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Avisail Garcia wants to make up for lost time with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Avisail Garcia considered before a workout at Camelback Ranch this week the additions the White Sox made this winter, he offered his prediction that the team would make the playoffs.

Then the Sox right fielder quickly modified the statement.

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"If everybody stays healthy," he said.

If anyone knows how quickly a freak injury can derail plans, it's Garcia, whose expected breakout season was lost because of a torn labrum and avulsion fracture in his left shoulder he suffered making a diving catch just 10 days into the 2014 season.

Nearing a year since the injury, he's done talking about it and ready for a chance to prove himself anew.

"That's the past," Garcia, 23, said. "I only focus on the future. … The bad things you have to throw away, like last year."

Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson said most people probably think Garcia has been in the majors a long time. In reality, he has played in just 141 major-league games over parts of the last three years, including 72 with the Tigers and Sox in 2013, his longest season.

In that context, Garcia, a career .272 hitter with 14 homers and 63 RBIs, still needs to be given time to grow.

"People think, 'Gosh he has been there a long time. When's he going to take off?'" Steverson said. "Well, he hasn't gotten the amount of reps that most people would get at this point of their big-league career as an everyday player. … He's a hell of a complement to the lineup if he can show what he's capable of doing."

Garcia was extremely happy to come in this spring about 15 pounds lighter — back roughly to his listed weight of 240 pounds, the product of a healthier diet, he said — and believes he has seen the results already in Cactus League games. He thinks he is faster in the field and on the bases, and he experiences less soreness in his legs because they are bearing less weight.

Steverson is more concerned about whether Garcia is mentally fit to put into action some of the hitting strategies they have discussed. He called Garcia's time off last year a "semi-blessing" because it allowed Garcia the opportunity to watch other hitters from the bench and examine them with Steverson.

"It's one thing to talk about it," Steverson said. "The ability to apply it or be ready to apply it is another. You can't just agree to something and decide to blow it off, and then you might find that you missed your opportunity. … He has done a good job of coming out and focusing on having better at-bats."

Garcia spent time in the Venezuelan Winter League in the offseason and said it helped prepare him for 2015. He has gone 16-for-52 with three doubles, a home run, five RBIs, four walks and seven strikeouts over 17 games this spring.

"Knowing what the pitcher is going to do to me, know the situations, know who's hitting behind me and don't swing at bad pitches," Garcia said of his goals. "I'm trying to work my count (and) swing at good pitches."

Sox manager Robin Ventura said he understands Garcia's learning will be ongoing as he makes his way through his first full major-league season.

"He has cut down on his strikeouts and shortened up with two strikes," Ventura said. "He is making adjustments. That's going to be it for a while because he is young. He's a big, powerful kid who wants to hit it a long way, but he is going to have to shorten it up and put it in play every once in a while."

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Garcia is expected to hit behind Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche in the Sox lineup, and playing alongside some of the bigger names could help ease the pressure if he does go through ups and downs this season. Garcia, however, said he doesn't feel any pressure — only excitement over what he thinks such a lineup can do.

"We have everything," Garcia said. "We have power. We have guys who can hit .300. We have guys who can drive runs in. … If we stay healthy, it's going to be an exciting year."

Twitter @ChiTribKane

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