Which Rios will show up?
- Photos (1)
Chicago White Sox's Alex Rios, right, congratulated by teammate Adam Dunn after hitting a grand slam against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/John Smierciak)
Alex Rios' track record strongly suggests he's going to be very good this season. Or, very bad.
There has been little in-between for the White Sox' 32-year-old right fielder, who has alternated between hit and miss throughout his nine-year career.
Last season, Rios was a huge hit.
He established career highs in batting average (.304), home runs (25) and RBI (91) and was much more comfortable on defense after moving from center field to right.
In 2011, Rios was frequently booed at U.S. Cellular Field while batting .227 with 13 homers and 44 RBI.
In 2010, his first full season with the Sox after being claimed off waivers on Aug. 10, 2009, Rios looked like a great addition while batting .284 with 21 homers and 88 RBI.
In '09, he batted a combined .247 with 17 HR and 71 RBI with the White Sox and Blue Jays.
Sensing a trend?
Rios was asked about the rollercoaster he's been riding when he reported to training camp in Glendale, Ariz., last month.
"Since I heard it, it's not in the back of my head, but I thought, 'That's weird,'" Rios told reporters. "I don't believe in that. I believe it's a coincidence. I believe it happened randomly. I don't think it affects me at all."
Time will determine whether or not Rios breaks the trend, but a major overhaul in his batting stance allowed the right fielder to live up to his substantial potential last season.
With some helpful hints from first-year hitting coach Jeff Manto, Rios jettisoned his familiar crouch and stood tall. He also took the bat off his shoulder and kept his timing from the beginning of the season to the end.
"(Timing) helped my consistency, and that is something I'm looking forward to this year," Rios told reporters at spring training. "I need to be as consistent as I was last year. In those stretches where you struggle, I try to get out quicker than before."
Rios is signed through 2014 and he has a $13.5 million club option (or $1 million buyout) for '15.
As he showed last season, Rios is the White Sox' best all-around player.
Look for the 6-foot-5, 210-pounder to change places with Adam Dunn and bat third instead of fifth this season.
With Rios' ability to put the ball in play and run the bases, cleanup hitter Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn should have plenty of RBI opportunities.
On Sunday, Rios is leaving the Sox' training camp to join Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
"I believe it gets you (more prepared) than spring training games because you have to go almost at full throttle," Rios told reporters. "It's a good experience. It's something that you look forward to doing."
Rios is entrenched in the White Sox' lineup for now, but look for Trayce Thompson to take over in right field as early as 2015.
Thompson, 21, played at Class A Winston-Salem, AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte last season and batted .253 with 25 home runs, 96 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 136 games.
Thompson is likely to spend the entire 2013 season with Charlotte to gain more polish, but he could make a push for playing time in '14.
This season, Dewayne Wise and Jordan Danks are the likely options when Rios needs a day off.
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