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What About Avi?

Will he or won't he?

We're talking about White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia, the sculpted Venezuelan once tabbed as Little Miggy because of his likeness to fellow countryman Miguel Cabrera when Garcia broke in with the Tigers five years ago at age 21. After three solid minor league seasons, Garcia entered the scene in Detroit just in time to go all the way to the World Series where the Tigers bowed to the Giants in four games.

Garcia was the Tigers' starting right fielder in two of those games and apparently had a bright future in Detroit. But the very next season when Detroit needed a shortstop, Garcia came to the White Sox in exchange for Jake Peavy, who was then peddled to Boston while Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias landed in Detroit where he remains to this day.

Now in his sixth season, the question is whether Garcia will be part of the White Sox future. By all accounts, this will be the pivotal season for Garcia, and if he can fulfill his early promise, he could be a fixture on the South Side. If not, he can join fellows like Thad Bosley, Dan Pasqua, Brian Anderson and many others, all busts in White Sox annals.

After collecting nine hits last week in 19 at-bats, Avi is leading the White Sox, who split two games with Detroit before losing two of three to Minnesota, in hitting. He homered on Saturday in the Sox's 6-2 win over the Twins, a mighty blow over the center field wall. He also singled and tripled.

For his career, which covers 413 games, Garcia is a .261 hitter with an OPS of .702. He's slugged 40 homers and driven in 177. Rather pedestrian and far below expectations for a guy who was being compared to future Hall of Famer Cabrera. And certainly not good enough to figure prominently in the White Sox future.

Cabrera was an instant star as a 20-year old when he debuted with the Miami Marlins. By the time he was Garcia's age, he had led the American League in home runs with the Tigers and had driven in at least 112 runs five different seasons.

However, consider a guy like David Ortiz, who retired last season after 20 seasons, 541 homers, and 10 100-RBI campaigns. He was a late bloomer. In six seasons in Minnesota before the Twins' brain fart resulting in sending Ortiz to Boston, Big Papi hit just .266 and averaged fewer than 10 home runs and 40 RBI per season. Or not much different than Avi Garcia.

In addition, Garcia struggles in the field. He dropped a pop fly in the fourth inning Friday night, enabling the Twins to tie the score at one en route to a 3-1 victory and spoiling a solid six-inning stint from starter Derek Holland. It was one of two botched plays by Avi in this young season.

Garcia was not alone last week as far as highs and lows are concerned. Ace Jose Quintana was tagged with two losses, getting walloped for three home runs on Opening Day in a 6-3 loss to Detroit before bowing to the Twins 4-1 on Sunday. Quintana gave up another homer on Sunday against Minnesota; in all of 2016, he was tagged for just 22 round-trippers.

Meanwhile, James Shields, who allowed a major league-leading 40 home runs a year ago, pitched into the sixth inning on Thursday against Detroit and gave up just one homer. He got the win in an 11-2 Sox victory. And the aforementioned Holland and Miguel Gonzalez also pitched well in their first starts of the season.

While rookie center fielder Jacob May still hasn't recorded his first big league hit, he laid down a beautiful safety squeeze bunt in the win over the Tigers. It came in the second inning to tie the score at one when the game was far from decided. Credit skipper Rick Renteria for some creative strategy, knowing that May is a good bunter and that the Tigers weren't expecting it.

On the other hand, young shortstop Tim Anderson, who looked good in the field all week, missed a chance to score from third base on Sunday in the eighth inning on a ball that got away from catcher Jason Castro. The bases were loaded at the time, and Anderson could have easily scored to make it a 4-2 ball game. Failing to get a secondary lead, he gave the Tigers a gift because the tying run then would have been at second base.

But didn't we say that this is a rebuilding year? Young players are learning. They'll make mistakes, and the losses might pile up.

Talking about young players, top prospect Yoan Moncada hit his first home run of the season at Triple-A Charlotte and is hitting .400 after going 8-for-20. This after batting .317 in spring training.

And the turnout at Sox Park - it's still difficult to call it anything else at this marker - showed that despite all the noise emanating from the other side of town, the Sox fan base is well aware of The Plan. The five dates last week accounted for more than 108,000 in ticket sales. Opening Day was rained out on Monday when 36,000 tickets were sold. When the Sox and Tigers finally played on Tuesday, maybe 10,000 fans showed up. They were rewarded with free parking. Nice to know we have such generous management in Bridgeport.

For the record, Sox attendance is 11 percent ahead of last season after five dates as the fellows head out on a long road trip to Cleveland, Minnesota and New York.

Avi needs to keep hitting. It would be nice if he catches the ball a bit more consistently since the starting pitchers need all the help they can get. Maybe the boys will be more alert on the basepaths while guys like Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu heat up.

It's a lot to ask for while we keep an eye on Charlotte, Birmingham and points far from the South Side of Chicago.


Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Oct 22, 2021