Three years after claim, Rios proving his value to White Sox


Three years after claim, Rios proving his value to White Sox

Exactly three years after he was claimed off waivers by the White Sox, Alex Rios was hitting fourth against the Oakland As on Friday night.

Rios, who most teammates believe was an All-Star snub in July, takes the place in the lineup of team captain Paul Konerko, who was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion.

Its the first time this season the former Toronto Blue Jays outfielder will hit cleanup and Robin Venturas selection of Rios to replace Konerko is more validation a risky move made by the White Sox front office has paid off.

When the White Sox claimed him on Aug. 10, 2009, Rios -- who is signed through 2014 and has a 13.5 million club option for 2015 -- was owed roughly 60 million in guaranteed money, the entirety of which was picked up by the club. Rios had struggled with the Blue Jays and continued after his arrival, hitting .199 over the final two months of the 2009 season.

This season, Rios is hitting a team-high .318 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs and has often been mentioned by teammates and coaches as a player critical to the teams success because of his all-around play.

This is the player we were hopeful we were getting, assistant general manager Rick Hahn said Friday.

Rios admits he never saw the move coming.

An All-Star for the Blue Jays in 2006 and 2007, Rios signed a seven-year deal worth 69.835 million only four days into the 2008 season. He believed he would remain with Toronto well into the future.

But in 2009, Rios OPS slipped to .744 with the Jays, more than 100 points below his All-Star performance in 2007.

I didnt expect it, Rios said. I had thought I was going to spend the whole time there.

The White Sox had spoken to the Blue Jays about Rios prior to the July 31, 2009 non-waiver trade deadline, a team source said. The sides explored numerous trade scenarios with Toronto eating some salary in exchange for prospects or the White Sox footing the entire bill with no players going back.

When Rios was placed on waivers, the White Sox had an idea the Blue Jays would allow him to walk and already had the approval of owner Jerry Reinsdorf to add the contract.

We hoped when we made the move was he was going to be a long-term answer for us at one of our outfield positions, Hahn said.

Rios was asked to play center field when he first joined the White Sox and responded well. He hit .284 with 21 homers and 88 RBIs in 2010 and provided above-average defense in center.

Rios overall production slipped in 2011 both in the field and at the plate as the White Sox endured a disappointing 79-83 campaign.

This season, a move to right field has re-energized Rios. He has again provided good defense and is on pace to reach career-high totals in average, home runs, RBIs, runs and slugging percentage.

He's come in motivated and has been the same every day, Ventura said. He comes in and he does a lot of different stuff for us. First, he's really good in right field, made a lot of great defensive plays for us. Offensively, he just always seems to be having great at-bats. Steals bases, he does a lot of different things for us that are positive. Anybody would want a guy like him on your team, because he's been that good this year.

Rios hopes his invitation to play for the White Sox lasts through 2014 and perhaps even 2015. He also knows the waiver claim was just part of the business of baseball.

(The waiver) is part of the game, part of the job, Rios said. I have had a great time here and hopefully I can keep enjoying the rest of my contract here.

White Sox Talk Podcast: How Sox fans are dealing with Cubs success


White Sox Talk Podcast: How Sox fans are dealing with Cubs success

In our next installment of the White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien is joined by Chris Kamka and Slavko Bekovic to discuss how White Sox fans are dealing with success on the North Side.

Later, White Sox fan and CSN producer Ryan McGuffey talks about his experience producing Cubs content. Finally, Cubs fan Nate Poppen shares his thoughts on Frank Kaminsky wearing a Steve Bartman jersey to the United Center before a Bulls-Hornets preseason game.

Check out the latest edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast here:

White Sox coaching staff will rely more heavily on statistics

White Sox coaching staff will rely more heavily on statistics

Statistical analysis will weigh more heavily on the White Sox coaching staff’s daily decisions after Joe McEwing was elevated to Rick Renteria’s bench coach on Friday.

McEwing -- whose influence led to a 957 percent increase in defensive shifts utilized from 2013-16 -- replaces Renteria, who was named the team’s new manager on Oct. 3 after Robin Ventura announced he wouldn’t return.

Former player development director Nick Capra replaces McEwing as third-base coach while Curt Hasler was promoted from minor-league pitching coordinator to replace bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen.

McEwing’s promotion is another sign the franchise will stress the use of statistical analysis when constructing its lineup, etc., a move Ventura suggested was in progress when he said the White Sox needed a new voice. Renteria likes how he worked with McEwing last season and suggested analysis would have a big impact on their day-to-day operations.

“All the information that is provided to us plays an important part in how we move forward,” Renteria said. “We look at outcomes, which are the statistical analysis aspects. But then we are also trying to stay ahead of the curve. We do a lot of video work, trying to see if guys are changing their approaches. In terms of the shifts, we did incorporate shifts, but we also did some modifications as was to be expected when you see guys changing approaches with two strikes and things of that nature or runners in scoring position -- all those different aspects that come into play.”

Similar to many organizations, the White Sox have drastically modified how they align themselves defensively over the past four seasons under McEwing and general manager Rick Hahn. According to FanGraphs, the White Sox went from being ranked 27th in shifts implemented in 2013 to ninth by 2014 with an increase from 102 to 588. The White Sox shifted 1,079 times last season and McEwing has been instrumental in that transformation, several team sources said. It’s reasonable to expect analysis will be used more often in lineup construction and game strategy under Renteria, too. He didn’t shy away from the use of statistical analysis when he managed on the other side of town in 2014, Cubs third-base coach Gary Jones said last week.

“It’s part of our daily preparation,” Jones said. “Rick is good with it as we are right now. It was definitely a part of the equation, no doubt.”

[RELATED: White Sox announce coaching staff changes] 

Renteria cited familiarity when asked why he didn’t go outside of the organization for coaching staff hires. McEwing has long been held in high regard within the franchise and interviewed for managerial openings in Houston and Texas in 2014. Renteria suggested McEwing’s work ethic -- and how he works -- had a big impact on his promotion.

“Having sat side by side (with McEwing) going over a lot of game reviews and studying the opposition and setting up defense, I got to know him quite well,” Renteria said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s in there early looking for anything that will give us an edge. His managing experience and coaching experience also allows him an opportunity to be able to serve me well.

“It’s a good fit. We both are kind of high energy. Joey might be a little higher energy than me and I didn’t think that was possible. He brings a lot to the table.”

The White Sox announced the rest of its staff -- first-base coach Daryl Boston, pitching coach Don Cooper, hitting coach Todd Steverson, assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks and bullpen catcher Mark Salas -- would return in 2017.