Versatile infielder regains his focus

Growing up in Southern California, Sergio Garcia was a huge fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now the starting second baseman for the 51s, the 27-year-old Garcia is close to realizing his childhood dream of playing for his hometown team.

“Depending on the club and their needs, Sergio Garcia’s got a chance to play in the big leagues,” Las Vegas manager Lorenzo Bundy said.

The versatile Garcia, who can play shortstop, third base and in the outfield, has emerged as one of the 51s’ steadiest players in his sixth season in the Dodgers organization.

The departure of infielder Tony Abreu and other Las Vegas players to Los Angeles this season opened up more playing time for Garcia, and he has taken advantage of it.

After going 1-for-4 in Friday’s 5-4 victory over Tucson at Cashman Field, Garcia is hitting .296 and is second on the squad in home runs with seven and RBIs with 30.

“He’s turned into an everyday player for us,” Bundy said. “He’s been one of our most consistent players and one of our better players.”

Garcia was one of the Pacific Coast League’s top hitters before an eye infection sidelined him for two weeks. He was batting .330 after going 3-for-6 in a victory at Memphis on June 4, but his average has dipped 34 points in 11 games since he returned to action June 19.

“It was frustrating having to take those days off. Maybe I could’ve kept it going,” the soft-spoken Garcia said. “But you can’t look back. You’ve got to fight through it and keep looking forward. It’s coming back.”

Garcia hit .217 in 45 games at Double-A Jacksonville last season but batted .328 with eight homers and 37 RBIs in 71 games for the 51s.

He said being sent down to Double A inspired him when he returned to Las Vegas.

“I was here and they sent me back down, and I was kind of mad about that,” he said. “I was a little more determined when I came back. I’m just trying to stay up here.”

Garcia also credits experience and his coaches and teammates for his improvement at the plate.

“Talking to some of the players like (Delwyn Young) helps,” he said. “Those guys are just natural hitters, but guys like me have got to work for it.”

* NOTES — Young was the lone Las Vegas player named to the PCL All-Star team. The outfielder went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs on Friday and is batting .330 with a team-high 12 home runs, 59 RBIs and a league-leading 31 doubles. … 51s starter Eric Stults stopped a line drive in the second inning and tossed his glove, with the ball stuck in its web, to first baseman John Lindsey to record an out. … The Las Vegas Review-Journal will present a fireworks show after tonight’s game and also will donate $1 to the United Way for every fan in attendance ($10,000 maximum).


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