Thrown Into The Fire





DETROIT—When right fielder Avisail Garcia joined low Class A West Michigan in May last season, he was just 17 years old.

Yet farm director Glenn Ezell said the organization had no qualms about making Garcia the second-youngest player in the Midwest League last year.

"We felt that he was going to be able to learn from (playing at) that level," Ezell said. "We felt that, when we sent him there, he would be able to manage things without allowing it to kick his tail."

The Venezuelan native, who signed with the Tigers at 16, batted .264/.289/.384 and also had 13 outfield assists in 80 games in his first season in the United States.

There were bumps along the way. Garcia struck out 70 times in 299 at-bats, and he made 10 errors in the outfield. But it wasn't the numbers that stood out to Ezell.

"I think Garcia has a wonderful mental makeup," Ezell said. "He listens well, and he's learning how to apply what he hears to his game. At his age, that's very special.

"He has good tools: good speed, good arm. And he also has a strong body, so I think power will come as he matures."

Ezell said Garcia, who won't turn 19 until June 12, still has plenty to learn.
"Last year I think he started to learn that going as fast as you can isn't always the best way to do things," Ezell said. "Plus, at the plate he needs to learn more about controlling the strike zone, but that's not uncommon in young players.

"His instincts are good, and he takes to instruction like a sponge soaking up water. He wants to get better."

While no assignments are set in stone before spring training, Ezell admits it might be best if Garcia starts the coming season by returning to West Michigan.
"We saw a lot of improvement in Garcia during instructional league," Ezell said. "We need to be aware of what he's doing and keep him challenged."

TIGER TALES

• The Tigers removed first baseman Jeff Larish from the 40-man roster when they signed closer Jose Valverde.

• Larish was one of 13 non-roster players invited to spring training, a group that also includes righthanders Josh Rainwater, Cody Satterwhite and Robbie Weinhardt as well as shortstop Gustavo Nunez.