runs in the 17 games he played in between his two DL stays. Then he added that homer Saturday night off longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, giving him nine homers in his last 14 games.

Keeping this up could do an awful lot of things for Garcia: It could make his ice-cold start a distant memory, it could prove that last year's All-Star season might not have been a fluke, and it could keep him entrenched in the conversation about the White Sox outfield of the future, giving the team one of those good problems to have when deciding how he would fit into the puzzle alongside top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

But here's another possibility: Has Garcia swung a hot enough bat in his limited action that he could be a trade candidate before this month runs out?

The White Sox don't figure to have too many players who are going to get contending teams worked up into a lather. James Shields, Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno. Those guys could classify as additions that would bolster teams' depth, but they might not be the attractive upgrades the White Sox were able to trade away last summer.

Garcia, though, could be. He might not slide into the middle of the order for too many contenders, but someone looking for a starting corner outfielder might be enticed by the kind of numbers Garcia has put up in June and July, albeit in a small sample size. Teams would also have to consider his health. He's already been to the disabled list twice this season. Teams would certainly have to be confident he wouldn't return in order to make a deal.

On the White Sox end, Garcia would figure to fetch a far more intriguing return package than the aforementioned pitchers, given that he's still pretty young (27) with one more season of team control after this one.

The White Sox have plenty of options when it comes to Garcia. They could deal him now, deal him later or keep as a part of the rebuild, extending him and making him a featured player on the next contending team on the South Side. But with a lot of significant injuries this year perhaps having an effect on when all those highly rated prospects will finally arrive in the majors — not to mention the disappointing win-loss numbers the big league team has put up this season — perhaps it would make more sense to acquire some rebuild-bolstering pieces.

Of course, it all depends on if there are any deals to be made. Do other teams' front offices like what they've seen from Garcia in this short stretch as much as White Sox fans have? We'll know by the time August rolls around.