OAKLAND -- Avisail Garcia opened the 2016 season as the White Sox designated hitter in a pair of one-run victories over the A's at the Coliseum, a move that wouldn't be argued by fans who didn't think much of his defense in right field last year.Garcia topped Major League Baseball
OAKLAND -- Avisail Garcia opened the 2016 season as the White Sox designated hitter in a pair of one-run victories over the A's at the Coliseum, a move that wouldn't be argued by fans who didn't think much of his defense in right field last year.
Garcia topped Major League Baseball with 17 assists, but he also had a -11 rating in defensive runs saved, per Baseball Reference. In the mind of White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, though, those defensive shortcomings weren't totally on the 24-year-old.
"A little bit of it, and we looked at this some over the course of the offseason, might have been with our positioning that we weren't necessarily putting him in the best position pitch to pitch to get to some balls," Hahn said. "We've each seen some balls on the way in towards the line or even a little back towards the gap that he's just come up a little bit short on, where with perhaps a little bit better positioning off the start, it might be an easier play for him.
"Look, the athleticism is there, the tools are there and certainly the work ethic is there. So, we just need to put him in the best position to succeed and let that ability take over."
For a player who has 268 career games played in the field and 17 as DH, especially a young player who has made significant changes within his offensive approach, focusing solely on hitting during games stands as a tough proposition. It was an admittedly difficult challenge for accomplished hitters such as Adam Dunn and Adam LaRoche when they moved from the National League to the American League.
The good news for Garcia, who was 1-for-8 prior to Wednesday night's contest, is that manager Robin Ventura intends to rotate the DH spot between outfielders Garcia, Melky Cabrera and even Adam Eaton.
"It's hard. I like to be in the field," Garcia said. "But you know, whatever is best for the team. If they want me to DH, I'll do my best to help the team win. Let's see what happens."
Having Austin Jackson in center and Eaton in right presents the White Sox with a tighter outfield defense. So Garcia has to earn more defensive playing time.
"He needs to work on it. That's no secret," said Ventura, who plans to start Garcia in right on Thursday. "But he has the ability to do it. He runs a little quicker than you would think, because he's so big, but he's got some work to do.
"That's part of being young, what he went through last year. We have guys who can play it, so he's got time to work at it and be better at it."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.