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White Sox hitting coach believes in struggling Alex Rios

Alex Rios went 0-for-2 against Cubs dropping his batting average .214. | Mark Duncan~AP

Alex Rios went 0-for-2 against the Cubs, dropping his batting average to .214. | Mark Duncan~AP

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Updated: April 20, 2012 8:15AM

MESA, Ariz. — Reviews are mixed on how Alex Rios is looking at the plate.

The White Sox right fielder has one extra-base hit, a double, and after striking out and popping up to first base Sunday, his average is .214.

But hitting coach Jeff Manto believes Rios will produce if he continues to use the entire field. So when Rios makes an out to the right side of the field, Manto doesn’t mind.

“I really do like what I’m seeing,’’ Manto said Sunday. “He’s taken to it, and he understands that’s where he can get some big hits for us. He understands that he needs to use the big part of the field. If he continues this approach, I’m anticipating some good things.’’

Rios’ struggles last season have been well-documented. He batted .227, experimenting throughout the year with the position of his hands. This spring, he has them around shoulder level.

“That’s where he’s comfortable,’’ Manto said. “It’s hard to go tell a player to put your hands here. He has to have them where he feels comfortable.’’

Shuffling the deck

Gavin Floyd was scheduled to start against the Cubs, but he pitched five simulated innings against Sox hitters on a back field because of the threat of rain.

That gave Zach Stewart, who has a good chance to make the team as a reliever and spot starter, the start against the Cubs. He had one bad inning in which he gave up four consecutive singles and two runs. Stewart gave up six hits overall and struck out three in three innings.

While his focus is making good pitches and getting his work in, Stewart said making the team is always in the back of his mind.

“I hear rumors: There are three spots open, four spots, whatever it is,’’ Stewart said. “For the most part, I go out and do my thing every day to do what I have to do to be prepared for the season.’’

Viciedo’s job safe

Left fielder Dayan Viciedo went 0-for-2, dropping his average to .143 with 10 strikeouts, but manager Robin Ventura gave him a vote of confidence.

“No,’’ Ventura said when asked if he has concerns. “He’s looked better as far as what I’m seeing and the work he’s putting in. I’m happy with what he’s doing. He’s starting in the outfield on Opening Day.’’

Crain update

Right-hander Jesse Crain, who has a mild right oblique strain, will throw lightly Monday or Tuesday, Ventura said.

“He’s been with [trainer] Herm [Schneider], and Herm’s not worried about it, so I’m not worried about it,’’ Ventura said.

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