While it is still too early to get overly high or low on a player through 15 games and less than 50 at-bats, Rios has shown early signs he and his bat have turned the corner. And with Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and A.J. Pierzynski all in a groove at the plate leading up to Rios in the lineup’s six hole, Rios’ emergence has given the White Sox a formidable lineup so far this season.
A year ago, Rios’ average never exceeded .228. He started the season off slow and never was able to recover, finishing at .227. This season, he’s gotten off to a stronger start and has steadily built on it.
His average rose to .333 with a 3-for-4 performance on Sunday, which included a double, triple and three RBIs, against the Seattle Mariners.
"I’m just focusing on my approach right now,” Rios said. “I just want to swing at good pitches and have a good approach. Beside that, nothing else.
“I’m not trying to do anything extraordinary. That’s about it. I’m trying to keep everything simple.”
Sunday was Rios’ best game of the year, but he’s been consistent for much of the last two weeks. He extended his hitting streak Sunday to 10 games, which has included 14 hits in his last 36 at-bats. He also has three doubles and seven RBIs on the season.
“He’s been doing that the last 4-5 days,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said after Sunday’s game. “He’s been really steady in right field and looks good at the plate. He’s been covering a lot of different things. He’s not just hitting fastballs, but off-speed pitches. He’s kind of doing everything -- where he can pull the inside pitch go the other way on something away. It’s something he’s kind of been working on.
“He just looks very comfortable at the plate, confident.”
Another positive sign for Rios has been his hitting against right-handed pitchers. Last season, he had a .204 batting average against them. With three hits against the Mariners’ right-handed pitchers on Sunday, Rios’ average improved to .364 against righties this season.
Rios believed last week he was on the verge of becoming a more reliable hitter again. Following his first two-hit game of the season last Tuesday, Rios said he could feel his confidence growing, and he was getting to a point where he could stop thinking and just play.
That was apparent on Sunday.