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Avisail Garcia returns to White Sox amid flurry of roster moves

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Moises Sierra's perfectly timed oblique injury places him on DL, while Charlie Leesman is DFA'd

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Once thought to be done for the season thanks to a torn left labrum and avulsion fracture in his left shoulder, Avisail Garcia has a solid 1½ months of major-league reps ahead of him -- provided he fixed his diving technique, anyway.

The White Sox reinstated Garcia from the disabled list this afternoon, but since he's coming off the 60-day DL, it required a bit of extra maneuvering to get him back on both rosters.

  • The 40-man roster was full, so the Sox designated Charlie Leesman for assignment.
  • The 25-man roster was full, so the Sox placed Moises Sierra on the disabled list.

The Sox telegraphed the latter machination by randomly removing Sierra from Friday's game before the start of the ninth inning. It was called a sore back then, but it goes down in the books as a "strained left oblique." As luck would have it, he'll be eligible to return on Sept. 1. That's incredible timing, but as long as Sierra can hang around the dugout, the Sox will still get most of his production.

Leesman's DFA is only surprising because he's a left-handed pitcher in an organization that has precious little depth on that side. But this season summed up his rocky career: success in Triple-A, a rough go of it in the big leagues, and a lot of time on the disabled list. This time, a barking elbow left him largely inactive since early June. He finally resurfaced in Charlotte this month after a couple of rehab attempts, but the Sox apparently didn't see enough in his two August outings to keep him on the 40-man.

Garcia, for his part, proved he was ready by surviving a couple of plunkings and playing 13 games for Charlotte on his assignment. He hit .340/.377/.460 over 53 plate appearances, but enthusiasm should be tempered by his 16:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

He might need to retrace his steps the rest of the season. Last year, Garcia had the same patience problems, but he was too effective at Triple-A to take a lot of pitches. While hit well enough in the majors (.304/.327/.447), he came away from the trial period with two things to work on -- being a little more selective, and pulling the ball in the air when the opportunity arose.

Garcia appeared to make progress in both departments during the brief glimpse we saw in April, drawing three walks and homering twice to the pull field before he busted his shoulder. From what we saw of him in Charlotte this month, his power returned primarily to the opposite field, so it may take some time to get him back to where he was coming out of spring training. That's fine. Numbers would be nice, but the reps are paramount, because he'll ultimately have a big say in deciding how the Sox go about the next step in their reconstruction.

Star-divide

Besides the Garcia-related switches, the White Sox also announced two unrelated moves. Coming off a game in which he played the bullpen hero, Javy Guerra heads to the bereavement list. The rules require Guerra to miss at least three games, so the Sox brought back Eric Surkamp to give Robin Ventura a left-handed option in the bullpen, even if temporarily.

Star-divide

Meanwhile, down in Charlotte, the Knights announced that Erik Johnson finally hit the disabled list. Minor-league teams don't disclose the nature of injuries, but unlike Sierra, it's been abundantly clear that something is wrong. (Update: It's shoulder fatigue, Scott Merkin reports.)

Johnson's last start was as miserable as his season, giving up seven runs on eight hits and three walks over 2⅔ innings on a rainy night in Syracuse. Since there are only a couple weeks left in the minor-league season, it's possible that he might not pitch again in 2014, and maybe it's better off if he didn't. Combining the numbers from the majors and Triple-A, season to season:

W-L ERA G/GS IP H HR BB K
2013 7-3 2.12 15 85 75 6 30 75
2014 6-8 6.68 25 129.1 163 12 69 81

He started the year with a noticeable drop in velocity, which never came back all the way. With it, he also suffered command and control problems, which is all reflected in his 2014 stat line.

It's all somewhat ironic, because in terms of availability, this is Johnson's healthiest season yet. He missed clumps of starts over his first two pro seasons with different injuries (shoulder fatigue, groin strain), but he took the ball every turn in the rotation this year. Whether he should have pitched every fifth day is a different matter, because he's been consistently awful, and our friend Seth Lakso said his frustration showed on the mound.

The most telling stat: Johnson pitched a quality start in just two of his last 17 outings at Triple-A, and those two outliers were exactly six innings.

His struggles screamed "INJURY!" with signal flares and everything throughout it all, but nobody used physical problems as an excuse despite every reason to hide behind them. At the very least, a missed start or two seemed like it would've been beneficial months ago. It's all been mystifying, and it's all drawn little attention, especially after the drafting of Carlos Rodon.

Speaking of which: