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Alex Rios could be backed into a corner in White Sox lineup

With emergence Alejandro De AzAlex Rios might be move White Sox batting order outfield. | Getty Images

With the emergence of Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios might be on the move in the White Sox batting order and outfield. | Getty Images

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Updated: January 27, 2012 11:19AM

Alejandro De Aza was the White Sox’ best center fielder last season, hands down. He got good jumps, took good angles to fly balls in the gaps and played the position with some life.

Alex Rios, on the other hand, took a step back not only with his bat but in the field, as well. And we’re not talking about how he played so deep in center. It was a curious development for a center fielder who has been an adequate glove man for most of his career.

So it comes as no surprise that manager Robin Ventura and general manager Ken Williams have been talking up De Aza as a leadoff man and center fielder. Ventura said Thursday that Rios could see time in left field -- no surprise there, either.

“As of now he could be moving to left field, he could be in center. We don’t have concrete plans. I know I will want him to play. He’s a talented kid and when we get going I want him to be in the middle of it. He’s a talent that hopefully will show this year.’’

Rios, who is signed through 2014, is playing on a seven-year, $69.84 million contract. He batted .227 with 13 homers in 44 RBI in 537 at-bats. His recent history is bouncing back after bad years. Ventura’s fingers are crossed.

“When I had a year that I didn’t feel was my best I felt obligated in the offseason to do things differently and try things,’’ Ventura said. “You come in with a different mindset than in other years. These guys are competitors.

“It can make guys press. But there seems to be a feeling that they can prove last year was an aberration. Going into spring training there is motivation in that direction and I like that.’’

Rios never recovered from a tough-luck start when he hit into a lot of hard-hit outs. Frustration set in. And he seemed to take it with him in the field.

“Rios never looked ready to throw,’’ an American League scout said. “He was stylish, so safe and so sure, playing not to make a mistake.’’

Rios, who turns 31 in September, did show signs in September that he can still hit, going 23-for-75 (.307) with an .875 OPS, with five homers, 11 RBI and 12 runs scored. Granted, the games didn’t matter much, but it beat the alternative.

De Aza played in 54 games after his mid-season callup, batting .327 with four homers, 23 RBI and 29 runs scored. He stole 12 bases in 17 attempts. He had 11 doubles and a .400 on-base percentage.

“Alejandro De Aza played his tail off as far as I’m concerned,’’ general manager Ken Williams said. “Did you watch him? He’s pretty good.’’

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