For now, Garcia is leader of young pack

GLENDALE, Ariz. – It was going to take more than a toe injury to keep a determined Avisail Garcia off the field.

Garcia, who underwent a procedure for an ingrown toenail on Friday, was back in the batting cage Saturday after manager Robin Ventura suggested his right fielder might take the weekend off.

“Right now there is a little pain,” Garcia said. “But I think I’m going to be good for (Sunday). I didn't want to go home (and be off Saturday). I came here to work. That’s something that happened, but I want to get ready. They don’t want me to run fast. I just hit and threw. We’ll see what happens (Sunday).”

It’s so early in the spring that a day off or two would hardly be an issue. But Garcia’s insistence on getting at least some work done Saturday is another example of a solid work ethic from a young player.

Jose Abreu has led the team in that department by arriving to Arizona more than two weeks before the reporting date for position players and taking a business-like approach to what are sometimes marathon batting-cage sessions.

Where Garcia has Abreu beat is that his adjustment to the White Sox’s way of life already got started over the final two months of last season.

“I know the guys, I know the country, I know the stadium, the fans,” Garcia said. “It’s been great. It’s a great organization. It’s a great opportunity for me to be here and have the chance to play every day. We’ll see what happens this season.”

His familiarity with the White Sox has allowed him to help Abreu get adjusted.

“You say to him, ‘Do what you know to do, play hard and that’s the only way you’re going to get better,’” Garcia said. “Play hard and play with your heart.”

Based on a prospect’s tendencies, it’s often simple to project what type of player he can become if he meets expectations. Garcia is that rare blossoming player, though, whose talents could lead him to a fork in the road that could lead to diverging, yet positive, paths.

“He can run, he can hit, he can hit with power,” captain Paul Konerko said. “I know he’s going to do well. I just want to see where that’s going to go because he can have average and power, he can go out and hit .260 with 40 home runs. He really has the potential to be a monster in this league. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing him.”

After arriving in the three-team late-July trade that cost the White Sox Jake Peavy, Garcia batted .304 in 42 games, but he had just 11 extra-base hits, five of which were home runs. If there is an obvious room for improvement, it’s the .447 slugging percentage he offered over the final two months.

“He’s a talented kid,” manager Robin Ventura said. “For us to see him throughout the last part of the year, he’s big and strong and hits for average. He can run. He can play good outfield. For us, in this transition, everyone talks about Jose (Abreu), but you want him to be part of the middle of your lineup too. He has the tools to be able to do that. Hopefully he can go in that direction.”

Garcia’s arrival to camp earlier this week offers a respite to the issues taking place in his native Venezuela. Economic and social issues have led to unrest in the city of Caracas, where protesters have been killed. As the drama continues to unfold, Garcia has been able to turn his mind toward baseball.

“It’s tough because you hear about the fighting ... they don’t want the government,” Garcia said. “Hopefully no more people die. Hopefully Venezuela gets better and safer. All my family is there. I just got here, my wife and my little daughter are here, but my mom, my dad, my sister, all of (them are) in Venezuela. Hopefully everything gets better.

“They’re far away from that (violence), but I worry about my country, because a lot of people die. So that’s not good. So let’s see what happens. Hopefully everything gets better.”