White Sox

Jose Abreu playing at high level for White Sox after slow start

Jose Abreu playing at high level for White Sox after slow start

BALTIMORE — Jose Abreu’s early difficulty putting a barrel on the baseball has been replaced by a lot of loud contact.

Seemingly lost at the plate only two weeks ago, the White Sox first baseman has been in a groove the past 13 games. Whereas Abreu only hit the ball on the barrel of his bat three times in the first 13 games, he barreled six in the past 13. Over that stretch, Abreu is hitting .388/.444/.776 with five doubles, one triple, four home runs, nine RBIs and 11 runs in 54 plate appearances.

“Right now, he’s at a pretty high level,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s really in tune with what he wants to do at the plate. Hopefully it’s something he can sustain over an extended period of time, but I’m just glad he’s where he’s at.”

Through those first 13 games, Abreu was hitting .157/.204/176 with five RBIs in 54 plate appearances. He also struck out 14 times and has just seven since. Renteria said he didn’t get overly concerned about his slugger even though Abreu admitted he was struggling on April 17 and looking to find something that worked. Abreu’s early struggles were reminiscent of the 2016 campaign when he looked very pedestrian at the plate through the first four months of the season. A late onslaught at the plate allowed Abreu to reach 25 homers and 100 RBIs.

“He’s very focused,” Renteria said. “He continues to do the same routine every day. His work ethic is the same. It’s just the consistency in which he does it and the outcome that will ultimately happen over the course of the season that will judge where he is or isn’t.

“We were talking to all of these guys, and the one thing they all do and represent is a consistent routine. We know they have the skillset. We just have to let them continue to play the game. It’s such a long season. There’s ups and downs. You just let them do what they do.”

The White Sox offense has been much better with Abreu performing like normal. After they scored 48 runs in their first 13 contests, the White Sox have 66 in their last 14, an average of 4.7 runs per game.

Avisail Garcia, slated for offseason knee surgery, has been playing hurt since Opening Day

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia, slated for offseason knee surgery, has been playing hurt since Opening Day

While some players' seasons have been open for interpretation, it's been an undeniably disappointing one for Avisail Garcia.

Turns out there's a good reason for the big change in his production from 2017 to 2018.

Garcia's battles with injuries this year have been no secret, but the White Sox outfielder revealed Tuesday that it's literally been going on all season long. He said that he felt something in his knee on Opening Day and that he's played hurt throughout the entire season. He also reported that he'll have arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 2, two days after the end of the season.

"Opening Day, I feel something in my knee," he said. "I had been feeling something, something, something and then I started feeling my hammy because I think I was favoring it. Especially because it’s my right knee, and that’s where all my power is. It’s crazy, but it is what it is.

"It’s sore. Every time I go home, it’s a little swollen. But I’m going to fix it soon. It’s been a crazy year, not for me, but for the whole team. Thank god we are alive and we are here. We have a chance. Let’s see what happens next year."

Garcia did make two trips to the disabled list this season, both due to an injured hamstring, which he said stemmed from the hurting knee. He played in 88 of the team's first 154 games, with six remaining on the schedule heading into Tuesday night's contest with the visiting Cleveland Indians.

Entering 2018, Garcia had the tall task of repeating his breakout campaign from a season before, when he made his first career All-Star appearance and posted some of the best offensive numbers in the American League with a .330 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage. During this injury-filled season, those numbers plummeted to .238 and .278.

"It’s been difficult. Difficult year," he said. "Nothing that I can do. I’ve been playing like this the whole season. Just gotta play and get after it, so it is what it is. I can’t control that. I can control what I do on the field.

"(The knee injury has) always been there. Everybody knows it’s hard when you get injury and then sit down and then go play and then sit down again. It’s hard to be consistent like that. This game is difficult so you have to be out there every day so you get to used to it and it’s hard to play like this. But it is what it is. It’s not an excuse. Everybody knows that. I’ve been playing like this so I’m trying to do my best."

Obviously, it's tough to judge Garcia's follow up to his All-Star season knowing how much his knee bothered him. But it still leaves unanswered the question of what his place is in the organization's long-term plans. He's under team control for one more season. The White Sox have the flexibility to do one of many things this offseason: keep him for one more season, try to trade him this offseason, hold on to him and try to trade him to a contending club next summer or extend him and keep him in the mix for when rebuilding mode transitions to contention mode. Garcia is just 27 years old.

Garcia said he'll be "100-percent" ready for spring training next year, and should his health be back to normal, his prove-it campaign that was supposed to come in 2018 could come in 2019. But there's also a wave of outfield prospects making its way toward the South Side that includes Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo and plenty of others. So no matter what statistics Garcia might be shooting for, the pressure will be on to show he's a safer bet than all that young talent.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Daniel Palka on Palkamania and his breakout season

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Daniel Palka on Palkamania and his breakout season

Chuck Garfien speaks with White Sox outfielder Daniel Palka who as a 26-year-old rookie has come out of nowhere to become one of the White Sox most popular players in 2018.  They talk about the time Palka gave a pitcher a black eye in Little League, how he used to be a relief pitcher at Georgia Tech,  why the Twins gave him up on him, the time when Chuck called Palka’s walkoff homer this year, his friendship with Kyle Schwarber and more.   

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: