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Garcia's stumbles not unexpected

CHICAGO – The best part about Avisail Garcia's earlier-than-expected return to the Chicago White Sox is he can work off the rust now instead of perhaps next April, when the 2015 season begins.

The outfielder hasn’t looked like his former self since his return from shoulder surgery. It’s not anything the White Sox didn’t expect, however, as Garcia is just 8-for-40 (.200) with two home runs and nine RBIs in the 11 games of his return. He has a .425 slugging percentage since he came back.

“I think he’s been all right,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You are taking a guy that hasn’t seen a lot of action. You just watch it. I think there’s still some development in there that’s going on.”

Garcia had the labrum in his left shoulder repaired in April after he fell awkwardly while making a diving catch in a game. He was supposed to be out until spring training of next year but healed quickly.

Another right-handed slugger who underwent a surgical repair of the labrum in his left shoulder was the Los Angeles Dodgers' Matt Kemp. After surgery in October 2012, he returned to start the 2013 season but batted just .251 over the first two months, with a .335 slugging percentage and just two home runs.

The Garcia and Kemp surgeries weren’t completely identical, but a labrum repair was the central theme of both.

Only this season has Kemp started to look like the player he was before the shoulder injury, so it's possible Garcia's adjustment period extends into next season.

“Any time a guy has that long a stretch of being on the [disabled list], then you come back, he’ll get a shot of adrenaline right when he gets out there, and then this is the tough part for him,” Ventura said. “He has to go through this part, and then once he settles in, you’ll see a better idea of what you are going to get in the future.”

Despite not playing together for most of the season, Garcia and Jose Abreu have been able to forge a bond. The duo is still expected to comprise the core at the heart of the order for a long time.

“I think it’s been great to be able to spend time with him, and one thing I can tell you [is] he’s a great person,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “As a player, we’ve talked about being a five-tool player. Right now he’s going through some tough patches, but he’s a guy that will be able to get it done.”

The numbers show that while four-seam fastballs have given Garcia particular trouble since his return, he has struggled against offspeed pitches as well, though he has seen far fewer of them. The combination suggests timing issues not uncommon for a hitter who has missed a significant amount of time.

“We talked a few days ago about the importance of being mentally tough and being able to handle these times,” Abreu said. “I have nothing but good things to say about him.”