02/24/10 5:20 PM EST
Quentin, Rios hope to rebound in '10
Outfielders put injuries, poor performance out of mind
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Then again, it really isn't such an impossible task when those two players in question are Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios.
"I'll be well aware of it and Alex will, too. We'll embrace that," Quentin said on Wednesday.
"Once the games start going, we'll simplify it," Quentin said. "Go from at-bat to at-bat and look at situation to situation. It's something every player wants to have on their shoulders and be accountable to their team. It's a reflection of your team feeling like you have the potential to do it and that's a great thing."
Why are solid performances from Quentin and Rios so valuable, especially with the White Sox having worked hard in the offseason to fill trouble spots in the lineup? Quentin could serve as a major power source for a team missing the home run punch from last season with the departures of Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye.
Quentin also is coming back from a battle with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, limiting him to 99 games in 2009. Rios, meanwhile, joined the White Sox from Toronto through a waiver claim on Aug. 10 last season and an already subpar year for the talented outfielder turned disastrous when he dipped to .199 with three home runs and nine RBIs during his 41 games on the South Side.
Having Rios for a full season in Chicago, not to mention Rios knowing he will be the team's starting center fielder from the get-go, should help the 29-year-old have an easier adjustment period in his first full season.
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"It's a new start and a new year, so I think it's going to be more relaxed. I'm not going to have that many things going on in my mind so it's going to be a good year."
When asked what was going through his mind during last year's struggles, Rios smiled and said it would take days to break it down. With the Blue Jays, Rios was hitting .264 with 14 home runs and 62 RBIs -- not exactly bad numbers but not up to his career .281 form.
"Then, I got traded and I had a few more things in my mind," Rios said. "Right now, I don't have anything. I'm just going to start from zero."
In order to facilitate that on-field improvement, Rios worked privately with hitting coach Greg Walker during a few offseason sessions in Miami. Rios admitted to making too many changes in his batting stance when things went bad in 2009 and plans to use a slightly more crouched approach, which worked for him in the past.
"That's how I used to hit," Rios said. "When you start changing things, and you find out you're in a bigger hole when you keep changing things. I just want to keep it simple this year and keep doing what I was doing a few years ago and I think Walker saw it. So he's going to give me reminders and hints on what we're going to do."
As for Quentin, an American League Most Valuable Player Award candidate in 2008 before fracturing his right wrist at the start of September, he worked with a new training facility in Santa Barbara during the offseason to set up a plan to keep him in optimum condition for 2010. Quentin, 27, called it more functional training, focusing on a lot of rotational power and a lot of explosive movements, which he wasn't sure would be possible in the offseason.
"There was a lot of deep tissue work, a lot of scar adhesions being broken up," Quentin said. "Just a very extensive and specific system to evaluate my body and allow me to get better and to get the most flexibility. I'm really excited about it. I have a very specific plan to stay healthy and stay on the field."
Throughout the rest of Spring Training, Quentin will be asked about his left wrist and maybe even his right wrist, which had a wire removed during offseason surgery. It's a topic that figures to come up, even though Quentin said he felt great in all areas on Wednesday.
And Rios understands his 2009 struggles will be a topic of conversation until either he starts hitting again or he takes the topic off the table, especially with Rios owed $59.7 million through 2014. Neither player looked worried about handling the inquiries.
In fact, both were all smiles in Arizona and hope to be featuring that same demeanor for a championship White Sox team in October.
"I'm going to have to talk about it for a little bit," Rios said. "But I don't mind. It's part of the game. Like I said, it's a new year and I expect myself to have a good year and help the team win some games, and next year in Spring Training, we're going to talk about this past year, how good it was."
"Stay healthy and be out there every game I can," said Quentin of his 2010 plan. "At the end of the year, I'm looking for a great outcome and I think it will happen."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.