Updated: April 10, 2014 9:36PM
There are losses and then there are losses that punch a baseball team in the gut. Avisail Garcia might not be the face of the White Sox’ franchise, but the 22-year-old outfielder certainly is the face of the club’s makeover that began when general manager Rick Hahn traded Jake Peavy to get him last July.
The Sox were dealt a significant blow on several fronts when an MRI performed Thursday morning revealed a torn labrum in Garcia’s left shoulder, the result of an all-out attempted diving catch in right field on Wednesday afternoon in Denver.
Not only does the injury take an important middle-of-the-order bat out of the Sox’ lineup, it halts the progress of a young player who, side by side with Jose Abreu, is the centerpiece of Hahn’s rebuild. And while the Sox’ marginal hopes of being a contender took a hit, taking a full year out of Garcia’s development is a significant blow for the longer-term, more reasonable plan to contend in 2015 and ’16.
“Obviously, it’s lousy,’’ said Hahn, who was having one of his rougher days since he took over on the job before last season. “It stings for the kid, who is crushed right now, who is very disappointed. He’s taking it very hard.’’
The Sox were borderline unwatchable last season, but they’ve been worth watching with new, young players such as Abreu, Garcia and Adam Eaton. Abreu should sell tickets, and if you like watching big, fast and strong athletes play baseball, Garcia is one you will buy a ticket to see.
“It stinks for White Sox fans who are going to be deprived of the opportunity of seeing this kid on a daily basis this year,’’ Hahn said. “It’s really just one of the crueler realities of sports and the business we’re in. At the same time, it does provide some opportunity. We get a chance to see if Dayan Viciedo at age 25 can make the improvements that he’s shown signs of making already.’’
Garcia was showing signs of promise when he hit two home runs on Tuesday night. Without him in the lineup, more responsibility apparently falls on Viciedo, who struck out three times Wednesday and misplayed Justin Morneau’s deep fly that went for a double — three batters before Garcia was unsuccessfully trying to secure the third out by diving face-first into the ground.
“It’s something you don’t want to wish on anybody, much less on a teammate,’’ Viciedo said.
“You’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities. Since you make the team, you have opportunities every time you step to the plate.’’
It was the first opportunity for Garcia, who was acquired from the Tigers, to be a full-time player.
“It’s harder on him, especially him getting his first shot at it for a full year,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “Guys just have to keep going. But it’s tough.’’
How or if Garcia’s swing is affected when he returns to full health next year remains to be seen. Hahn said he expects Garcia to be without restrictions by spring training next year. On the plus side, it’s not his throwing shoulder.
“The one thing, even in our disappointment, that’s important not to lose sight of is the fact Avi remains with us [under control] for the next five seasons,’’ Hahn said.
“We would rather have him out there playing on an every-day basis here in Chicago and continuing to show some of the progress he’s shown as recently as the last few days in Colorado. But it’s not the kind of thing he can’t come back from; it’s not the kind of thing that’s going to have lingering effects on his ability or his ceiling. It’s just an unfortunate development that’s pushed him back a year in terms of being an every-day guy in Chicago.’’