Rios longs for the old ways

Rios longs for the old ways
He missed doing this // Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

In the 4th inning Wednesday night, Alex Rios ripped a line-drive into the left field bullpen for his first home run since the second game of the season.

It was the sort of pull-power to left field Rios hasn't shown since September of 2011, when he hit five home runs in the final month of an awful year.

Prior to the game, Rios expressed to Scott Merkin a longing to get back to his old power-hitting ways.  He hit 21 HR in 2010, after all.

"I'm not driving the ball the way I wanted, and I couldn't tell you why that's not happening," Rios said. "I've been concerned a little bit about my home runs and extra base hits."

Even with Wednesday's blast, Rios' isolated power is worse than even last year's mark, and his .386 slugging percentage is hardly what you look for from a corner outfielder.

It's still a lot better than last year, when he hit .227/.265/.348.

Which is sort of the whole point.

Rios might not be happy with his power numbers, but him looking for balls to mash to left field distended itself into the worst approach in baseball last year.  Rios looked to pull everything into the left field bullpen, pitchers worked him away, and in turn, he rolled over and grounded everything to the opposing shortstop.

So while it's understandable--inevitable, even--that he looks at his current production and sees that flaw, there's a cringe reflex at this kind of statement:

"The reason I started looking to hit the ball the other way was to stay more closed with my stance," Rios said. "I'm a guy that usually, I open up a lot with my shoulders and my upper body. I was just trying to stay away from that. It helped me a little bit, but not in a way I really wanted."

Rios' transformation into a singles-hitter upon adjusting to balls on the outer half only underscores his struggles to strike a balance, which will be his biggest challenge as he tries to reclaim his power stroke.

By all means he needs to get himself in a position to turn on pitches on the inner-half, but the emphasis he's put on staying closed has helped, perhaps not in the way he intended, but in a way that shouldn't be cast aside.

Rios almost has to try to work to get back to the player he once was, but the risk is there, and we've seen how bad it can get.

 

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