CHICAGO | That was a “happy-tired” look sported by Avisail Garcia at his locker Saturday afternoon as he and his White Sox teammates began packing up stuff for the offseason.
The most promising young Sox isn’t sleeping a lot these days. He’s lucky the season is ending today. If this was July, he’d be drooping in the homestretch. Garcia is a new father, and daughter Annarella, born Sept. 16, is up frequently at night. If he and wife Anakarina aren’t awakened five times, the new parents count their blessings.
Been there and done that, long ago, on this end of the keyboard. It’s a struggle while you go through a newborn’s nocturnal announcements, but it’s worth it decades down the line. Garcia will realize his successful break-in as a Sox regular is just the topping of his eventful 2013.
Counting down to Annarella’s birth and dealing with the exhaustion afterward while playing at a high level tested Garcia’s rookie discipline and drive.
“When you’re focused, you can do anything,” he said.
Garcia is the most positive thing to come out of the Sox’s worst season since 1970. Going into Saturday, he batted .329 with four homers and 21 RBIs in the 35 games since Aug. 13. That’s the sixth-highest average in the American League in that time period.
Acquired from the Tigers in a three-way deal July 30 that dispatched Jake Peavy to Boston, Garcia is actually the leader of a little wave of talent making claims to regular gigs in 2014.
Infielder Marcus Semien, playing at his natural shortstop’s position Saturday against the Royals, has shown pop in his bat. He had a homer, double and single. Starter Erik Johnson again pitched competitively over 5 1/3 innings as he won his third straight decision.
But Garcia is the impact player who seems ticketed for a No. 3 lineup spot with his combination of power and speed.
“I’m happy, because I’ve swung at better pitches and made better contact,” Garcia said.
He may have been the one 2013 success story of Jeff Manto, fired Saturday as Sox hitting coach as general manager Rick Hahn seeks a new “voice” in the job.
Nobody coached Garcia in his base-stealing-quality speed, his most astonishing talent at 240 pounds.
“God give me that,” he said of his swiftness.
Garcia also hustles out every grounder to first.
“I’m happy, because people talked about that,” he said. “To beat the throw and be safe, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You got to play the game hard.”
The Sox appear to lean on keeping Garcia in right field, where his arm and speed can thrive.
“It seems that way,” manager Robin Ventura. “He can play all over. He’s a bit quicker than you’d think just because of his size. He does have the ability to move around in the outfield if you need him to. I think naturally, probably he lends himself to right field, but I’m not going to put him there (permanently) right now.”
What is permanent is fatherhood. Good luck, Avy. At home and in the field, you have two long-term concurrent adventures, both satisfying if you do them right, awaiting you.