White Sox

Lighter Avisail Garcia wants to show White Sox his best

Lighter Avisail Garcia wants to show White Sox his best

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Avisail Garcia said he worked all but two weeks this offseason in an effort to prove he can play the outfield. 

Whether it was winter ball in Venezuela or working out, the White Sox right fielder said he has lost nearly 15 pounds from the end of last season. He hopes to lose even more before the start of the season and thinks the lighter weight should help him in the field. Garcia — who was acquired in a three-team trade from Detroit in July 2013 — appears to have the inside track to be the team's starting right fielder. 

"I feel better like this," Garcia said. "I can run better like this. I can play better defense like this. I can hit better like this. I just have to keep working and lose a little bit more."

Garcia said he reported to camp at 254 pounds and wants to get down to 248. He's hopeful that lighter playing weight and more consistent playing time help him improve in the outfield, where he's been below average for his career. While defensive metrics show he was OK in limited play last season, Garcia had a miserable 2015 campaign in the field when he produced a minus-11 Defensive Runs Saved and minus-6.2 Ultimate Zone Rating. That came on the heels of a minus-8 DRS and minus-6.2 UZR showing in 2014.

Still, Garcia is hopeful he can make progress and prove to the rebuilding White Sox he's the man for the job.

"That's my regular position, and I know can do my job there, a really good job," Garcia said. "I'm just trying to prepare myself to get ready for the season and try to get in better shape, try to do my best to help my team win."

[RELATED: Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox]

The field isn't the only area the White Sox and Garcia are hoping for improvement. Garcia hit .245/.307/.385 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs in 453 plate appearances last season. For his career, Garcia has a OPS-plus of 93, which is seven points below league average. 

But based on his .355/.421/.538 slash line with runners in scoring position, the White Sox still think Garcia can become a very good hitter. They just need to help him translate the focus he puts into those 107 plate appearances into the majority of his trips to the plate.

"In those situations for us where he was a key person in terms of RBI situations, he didn't try to do too much," manager Rick Renteria said. "If he ended up hitting, getting an extra base hit in those situations, great. But if he didn't it wasn't anything he concerned himself with. I think we are just trying to make sure he focuses on honing in and simplifying what he wants to do in terms of approaches. Hopefully that can lead to him being more effective without runners on base."

Though there was some thought he wouldn't return this season, Garcia — who signed a one-year deal worth $3 million in December — tried not to think about it. He instead focused on his offseason program to have himself ready for what is likely his last chance to prove to the White Sox he belongs.

"I have a lot of responsibility coming," Garcia said. "I just want to be ready. I want to be my best. I want to have a good year for me, but for the team also. I have to get ready and play baseball."

White Sox 2005 Rewind: The untouchable Jon Garland

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: The untouchable Jon Garland

Jon Garland was on absolute fire to start the 2005 season.

On May 1, he shut out the Detroit Tigers. It was a sensational performance. It was also a carbon copy of his previous outing against the Oakland A’s. Both games featured no runs, four hits and no walks against Garland in nine innings. If anything, he was better against the Tigers, striking out six hitters as opposed to the three strikeouts he had six days earlier.

These back-to-back shutouts capped an incredible start to the campaign for Garland, who was coming off a solid but unspectacular 2004 season. He finished that campaign with a 4.89 ERA. This was already his sixth big league season. In his first five years in the majors, he owned 4.68 ERA in 149 games.

Well, he was a different kind of pitcher in 2005. In his first five starts, he had a 1.38 ERA in 39 innings, an average of nearly eight innings per outing. He had nearly three times as many strikeouts as he had allowed runs.

To close out that game against the A’s, he retired the final 13 batters he faced. In this one, he retired 15 of the final 16 hitters he faced.

The dude was practically untouchable.

And he still knows it.


Even Cy Young seasons have their blips, and his streak of stellar starts was snapped the next time out. He allowed six runs in 5.2 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays. The White Sox still won that game, though, and won each of Garland’s first eight starts, 12 of his first 14 starts and went 20-12 overall in games he pitched during the regular season.

But those blips were few and far between in 2005. In only nine of his 32 starts did he give up more than three earned runs. By season’s end, his ERA was significantly higher than it was at the outset of the campaign, 3.50, but he remained a workhorse and averaged just a hair under seven innings an outing on the year.

Garland made the AL All-Star team and finished sixth in the Cy Young vote in 2005. He allowed just four earned runs in 16 innings over a pair of postseason starts.

He had a similarly fantastic stretch from late June through the month of July, but he perhaps never looked as good as he did during this electric start to the season.

After tossing these back-to-back shutouts, Garland only went the distance once more during the 2005 regular season, in his first start of September against these same Tigers. He obviously was one of the four consecutive complete games against the Los Angeles Angels in the ALCS, but he allowed two runs in that game.

White Sox starting pitching was phenomenal in 2005, and Garland was no exception. This was Garland at his best.


What else?

— The play of the game in this 8-0 White Sox rout came courtesy of “Come On” Timo Perez, who laid down a suicide squeeze with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the third inning. Tigers starter Wil Ledezma got himself in a real jam after getting two of the first three hitters of the inning out. He hit Paul Konerko with a pitch and walked Aaron Rowand to load the bases. Perez followed with a perfectly executed bunt down the first-base line, catching the Tigers off guard and bringing in the White Sox second run of the afternoon.


Before that crazy play, Perez used a bunt to help bring home the White Sox first run. In the second inning, a sacrifice bunt followed up a no-out balk that advanced Rowand to second. Perez moved him up another 90 feet, and Rowand scored on Joe Crede’s sacrifice fly.

— Perez’s May 1, 2005, excellence wasn’t limited to bunts. He also homered. At this point, I can only assume 2005 ended with Timo Perez as the American League MVP.


— The benches cleared in the fourth inning. As mentioned, Konerko was plunked in the third, and after two quick outs, a pitch got away from Garland and flew behind Rondell White. White was not pleased and started walking toward the mound with bat in hand. Everyone left their respective dugout and stood around on the field, as most baseball dust ups go. Hawk Harrelson: “What is it, Rondell? Our guy gets drilled and you can't get hit?”

— All apologies to Pedro Lopez, but who is Pedro Lopez? This was the major league debut for the White Sox infielder and one of the two major league games he played in in 2005. He continued the trend of solid performances from the White Sox bench, with a hit, a run and an RBI in this game. But the majority of his 2005 was spent in the minor leagues. Those two games were the only big league action he saw with the White Sox. He returned to the majors two years later as a Cincinnati Red, getting 45 at-bats in 14 games.

— Lopez wearing No. 62 instantly brought Jose Quintana to mind, but Quintana is one of a whopping six players to wear that jersey number since Lopez did in 2005: Ehren Wassermann, Bret Prinz, Jack Egbert, Eduardo Escobar, Quintana and Dustin Garneau.

— Ledezma balked twice in this game and five times in his career. The record for the most balks in a single season belongs to Dave Stewart, who had 16 of them in 1988. The record for the most balks in a career belongs to one-time White Sox hurler Steve Carlton, who got charged with 90!

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

April 26, 2005: The White Sox and A’s traded back-to-back four-run innings, with the South Siders on top by three heading into the bottom of the seventh. But Oakland’s bats produced five runs in their final two trips to the plate against Mark Buehrle, Damaso Marte and Luis Vizcaino. White Sox lose, 9-7, fall to 16-5.

April 27, 2005: Konerko drove in a run in the first inning, but it was all the White Sox got across the plate. The A’s tied the game against Freddy Garcia in the fourth and got a walk-off single from Marco Scutaro in the ninth to grab a series win. White Sox lose, 2-1, fall to 16-6.

April 29, 2005: Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, the White Sox rallied against Troy Percival, getting a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Rowand to force extras. But a Nook Logan triple off Shingo Takatsu in the 11th broke the tie. White Sox lose, 3-2, fall to 16-7.

April 30, 2005: The White Sox snapped a three-game losing streak with a three-run seventh inning. Crede, Scott Podsednik and Tadahito Iguchi all drove in runs in that frame to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead. White Sox win, 4-3, improve to 17-7.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Saturday, when you can catch the May 4, 2005, game against the Royals, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Crede and A.J. Pierzynski both leave the yard in this one.

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Olympic gold medalist Ryan Held details his long road to White Sox fandom

Olympic gold medalist Ryan Held details his long road to White Sox fandom

After wearing a Ryan Arcidiacono jersey at a swim meet earlier this year, Olympic swimmer and Springfield resident Ryan Held appeared on the Bulls Talk podcast to talk about his fandom.

But he's not just a Bulls fan. He also cheers for the White Sox. His path to becoming a Sox fan was one based on trial and error. 

"Being in Springfield, (Illinois, where Held resides) we're only an hour and a half away from St. Louis," Held said. "So growing up, we went to a lot of Cardinals games. It was probably only my senior year in high school, end of my high school career, that we went up to Chicago. We went to Cubs games and everything, and then this past summer of 2019, I was talking to my parents and I said 'Hey, why don't we ever go to a Sox game?' And they were like, 'Well, I don't know, we just never have,' and so we went up to a Sox game, went to this little restaurant called Turtle's Bar and Grill, right across the street, had an absolute blast.

"Went to the game, had an absolute blast, and it was like, 'Oh man, this is awesome.' Because everyone's a Cubs fan. People who aren't even from Chicago are Cubs fans. They're not true fans. But Sox fans are live, breathe and die Southside baseball. And I like that commitment to the team way more. And ever since then, I was like, 'I don't want to support the other team more. I don't want to support the other state and the Cardinals, I want to support my home state of Illinois and the White Sox.'"

Held is on board with the White Sox 2020 sloan, "Change the Game." He tweets about the Sox and Bulls regularly, and said he tries to watch every game he can, even while training for the Olympic Games.

He talked about what he was looking forward to seeing out of the Sox in the upcoming 2020 season. 

"I wanted to see Tim Anderson just go crazy again. He was one of the players I remembered doing really well in the games I watched. And he's from Tuscaloosa, Alabama," he said. "I feel like I've had this unknowing Sox fandom over my shoulder. Because I went to school in Raleigh, North Carolina, where they have the Winston-Salem Dash, which is a Sox affiliate, and they have the Charlotte Knights, which is a Sox affiliate. And then I moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama which is just outside of Birmingham, and the Barons are another Sox affiliate.

"So I feel like the universe was pointing me in this direction to become a Sox fan."

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