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How Avisail Garcia is trying to move on from two lost years to start his Marlins tenure

The key juncture of Avisail Garcia’s offseason began with a phone call to Miami Marlins teammate Luis Arraez.

“He called me and said ‘Hey, can I hit with you?’” recalled Arraez, who has won a batting title each of the past two years. “I said, ‘100 percent yes. Let’s go. Let’s hit together.’ He worked hard. I worked a lot with him. I think he’s going to have a big year.”

Garcia personally and the Marlins collectively are certainly hoping that’s the case.

Garcia, who signed a four-year deal with the Marlins ahead of the 2022 season, knows his first two seasons in Miami have not lived up to his standards. Injuries have limited his time on the field, and he failed to produce even when he was on the field.

There’s nothing he can do about that now. What Garcia can do is keep his mind in the present and work toward proving he can be of value to a Marlins club coming off a playoff berth.

“I want to have a great year for the team and do what I can do — what I know I can do,” Garcia said. “I want to be healthy. I want to be in the field.”

So far in his Marlins tenure, he has not done that. Garcia, entering his 13th MLB season, joined the Marlins with a track record for being a steady hitter. He was an All-Star in 2017 and had a stretch of hitting double-digit home runs in six consecutive full seasons (not including the pandemic-shortened 2020 season), including a career-high 29 home runs and 86 RBI in the 2021 season with the Milwaukee Brewers before joining the Marlins.

In two years with Miami, Garcia has played in just 135 games. He has a .215 batting average, a .576 on-base-plus-slugging mark, 11 home runs, 47 RBI and 39 runs scored.

He only played in 37 games in 2023, missing time because of back tightness and a hamstring strain.

Meanwhile, the Marlins went on to reach the playoffs for the first time in a full season since winning the World Series in 2003.

“Last year probably was the most frustrated he’s been just because of what we were doing and what we were accomplishing as a team and him not feeling part of it,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “Him coming back and then getting hurt again is probably the most frustrated he’s been maybe his whole career. He’s got a lot to prove not only to us but to himself.

Garcia said it “was amazing” watching the team make the playoff.

He just wished he was part of it.

“It was tough for me because I wasn’t in the field,” Garcia said, “but I enjoyed watching the guys play every single day. They played hard. They played the game the right way. I love that. I’m a guy that plays the game right. I play hard every single game.”

For a second consecutive offseason, Garcia put in work to try to get his game right. Heading in the 2023 season, he focused on losing weight and getting his body right. This offseason, he spent three to four days a week working on hitting with Arraez in Miami. Garcia also tweaked his stance at the plate, opening his left foot with the hope that it puts less pressure on his back.

“My body feels great. My mind feels great,” Garcia said. “I’m just ready to go, focus and try to do my best.”

Garcia being able to contribute consistently would be a boon for a Marlins offense that needs more power from a lineup that is now without Jorge Soler, who hit 36 home runs in 2023 but is now with the San Francisco Giants. The Marlins don’t have one guy who will fully replace that production, but a combination of Garcia, full seasons from Jake Burger and Josh Bell, plus the addition of Tim Anderson — along with improvement from outfielders Jazz Chisholm Jr., Bryan De La Cruz and Jesus Sanchez — could help mitigate the loss.

“We’ve lost some guys in the offense,” Schumaker said. “Soler’s on another team, so we’re hoping Avi can step up and and provide some some much needed right-handed power and some offense.”