De Aza to return a champion

Alejandro De Aza will return to the Chicago White Sox spring training complex in Arizona this week with his head held high and a noticeable spring in his step.

De Aza helped the Dominican Republic to the World Baseball Classic championship on Tuesday, scoring a run in his team’s 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico at San Francisco’s AT&T Park.

On the other side of the same field, Alex Rios came so close to being a champion with Puerto Rico, but ultimately fell short. He also will return to camp with pride since Puerto Rico was not expected to advance as far as it did.

Neither De Aza nor Rios had a particularly productive WBC, but both were able to come through in high-profile spots.

De Aza, who batted .208 in the tournament with three RBIs, made some noise in the fifth inning of the championship game. He not only made an impressive running catch to deep center field in the top of the fifth, he delivered a bunt single and scored a run in the bottom of the inning.

Rios, who batted .179 in the tournament with two RBIs, did his best work in the semifinal game. Against Japan on Sunday his towering two-run home run was the difference in a victory over two-time defending champion Japan.

Assuming both De Aza and Rios are back in action with the White Sox by the weekend, they each will get at least a week and a half with their club before the start of the season.

Even when considering their play in the WBC, both players are probably a little behind in at-bats this spring. But nobody is as prepared as De Aza and Rios when it comes to pressure at-bats.

In the end, the tournament couldn’t have worked out better for either player, although Rios could probably think of a preferred scenario.