Avisail sees similarities in rebuild, stellar year

Becoming a contending team is a process, All-Star says

Avisail sees similarities in rebuild, stellar year

CHICAGO -- The All-Star 2017 campaign for Avisail Garcia resonates in the White Sox right fielder's mind much like the team's ongoing rebuild.

Or putting it another way, excellence isn't always achieved overnight.

"You have to keep grinding, you gotta keep learning and it's a process. Everything is a process," said the 26-year-old Garcia during a recent interview. "You want to be a winning team, it's a process.

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"We are not going to win right now. It's a process, a long time. That's what happened. If you are a good player, one day it's going to show up. You have to keep working hard and believing in that and be focused."

Garcia's process reached a summit in '17.

His .330 average ranked third in the Majors behind Jose Altuve (.346) and Charlie Blackmon (.331). Garcia set career highs with 171 hits, 27 doubles, 18 home runs, 80 RBIs and 75 runs scored, while becoming the White Sox recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award.

A .424 average for Garcia against left-handed pitchers topped the Majors, as did his seven four-hit games. The turnaround began with Garcia reporting 20 pounds lighter to Camelback Ranch back in February and maintaining solid physical conditioning.

"I knew last year I had to do something different for my body. I have to do something for myself if I want to get better," Garcia said. "I'm a professional baseball player, so you have to be disciplined and professional.

"So that's what happened. I lost weight. I had to put myself in a better position to have a better year. I can't wait for next year and we get better. Just trying to get better and get in even better shape."

That improved physical conditioning manifested itself in better defense in right and 22 infield hits. Garcia's plan at the plate became vastly improved, not chasing as many pitches out of the strike zone and being able to correct the problem when he did expand a bit.

But as is the case in any professional sport, the breakout success has been applauded and now it's about Garcia's encore. The White Sox have Garcia under control for the next two seasons and have to decide where he fits as part of the extended rebuild or whether there's a market as a trade candidate.

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Those who doubt Garcia's ability to sustain success don't bother the good-natured veteran, who welcomed a son, Avi, to his family this year along with wife, Anakarina, and daughter, Annarella. It took Garcia parts of four seasons to get to this level, but a smiling Garcia repeats not every Major League All-Star is an overnight success.

"You see a lot of people they start in the big leagues, they don't always start doing good," Garcia said. "But they keep getting better, better, better with more experience. That's normal in this sport.

"It's hard to find somebody that comes to the big leagues and he's an All-Star. If you want to, name five players. Even two. People get in the big leagues and it's hard to be the best.

"No, I don't think about what people think," Garcia said. "I have more experience now. I just know what I do and I know how I do it. It's going to continue to get better."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.