After all this time spent worrying about young White Sox pitchers having a handful of innings handed to their tab, and Alex Rios–the veteran of two World Baseball Classics, the 2012 White Sox Team MVP of sorts, Mark Gonzales’ 4th place vote for AL MVP–was set to be on the roster for Puerto Rico all along.
Of course, that selection is only a preliminary gesture. Rios could still opt out, and he’s been more or less off the grid, out of the country, and on radio silence since getting married in December.
Well, apparently he still answers his phone.
"Rios confirmed in a text message that he will play for Puerto Rico.–Mark Gonzales"
Besides Rios being a veteran who can’t be easily micromanaged in the same way as a prospect, and a position player, one thing that should remove worry about him playing in the World Baseball Classic is his career record. While Rios has been tremendously inconsistent, he’s always been there, being inconsistent–2006 was the last time he logged under 140 games in a season. He was ridden hard in 2012 for sure, but he’s rested, and proven to be trusted to get through baseball game without breaking a clavicle. This is a far cry from Carlos Quentin asking for approval to appear on Wipeout.
More pressingly, the WBC will allow for some reacquaintence with Rios’ swing. His smooth, gliding stroke whipped balls into the left field bleachers one minute and into the right-center gap the next during the summer months of 2012, was still a work in progress throughout for much of the season. There were the ugly portions of Spring Training as Rios tried to force a whole-field approach, there was the first month of the season where he had yet to tap into his pull power, and finally, to close the season, there was the longest stretch of effectiveness of Rios’ time in Chicago.
The temptation is to consider that the end of a linear story where Rios is fixed and hits happily ever after, but the past three seasons have taught us better. Rios will still just be a veteran working out the cobwebs by the time the WBC rolls around, but it will be interesting to see where his head is at when he steps to the plate. Also, his hands, feet, and hips.
To get ephemeral, I initially skimmed past Gonzales’ note confirming Rios’ attendance and wound up rifling through the outfielder’s twitter history to see if there was any indication of his intentions, and wound up coming across the goofiness of the pictures he sent out.
There’s a fond memory of him tweeting out a picture of a gash sustained making his famous slide into Omar Infante, reminding us of the hardworking nature he adapted in 2012…and then there’s a picture of him using a Garrett’s popcorn mug with a German-made coffee “system” that costs at least $2,000, is plugged into his water line, and is probably custom-installed. That serves to remind us that he’s a baseball player who has had a ton of money invested in him.
And yes, it appears that I Twitter-stalked Alex Rios and I can’t undo it.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan