Rios rebounding into form

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Rios rebounding into form

Theres something happening with Alex Rios. You might have noticed. Paul Konerko has noticed too, and the White Sox captain likes what he sees.

A lot.

It wouldnt surprise me if he has a monster season, because of the way hes going about it right now, Konerko said about Rios before Tuesdays game against the Indians.

If there is a hitting professor in the game, someone who studies the art like hes a baseball Michelangelo, its Konerko. So when he heaps praise on a player with those kind of words, its worth taking notice.

Konerkos lecture on Alex Rios 101 continued.

Alex is a big, strong talented guy. Hes a great pull hitter. He can pull the ball with the best of them. So when he starts hitting the ball the other way, it doesnt give fielders an option to just live out there away from him. Thats going to open the door to a lot of great things, Konerko said. The way hes picking up his hits now, and the at-bats hes having even in his outs, hes making really good outs. Its all there.

With the first month of the season in the books, Rios is batting .311. Much better than last year, when Rios finished April hitting .163. It was the start of his season-long downward spiral that ended with Rios batting a career-worst .227 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs in 537 at-bats. Not the kind of numbers the White Sox wanted from a hitter in a power spot in the lineup. But the struggles of 2011 are now in the rear view mirror.

I feel obviously better than last year, Rios said. Im still making progress. Im not quite where I want to be. But its all about work. Im just working hard to get to the point where I feel 100 percent comfortable, and doing what I want to do.

Sometimes baseball is as easy as see ball, hit ball. In theory, thats all you need to do, especially if you have the physical tools of Rios.

But last season, so much was going on inside the outfielders head when he stood in the batters box, his brain was like a pinball machine on tilt. He was thinking about his hands, his legs, his elbows, his feet...

See ball, hit ball sounded like a dream. Rios was living a baseball nightmare in a place called Mechanics Hell.

But this year, everythings different. What exactly? For one, all that clutter that had a permanent spot in his noggin....its all gone.

Im not worrying about mechanics, Rios said. Just have a plan when I go to the plate and stick to it. Sometimes you have a plan, but you dont stick to it during the at-bat. Im just trying to stick to my plan and hopefully everything goes well.

So far it has.

Hes batting .353 vs. right-handers, compared to .204 last year. Hes reached safely in 16 of his last 19 games. He had an 11-game hitting streak in the middle of April. The streak began two days after he belted a game-winning home run in the 9th inning off Texas' Joe Nathan.

Its precisely the kind of start he was hoping for when he arrived in Glendale for spring training.

It gives you a confidence boost, Rios said. You feel good about yourself and you feel like you still have it, and thats a good thing. When you have that confidence, it makes things so much easier to deal with.

Weve noticed.

White Sox: Tim Anderson adjusting to 'grind' of first MLB season

White Sox: Tim Anderson adjusting to 'grind' of first MLB season

CLEVELAND -- He’s played far more than ever before this season, so it’s no surprise that Tim Anderson has started to feel a little more tired than normal.

This is exactly what baseball players mean when they mention the “grind,” that time of the season when the body aches more and each day off is important. It’s not something players can be prepared for — they learn how to handle it as they experience it for the first time. And that’s just what the White Sox shortstop is figuring out — how to manage himself in uncharted territory. Between Triple-A Charlotte and the majors, Anderson has accumulated 646 plate appearances, which is 96 more than he had in 2015. The White Sox have nine more games remaining, including Saturday night’s contest at the Cleveland Indians, which means Anderson could easily reach 680 plate appearances.

“Just working on locking in and staying focused and keeping myself healthy and doing what I’m supposed to do to stay healthy,” Anderson said. “It has been a little tough some times. My body is tired going through this extra month, I’m not really used to it. I’m holding up pretty well and my body is holding up pretty good.”

Anderson appeared to benefit from a day off Thursday when he returned to action on Friday. The team’s top position prospect since Gordon Beckham, Anderson said he spent Thursday hanging out and relaxing at the area home of his cousin, Cleveland Browns fullback Malcolm Johnson.

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He responded to only his third day off all month with two hits, including a first-inning triple on Friday. It was the 30th multi-hit game of Anderson’s career, but only the fifth in September. Anderson, who has a .710 OPS this season, has a .647 September OPS.

“You take advantage of (the time off),” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s played hard. Coming up and realizing that if you are playing everyday, everybody tries to take advantage of it. When you are in your first year, you realize the grind you are going through and you are trying to find a way to be fresh and things like that. You rest and that’s the biggest thing for a day off.”

As much as he’s happy to see the finish line, Anderson wouldn’t mind if the White Sox were gearing up for a postseason run. Though he’s tired, Anderson is still hungry. He said he has no major changes planned in his offseason physical preparation and thinks this experience will be extremely valuable when he goes through it again next September.

“Basically it’s just the first time as a trial,” Anderson said. “See how it is and see how my body reacts and I know what to do next year at this time.

“It’s good. You also want to play more. Just trying to finish strong and end on a good note.”

Preview: Quintana, White Sox look to get back on track vs. Indians tonight on CSN

Preview: Quintana, White Sox look to get back on track vs. Indians tonight on CSN

Jose Quintana takes the hill as the White Sox continue their series against the Cleveland Indians tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana (12-11, 3.26 ERA) vs. Cody Anderson (2-4, 6.24 ERA)

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