Red-hot Garcia dealing with sore right knee

Outfielder near top of league's batting average rankings

Red-hot Garcia dealing with sore right knee

CHICAGO -- Two of the American League's top two hitters by average took part in Monday's series opener between the White Sox and Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.

Michael Brantley sitting at .348 (he dropped to .336 after an 0-4 opener) certainly was of little surprise. But Avisail Garcia ranking second at .346 (he dropped to .338 after going 0-for-3) was a bit more stunning -- at least to those outside the White Sox organization.

Garcia left in the 10th inning of Monday's 2-1 White Sox walk-off victory over the Indians due to right knee inflammation. He grimaced after taking a fourth straight pitch out of the zone from Zach McAllister to open the 10th but actually tweaked the knee Sunday in Oakland. J.B. Shuck pinch-ran for him and scored the game-winner.
 
"He felt something in his knee and we're just being really cautious with him to make sure," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.

Garcia, who still ranks near the top of the leaderboards, might actually have been caught a little off-guard himself by this torrid start, but he's followed a simple plan for success.

"I was prepared," Garcia said. "But just play hard and try to have good at-bats and try to swing at good pitches and work the count."

"He does a good job of executing his swing on the pitch you're looking for and being able to fight off pitches that are potential strike threes and stuff like that," White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson said of Garcia.

There was a strong belief that Garcia would become a five-tool player when he was acquired from Detroit at the 2013 non-waiver Trade Deadline as part of a three-team deal also involving Jake Peavy. The White Sox didn't plan on Garcia's avulsion fracture and torn labrum in his left shoulder while diving for a ball in Colorado last April 9.

To Garcia's credit, he fought back for 190 plate appearances in 2014 even when the original diagnosis had him gone for the season. Garcia coupled that work with a .312 average over 125 at-bats during winter ball in Venezuela to be fully prepared for this potential breakout campaign.

"It helped me a lot because I lost, like, three months last year, and playing helped me a lot because I saw more pitches," Garcia said of his time in Venezuela. "They had really good pitchers over there, so I saw pitches, curveballs, sliders, and I made adjustments."

"As far as being able to put the bat on it, he's great. The power is there," Ventura said. "Nobody with his size doesn't really have it. We saw that in Oakland his last at-bat. Kind of stay away from the, 'We're going to take him a step further' mentality. Just let him play and continue to understand the strike zone and I think he's going to be great." 

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.