White Sox

'Slowly progressing' Avisail Garcia enters fourth week on DL while battling hamstring strain

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USA TODAY

'Slowly progressing' Avisail Garcia enters fourth week on DL while battling hamstring strain

If you watch the White Sox on a regular basis, you might be wondering: Where the heck is Avisail Garcia?

Last year’s White Sox representative at the All-Star Game, Garcia hasn’t had much of a chance to try and follow up what was a career year in 2017 because he’s been on the disabled list for more than three weeks, certainly long past the 10 days that are right in the DL’s name.

Garcia came out of the April 23 game against the Seattle Mariners when he was injured running to first base. He had a strained hamstring and he went to the DL. But that hamstring strain was a decently significant one, a “Grade 2” hamstring strain if the medical terminology interests you. Because of that, Garcia’s recovery has been slow. He’s still being bothered by the strain, which is why he’s not back in the lineup.

“Avi is slowly progressing through what was a Grade 2 hamstring strain,” general manager Rick Hahn updated Thursday. “You saw him out here today doing drills, he’s going to continue to slowly ramp up drills. But he’s not completely asymptomatic in terms of what he’s feeling, so we’re being very cautious with how we ramp him up.”

Other than the rare use of the word “asymptomatic” when discussing baseball, the takeaway there is that this recovery is taking a while. And maybe it will continue to take a while.

“I think we were optimistic that when we started ramping up drills he was going to be completely symptom free,” Hahn said. “Given that it was a Grade 2 strain after the MRI, we knew we were going to have to be careful with this, and again we’re trying to err on the side of caution. When he initially left the game, I don’t think we knew that it was a Grade 2, so we thought perhaps it would come a little more quickly. But the MRI made it clear, and with the player’s reporting, we need to take our time with this one.”

Hahn made sure to point out that just because Garcia’s recovery is going slowly doesn’t mean it’s going poorly. But the White Sox have already been without one of their biggest bats for more than three weeks.

Garcia’s 2018 season didn’t get off to the best of starts. In the 18 games he played during the season’s opening month, he slashed .233/.250/.315, a woeful line far off the .330/.380/.506 one he posted last season, when he was statistically one of the best hitters in the American League.

This year is undoubtedly a “prove it” one for Garcia, who has the task of showing that he can produce those kinds of numbers two years in a row and really cement himself as a possible corner outfielder of the future for this rebuilding team. It’s quite early, far too early to make any determination in that department. But with a host of minor league outfielders off to explosive starts themselves — guys like Eloy Jimenez, Micker Adolfo, Luis Alexander Basabe and Blake Rutherford — how will Garcia’s long-term future on the South Side change if he can’t match what he did in 2017?

In order to answer that question, he’s got to get back on the field first.

Eloy Jimenez celebrates new contract with monster day in spring training

Eloy Jimenez celebrates new contract with monster day in spring training

The ink on Eloy Jimenez's contract is still drying, but the outfielder already celebrated with a big game in spring training.

Jimenez and Rick Hahn spoke at a press conference mere hours before Saturday's Cactus League game against the Dodgers took place. Then Jimenez did his thing with the bat in the game.

The 22-year-old opened with a walk then followed with a pair of singles later in the game. He saved his best for last with a home run in the eighth inning.

Jimenez had not been having a good spring training and was even sent down to minor league camp nearly two weeks ago. Saturday's action was his first game in big league camp since March 11.

Before Saturday he was hitting .154/.154/.346 in nine games. The 3-for-3 game moved Jimenez's spring numbers to a much more respectable .241/.267/.517. His walk on Saturday was his first in the Cactus League. He now has two home runs.

During Saturday's press conference, Hahn went out of his way to say they are not making any announcements about the Opening Day roster yet. It is still assumed the Jimenez will start with the White Sox, but Hahn said they would like to have face-to-face conversations with the other players involved when it comes to the 25-man roster decisions.

With that said, Jimenez did bat sixth on Saturday. That could be a glimpse of where he will bat on Opening Day with Yoan Moncada (who continued his hot spring with two doubles and a home run on Saturday), Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, Yonder Alonso and Welington Castillo batting ahead of Jimenez in the lineup.

Plenty of eyes with remain on Jimenez for the rest of spring and in 2019. He delivered in his first game since signing his new contract.

 

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Nicky Delmonico sent to Triple-A, but do White Sox need to cut another outfielder to clear room for Eloy Jimenez?

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USA TODAY

Nicky Delmonico sent to Triple-A, but do White Sox need to cut another outfielder to clear room for Eloy Jimenez?

The White Sox made a notable outfield cut Saturday, sending Nicky Delmonico to Triple-A Charlotte not long after Eloy Jimenez signed his new six-year deal.

Rick Hahn wouldn't 100-percent confirm during the press conference whether or not Jimenez would be on the team's Opening Day roster, but the new deal eliminates the service-time conversation surrounding Jimenez and allows him to make his major league debut when the regular season starts next week in Kansas City.



If Jimenez is going to end up on the Opening Day roster, the White Sox will need to make room for him. That could mean cutting another outfielder in addition to Delmonico, but not necessarily. More on that in a bit.

Delmonico might have had a tough time making the Opening Day roster even if Jimenez would've started the season in the minor leagues. The White Sox outfield is a crowded one after the offseason addition of veteran Jon Jay. The presence of Adam Engel, Daniel Palka and the versatile Leury Garcia made it difficult to envision a place for Delmonico, who had a disappointing, injury-filled season in 2018 after showing promise at the end of the 2017 campaign.

It seems as if, eventually, the White Sox could have to move another one of those aforementioned outfielders to make room for Jimenez, who figures to be the team's everyday left fielder in 2019. But that decision could be delayed until mid April thanks to a bunch of built-in off days at the start of the regular-season schedule.

Both Hahn and manager Rick Renteria have discussed the possibility of the White Sox using only four starting pitchers at the outset of the season. Thanks to those off days, those four starters can all pitch on regular rest until as late as April 17. So, theoretically, Ervin Santana, who figures to wind up as the team's fifth starter, wouldn't be needed on the major league roster until that finale of a home series against the Kansas City Royals in mid April. That's one less pitcher that needs to be on the roster and one more position player that can be on the roster.

The versatility of Garcia, who has torn the cover off the ball this spring, and infielder Jose Rondon, who has added a little bit of outfield to his repertoire this spring (and is out of options), means they're likely not going anywhere. But instead of having to potentially dispatch of fan favorite Palka before the season even begins, there are potentially two spots available for three players, those two and Engel. Palka brings power, while Engel brings defense. Both have their weaknesses, too, Palka seeming best suited for a DH role that has been given to the combination of Jose Abreu and Yonder Alonso, and Engel the owner of a career .207/.260/.314 slash line.

It's important to note in all of this, too, that Renteria has said that Jay might not be an everyday player. Jay's versatility in the outfield also means he might be playing at one set position all season. So for those arguing that the White Sox could have an everyday outfield of Jimenez, Jay and Palka for the next six months, it might not be so simple. And if Jimenez and Palka are in the corners, that makes Engel's glove all the more valuable.

Jimenez returned to the White Sox lineup for Saturday's Cactus League game, perhaps another sign that he could return to the major league roster after being optioned to Charlotte prior to the announcement of the new contract.

Whether his making the roster would force off another outfielder remains to be seen.

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