OAKLAND — While it sounds like Avisail Garcia hasn’t entirely stuck to a strict diet of fish and salad, the White Sox will probably let it slide.
Given what Garcia has produced this weekend and the season overall, the White Sox need not worry if their slimmed-down outfielder helps himself to an occasional plate or two of chicken during the postgame.
Garcia — who lost 15 pounds in the offseason adhering to the diet — had three more hits, including a massive two-run home run in Sunday’s 7-3 White Sox win over the Oakland A’s.
He has hits in 19 of his last 21 contests and is hitting .346/.380/.492 with four homers, 17 RBIs and 20 runs in 33 games. Garcia’s presence in the middle of the order has given the White Sox something they sorely lacked in 2014 when he played only 46 games because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
“It’s a huge difference,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “He’s capable of showing what he can do in the field. He’s a very, very talented player. He has five tools, and he has shown it. It’s good for us, because he made us a better team.”
Garcia’s effort Sunday was his sixth multi-hit contest in eight games. With 45 hits this season, Garcia already has surpassed last season’s hit total (42) in 13 fewer games.
Courtesy of a Sunday’s ninth-inning homer, Garcia had a critical hit in each game as the White Sox completed their first sweep in Oakland since May 16-18, 1997 when he was a month shy of his sixth birthday.
Garcia had a go-ahead, two-run double Friday to cap a five-run rally and a game-tying two-run single on Saturday. The White Sox believe with experience Garcia will continue to develop, especially in the power department, though manager Robin Ventura doesn’t like the comparisons to former teammate Miguel Cabrera.
“That’s unfair,” Ventura said. “That’s unfair. I think that’ll be something that’ll happen in his game (home runs), I think when he understands his swing a little bit better and what needs to bet here. But any time guys are compared to Miggy it’s unfair. I would stay away from that one, that’s how good Miggy is. I would hope for him to be like that, but for people to compare him like that is really a tribute to him.”
Garcia has been at his best lately by staying up the middle in his approach. On Saturday, Garcia fell behind in the count to pitcher Jesse Chavez 0-2 before he worked it full and singled to center with the bases loaded.
Garcia said his focus has been to work counts and see a lot of pitches.
“I have a pretty good idea what’s going happen, so I’m just working hard,” Garcia said. “You have to be patient. Sometimes that’s going to happen. Sometimes you’re going to strike out. Sometimes you’re going to homer. Sometimes you’re going to hit a base hit. You have to be patient. You just have to focus on the game and try to do your best.”
Garcia’s hard offseason work resulted in a fitter version.
When he unexpectedly returned to the field last August, Garcia was a little heavier than he wanted to be because of his inactivity from April through mid-June following surgery. But through his diet and exercise, Garcia arrived at SoxFest in January in great shape and he’s looked the part with the ability to speed across the outfield and around the bases.
Ventura’s just as impressed with the presence Garcia has provided behind Abreu and Adam LaRoche, even starting as the cleanup hitter Sunday with left-hander Scott Kazmir starting.
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“Some teams might focus a little bit on Jose and not that you forget about Avi ,but he’s lurking there,” Ventura said. “He swings the bat real nice. Has a nice approach inside out. When he gets it, it’s gonna go.
“Not too many people can hit it that way right handed.”
Few postgame spreads in the majors offer fish. Most clubhouse meals favor steak, chicken and pasta. Even though he’s strayed a bit, Garcia figures it’s more fuel for the final 128 games.
“Sometimes I eat chicken because you’ve got to eat sometimes heavy,” Garcia said with a laugh. “Because this game is a long season, and you’re not going to eat always fish.”