Rios controlling where he stands
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org July 14, 2012 1:32AM
Sun-Times sportswriter Daryl Van Schouwen. January 27, 2012 | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: August 15, 2012 6:11AM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alex Rios is a standup guy.
After he and Adam Dunn struggled miserably last season, they arrived at spring training with no excuses, ready to work with new hitting coach Jeff Manto and get things fixed.
‘‘They took responsibility,’’ Manto said.
Rios, who ushered in the second half with a 411-foot home run and a double to the wall in his first at-bats after the All-Star break, is standing up at the plate, too. Much is made of his getting out of his crouch and switching to a more upright stance, but he and Manto say Rios’ turnaround stems from his approach, not his stance or mechanics.
‘‘The more we talked about hitting, the more he evolved into what you’re seeing today,’’ Manto said. ‘‘It was never ‘You should do this’ or ‘You should do that.’ It was an evolution of discussions. Now where he’s set up, it matches the approach that he has. For some time he had the right approach, but not the right stance for what he wanted to do.
‘‘He’s such a good player, and he watches. He knows what he’s doing. He knows exactly what his plan is, and he sticks with it.’’
Rios had a chance to tie the score in the ninth inning of the Sox’ marathon game against the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, but he flied to short center against Jonathan Broxton with the bases loaded and no outs. A.J. Pierzynski scored Kevin Youkilis on a single to right, but right fielder Jeff Francouer threw out pinch runner Orlando Hudson to keep the score tied.
With the game entering the 14th inning, tied at 8 after the Sox and Royals each scored a run in the 12th, each team had used nine pitchers.
Rios (13 homers, 50 RBI) is leading the AL in hitting since May 29. The two-time All-Star who had the numbers to be one but wasn’t this week, batted .227 with 13 homers and 44 RBI last year.
‘‘I knew something was wrong last year, but I was focusing on things that I didn’t have to focus on,’’ Rios said. ‘‘I put too much effort on things that I don’t have to, like mechanics. That was my whole fight.’’
Fighting to keep the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers — who won Friday — at arm’s length, the Sox handed standout rookie Jose Quintana a 3-0 lead in the first on 400-plus-foot homers by Dunn and Rios. Quintana, who entered with a 2.04 ERA, gave up eight hits, including homers to Mike Moustakas and Jeff Francouer on 1-2 counts, lasted five innings but left with a 6-5 lead thanks to a two-out, three-run homer by Dayan Viciedo off lefty starter Bruce Chen in the fifth.
Dunn led off the inning with a single and Pierzynski kept it going with a two-out single.
The Sox opened an important 11-game road trip that continues with four games in Boston and concludes next weekend with three in Detroit. Manager Robin Ventura, a proponent all season of infield practice before each series, worked his team out hours before Friday’s game to open the second half.
‘‘They might have been sitting on a couch for a while,’’ Ventura said. “Four days is a long time, and if you are not prepared to feel that same urgency of effort and everything else, then you kind of start going in the wrong direction. It’s more about getting out here and making sure the mind-set is right and then just play.’’
Rios didn’t look at the break as a pause but rather a ‘‘continuation.’’
‘‘To tell you the truth, I’m just focusing on my approach,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not looking at my mechanics. I don’t even want to think about mechanics, or how I’m standing or anything.’’
Sports editor’s note: The White Sox-Royals game ended too late for this edition. For late scores, please go to suntimes.com/sports .