MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox

South Side Morning 5: Leury Legend

1. If the White Sox are able to find a few unexpected contributors among the current crop of players, it would go a long way toward calling the 2017 season a success. Leury Garcia likely wouldn’t have been the first or second choice among those players, but his start has offered a decent amount of optimism that he’s got a future not only as a major leaguer but with the White Sox.

I’ll get the small sample size caveat out of the way early, but Garcia is now hitting .304/.343/.485 in 109 plate appearances after a weekend in which he went 6-for-13, including a two-homer game in Friday’s loss to the Padres.

His wRC+ is 126, which is more than double that of any prior season, and his ISO is .177 when he had only 11 extra base hits in his career entering this season, so the offensive production he’s displayed thus far has been unprecedented. And while it’s unlikely he’ll produce at that clip for the rest of the season, there’s plenty of reason to believe he’s improved to the point of sticking around.

The most impressive gain he’s made is with his strikeout percentage. He’s striking out in just 13.5 percent of his plate appearances this season, down from 26.7 percent for his career. But the reason for this isn’t necessarily patience. His walk rate isn’t any better, nor is his swing rate on pitches outside the zone. He’s just simply making more contact, hitting 90.3 percent of pitches he swings at inside the zone, up from 83.8 percent for his career.

Garcia grades out as an average center fielder by FRAA, which is fine if he’s producing offensively. And while the sample size remains small, the strides he made thus far are a good sign. If they stick, the White Sox may have found another valuable piece for their future.

2. Jose Quintana wasn’t necessarily bad on Sunday, but also wasn’t the All-Star-caliber starter we’ve come to know, and left with a no-decision after the White Sox offense failed to hit perpetual punching bag Jered Weaver for most of the afternoon.

The troubling aspect of his start wasn’t necessarily the three-run homer to allowed to Hunter Renfroe, a high 92-mph fastball that caught too much of the zone, but the four walks allowed. Quintana’s pinpoint control hasn’t been what it was during the last several seasons, and against a lineup more potent than San Diego’s the result might have been a lot worse. Things are certainly not fine with Quintana at the moment, but his track record leaves us with hope that he’ll turn things around sooner than later. Let’s hope so.

3. Dylan Covey put together his most impressive start of the season in Saturday’s win over the Padres, and still didn’t make it through five innings. Covey entered the start with 11 strikeouts on the season, and managed a career-high nine punch outs in just 4 1/3 innings, with the main problem being that he only lasted 4 1/3 innings. He averaged 95 mph on his fastball, and touched as high as 97 mph during the start, saying after the game that he was amped up and “tired of getting beat with my mediocre stuff.”

Yes, it was the Padres, and his command struggled plenty, including giving up a pair of home runs, but Covey showed the type of stuff Saturday that led to the White Sox deciding to keep him on the 25-man roster instead of sending him back to Oakland.

4. The White Sox optioned Cody Asche to Triple-A Charlotte following Sunday’s win, with the likely replacement coming in the form of pitching help. The White Sox are heading for the west coast and don’t have another day off until May 25, so it’s a logical conclusion considering they currently have two starters (Covey and Mike Pelfrey) who struggle to finish five innings each time out. Likewise, Asche has been ineffective with all of six hits on the season and has only played once in the last week.

Assuming the move is, in fact, a pitcher, as has been reported, it will let down those clamoring for the Yoan Moncada promotion, especially given we’ve now reached the date where the White Sox have now gained another year of team control regardless of promotion. But Rick Hahn reiterated last week that the White Sox will promote Moncada when they believe is is ready, and that time is not right now.

“We want to see that over an extended period of time,” Hahn said. “It’s awfully important to not lose sight of the fact this is a 21-year-old player, one who was not playing two years ago. It’s a guy who has fewer than 325 or so plate appearances above A ball.”

5. James Shields is scheduled to throw before Monday’s series opener in Anaheim, but there is still no timeline for when he could return to the mound for the White Sox.

“There’s really no update right now,” Shields said Sunday. “We’re just taking the process. They wanted to give me 12-15 days of no throw and kind of just let this thing heal on its own. There’s nothing you can really do about it but wait. It’s kind of frustrating, you want to do some treatments and that stuff, but I understand the process and we’re just going to keep going.”

Shields’ injury kind of came out of nowhere, and the initial diagnosis of a mild lat strain led one to assume he’d miss close to the minimum amount of time. But it’s now been one month since his last start, and regardless of how Monday’s session goes, it will likely be at least another week or two until we see him on the mound again.

I never imagined I’d be clamoring to see Shields two months ago, but given the White Sox pitching depth, as well as the signs of progress he showed in the three starts he did make, well, here we are.

Lead Photo Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

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