CHICAGO | Something just didn’t sound quite right when the White Sox announced big, burly but fast Avisail Garcia would play center field in Triple-A Charlotte after arriving as part of the Jake Peavy trade.
Frank Thomas sniffed it out first. On his post-game Comcast SportsNet analysis soon after the deal, the 'Big Hurt' felt the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Garcia, a prime prospect by any measurement, would beat up his body playing center. Better Garcia play a less-stressful corner outfield position so he could belt homers.
In the days that followed, another logical angle came forth.
Sox general manager Rick Hahn obviously is offering Alex Rios to contenders needing another bat. He told of an ultimately unsuccessful proposal within the last hour before the 3 p.m. deadline that prompted him to hurriedly contact Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
That call sounded an awful lot like a request to shovel some money out the door to pay for part of a traded player’s salary. Rios is making $12.5 million both this season and 2014.
He is a good guy, but his concentration lapses have been a major story this season. If the Sox want to keep Rios in the emotional fold until they could complete a deal, the last thing they’d want to do is loudly groom a Garcia type at his position in right field.
The issue of Garcia wearing himself out or suffering injury playing center is Thomas’ opinion. But what of a crucial requirement of a center fielder, putting more responsibility on a rookie?
Try the perspective of Daryl Boston, a former Sox center fielder who spent 12 years as the outfield instructor in the team’s farm system.
“The demand is the ability to take charge out there,” said Boston, now the Sox’s first-base coach. “It’s a mental demand. He’s in control of everything that goes on. He’s responsible for the left and right fielder.”
Boston said he’d coach players to separate hitting from defense. But in Garcia’s case, adjusting to a new organization at the big-league level, and then playing regularly, would seem to be an awful lot on his plate to go along with captaining the outfield from the get-go.
Physical demands? “It’s the same,” said Boston. “You’re going to dive and you’re going to crash into walls in left and right fields just as much.”
Hahn explained why Garcia is playing center.
“I think it comes down to if a player is able to produce at the level offensively that we think this kid can produce, and do that a premium position, it becomes even more valuable,” he said.
“We’re not married to the idea of him playing center… We want to take a look at it. Get to know the kid a little bit better. He’s extremely athletic. He’s got a world of tools. And we want to give him the opportunity to play it out at a premium position even if ultimately he does wind up in a corner here in Chicago.”
The question is if “ultimately” is the next day after Rios is traded.