Lighter Garcia proving his worth in crowded Brewers outfield
Milwaukee’s Avisaíl García admits he was a little surprised at first when he learned the Brewers were adding Jackie Bradley Jr. to a crowded outfield competition.
A discussion with manager Craig Counsell helped Garcia understand the logic in the move and how it could assist him.
“We’re good,” García said Thursday from the Brewers’ spring training camp in Phoenix. “I get it.”
The addition of Bradley, announced Monday, gave the Brewers four former All-Stars for three outfield positions. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain is back after opting out of most of the 2020 season, though he’s been slowed by a quadriceps injury, and 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich is set in left field.
Counsell hasn’t indicated how he will divide playing time. He understood Garcia’s initial surprise about the Bradley signing and said the 29-year-old handled it well.
“He was a true professional,” Counsell said of García. “That’s the way I’d describe it. He was concerned and rightfully so. I think that’s fair. But the way we’re looking at this is there’s at-bats to go around. I think it will keep everybody really productive. I don’t see this as having a fourth outfielder. I see this as four outfielders.”
García, who made the All-Star Game in 2017 with the Chicago White Sox, has shown he’s intent on bouncing back from a subpar 2020 season.
He said at the start of the camp that he weighed 235 and had dropped almost 36 pounds from where he’d been at one point. García, who is 6-foot-4, says he played at about 257 pounds last season and believes the weight loss has improved his speed and energy level.
“I think Avi’s optimism for the season just shows up by the way he showed up to camp,” Counsell said. “He clearly worked very, very hard and put a lot into his preparations this winter. That was in the weight room and it was in the cages. He’s put a lot of work in. He’s getting great feedback from that work so far.”
Indeed, García has gone 8 of 17 with two homers so far in the Cactus League.
“I’m not giving up any at-bats,” García said. “I’m trying to work the counts, try to see good pitches to hit and do my best every day, no matter what statistics I have. Spring training or whatever, I’m here to play and I’m ready.”
García batted just .238 with two homers and 15 RBIs in 53 games in his first season the Brewers last year after hitting .282 with 20 homers and 72 RBIs in 125 games for Tampa Bay in 2019. García, normally a right fielder, spent much of last season playing center after Cain opted out.
Brewers hitting coach Andy Haines visited Garcia’s Miami home during the offseason as they tried figuring out how to improve upon that 2020 performance.
“I’m focused on using my hips, trying to have balance and be early (at the plate),” García said. “When I’m early, I have a really good chance to hit the ball hard. That’s what we’re working on. Be early, be on time and be loose. Don’t try to do too much.”
García isn’t speculating how many games he may end up playing this season. But he appreciates how the Brewers are adding more talent.
“Hopefully if everybody stays healthy, everybody can play a lot of games,” Garcia said. “There’s a lot of things that can happen during the season. I don’t know. The only thing I want is for everybody to stay healthy. That’s the best. If everybody stays healthy, I think we will have a special team.”
That’s the message Counsell is sending to each of his outfielders.
“I’ve told all of them that the problem we want is that you all are playing so well that we’ve got issues trying to figure out who’s going to play,” Counsell said. “I can guarantee if that’s the case, there will be a lot of wins on the board, we’ll be sitting in a pretty good spot and understand there’s a real big purpose ahead of us.”
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