02/25/12 4:39 PM EST
Rios turns to video to reclaim offensive spark
White Sox center fielder looking to rebound from tough 2011
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Rios studied video of his swing and his approach from the 2006 and '07 seasons with the Blue Jays, which were part of a three-year stretch when Rios hit a combined .296 with 56 homers, 123 doubles, 246 RBIs and 273 runs scored. And what did the 31-year-old take from these sessions that can be applied to a 2012 comeback?
Well, that information might be released on a need-to-know basis as the upcoming season unfolds.
"Every time I talk about the good things that I'm working on, I feel like .... I'm very superstitious," said Rios, speaking to the media Saturday morning after reporting four days before White Sox position players officially are due. "Every time I say something, I feel like everything I've done goes away."
In perusing videos from '06 and '07, Rios made it clear that he wasn't trying to copy what worked for him five or six years ago. He simply is picking up things that might get him back to where he was before a dismal .227 showing with 13 homers and 44 RBIs in 2011.
That comeback trail already started blazing for Rios during September, when he hit .307 with five homers and 11 RBIs. But it was far too late to outweigh the seasonlong struggles.
His issues crept up at the outset, with Rios going hitless in 12 at-bats over the opening three-game series in Cleveland when the rest of the lineup was ripping the baseball.
"It was early in the year," said Rios as to when he could sense the funk starting. "I couldn't get out of it. It was a pretty disappointing year for me and for everybody, for the fans and everyone.
"I'm excited, and I'm very positive for this year. I don't have any doubts on my skills. I know that I can produce. It's just a matter of staying positive and not cluttering my mind with lots of things like mechanics and all the things that I was worrying about last year. It's just see the ball and hit the ball -- that's what I'm going to try to accomplish.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura agreed that a change in results can come from simply going back to a grass-roots philosophy espoused by Rios.
"Sometimes it's just that simple. You go through seasons where you just out-think yourself," said Ventura after Saturday's workout. "For him, it can happen. He's a talented kid. I'm really looking forward to him getting going. Sometimes it's just that. He comes in with a clear mind and thinks baseball."
Since that three-year blueprint of Rios' offensive excellence north of the border, he has been an on-one-year, off-one-year sort of performer. His .199 struggles with the White Sox in 2009 were well-documented after the team acquired him through a waiver claim, but Rios then fell just nine homers short in 2010 of becoming the first 30-30 player in White Sox history.
Spring Training 2010 began with a declaration from Rios that the open of '11 Spring Training would feature nothing but talk concerning his great bounce-back year. He was prophetic in that instance and hopes to have the same sort of luck in '12.
"Hopefully, we can talk about how good this year was," Rios said. "I had a good September. I was hitting the ball hard, and that's all I want to do.
"I want to hit the ball hard, and when you do that, good things happen. If I can bring September back to April, to the beginning of the season, it will be fine. I just want to be consistent and produce a lot of runs."
Much like Adam Dunn's approach to a comeback from a very forgettable previous campaign, Rios spent precious little time on Saturday talking about his 2011 shortcomings. He had an air of quiet confidence standing in front of his locker and refused to even acknowledge this upcoming campaign as a comeback.
The hope for Rios is the extra work put in and change in attitude pushes him back to a previously expected level of excellence.
"You know what, I know I can do it," Rios said. "It's not something I've had all my years were bad. I know I can still play and it will be normal. If I have a good year, it's something that I expect. It won't be a surprise.
"Playing like I played last year, having the year I had, it's tough. It makes the year longer. It makes everything miserable. I'm looking forward to a hot start and keep going to make things fun again."