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Toronto venom has fueled Alex Rios' game with Royals in ALCS

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Rios: 'My approach at the plate was good' (1:38)

Royals right fielder Alex Rios describes his success in Game 4 of the ALCS where he had three hits, including a solo home run. (1:38)

TORONTO -- When he was a teenaged minor-league prospect, Alex Rios no doubt dreamed of a playoff series like the one unfolding in Toronto, but he couldn't have predicted the route he'd take to find himself in his current circumstances.

A former first-round draft pick and top prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization, Rios is having the time of his life roaming the Rogers Centre outfield in a Kansas City Royals uniform this week, soaking in plenty of attention from the home fans.

The attention is mostly negative, of course, coming from Blue Jays fans who remember the huge potential Rios showed and the fat, seven-year contract worth nearly $70 million he signed as the 2008 season was beginning.

A year later, the Blue Jays let that contract flutter out of the window and off the books when the Chicago White Sox made a late-season waiver claim on Rios and the Toronto front office declined to block it.

If the Blue Jays and their fans figured they were done with Rios that day, well, the 2015 American League Championship Series is writing a different story.

Despite hitting ninth in the Royals' batting order, Rios has produced like a guy much further up the line. He offered three hits to the Royals' cause in Game 4 on Tuesday, one of which was a second-inning home run that further built an early lead.

To his credit, Rios has shrugged off the venom he has received from fans who once spent six seasons trying to lift his spirits.

“You know what? It doesn't make any difference,” Rios said. “I think this is a team that we have to go out and beat. … I played here, I have great memories from when I was here. But it's just another team that we have to go out and beat. So that's what we're focusing on.”

Yet it's more than just a triumphant return to Toronto that has made Rios’ season one to savor. He has battled several issues, from a broken bone in his left hand to a case of chicken pox. He missed all but one day in May because of the hand and was out in early September because of the chicken pox.

He didn’t necessarily close the season all that strong, batting .259 in September with a .424 slugging percentage, but he has managed to hit well in the playoffs. He is batting .296 with a .481 slugging percentage in nine playoff games so far, and hit for .308 average and .538 slugging in the ALCS.

“You feel really good because you know how hard Alex has worked to get to this point this year, with the broken hand and the chicken pox,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He's never stopped working hard to get to the playoffs, and in his first time in the playoffs he's doing extremely well.”

Yost said he predicted a good game from Rios on Tuesday. But he also admitted that he had his doubts that Rios would be able to push through his physical issues -- at least until Yost decided to think positively.

“You just keep watching them work, you keep watching them in practice and you see a lot of good things,” Yost said. “And you know that if he can get his timing, that's going to transition into the game. He's a professional. He's been a professional for a long time. He doesn't panic in at-bats. There's a lot of good things about his game that allows you to have patience with him.”

As for those fans in Toronto who have been giving him a hard time, Rios doesn’t consider it a personal slight but a team challenge, just like everything else he has come across in his first postseason.

“We're used to that kind of noise,” Rios said. “We got pretty good crowds at home, and we're used to that kind of noise. And the louder it gets at the end, it's just noise. You can't really tell what they're saying or what they're trying to say. But we're used to that kind of ambiance.”