Can Rios do it again?

Can Rios do it again?
February 16, 2013, 7:00 pm
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GLENDALE, Ariz -- Bad year, good year, bad year, good year.

That’s the last four seasons on the back of Alex Rios’ baseball card. It’s a rollercoaster run that has White Sox fans feeling a bit queasy.  

Those who follow the trend fear what’s coming next: another miserable season in 2013.

But not if Rios can help it.

“I’m trying to get into a pattern where it doesn’t fluctuate that much,” he said.

The swings from year to year, especially the last two, have resembled an out-of-control yo-yo.

In 2011, Rios hit rock bottom at the plate. He batted a career-worst .227 with 13 homers and just 44 RBIs in 537 at-bats. He was lost.

Then in 2012, Rios was suddenly found. He hit .304 with 25 homers and 91 RBIs. Who was the best hitter on the team? Ask around the White Sox clubhouse, they'll all say the same thing: Rios.

“I learned a lot from 2011,”  he said. “I learned that consistency is one of the most important things in the offense and I was consistent last year. That’s one thing I’m looking forward to this year. Try to focus on the most important things in hitting, leaving mechanics out of the equation.”

Last spring, hitting coach Jeff Manto worked with Rios to keep his body upright and his mind completely clear when he stepped to the plate.

See ball, hit ball.

It worked.

“It was just a simple approach,” Manto explained. “We took away all the thought process about where the ball is supposed to go and I think we set up him up physically in a stance, and he had some really good balance. His head wasn’t moving and we just told him to go ahead and hit the ball.”

The plan was a success, but what’s to prevent Rios from sliding back into the ditch of 2011?

“That’s something that you don’t think about,” Rios said.

Leave that to everyone else, although Manto believes that the blueprints of last season should carryover to 2013 and beyond.

“I think he was in a position in year’s previous where it was tough to sustain an approach throughout the season,” Manto said. “I think he’s got an approach that’s sustainable, it’s simple, and we anticipate another good year.”

Rios is on the provisional roster to play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. However,  there’s just one problem: he said that no one from the team has even contacted him. If or when they do, he’s not sure if he will play. His main priority is the White Sox, and building on what happened last year -- to himself and the team.

“I haven’t had a season like that in a long time where everybody is one the same page and everybody is [doing] what they’re supposed to do," Rios said. "It was fun and I think we have some unfinished business to do.”