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Alex Rios has been having the kind of start he desperately needed, and finally, the numbers are starting to show it.
Forget the two-run walk-off homer. Scratch that — don’t forget it. Relish the bejeezus out of it. But just remember what he did on the other three at-bats on Saturday afternoon:
- A well-struck liner flagged down by Ichiro Suzuki in right.
- A ripped single to center.
- A ripped single to center.
Doug Fister made a lot of guys look feeble throughout the day. Maybe the combination of his 6-foot-8-ness and his below-average velocity threw hitters off. Gordon Beckham faced the Sox dugout after every one of his swings early on. Carlos Quentin was in-between until David Aardsma came in.
He couldn’t fool Rios, and it goes without saying that Aardsma didn’t, either.
After his mighty blast, he’s hitting .281/.333/.516, which is great. Better yet, that’s about in line with his BABIP, which is finally league-average. He’s stolen four bases, and showed off his wheels when he stretched a double into a triple, which became an inside-the-park homer after he forced a throwing error. He’s been thrown out twice, but both have been on blown hit-and-runs (unless Mark Teahen wasn’t supposed to swing at a fastball down the middle for strike three).
He’s only had one indefensible moment — when he lost track of the defense and senselessly ran into a double play against the Twins. Otherwise, his approach has beyond reproach thus far.
The first step in the Rios Acceptance Plan was all his responsibility. He pretty much had to prove immediately that he wasn’t the absolute zero that bummed everybody out over the last two months of 2009. With one signature offensive moment and defensive moment under his belt and above-average production that’s ahead of most of his teammates, he’s made the necessary second first impression. It also helps that he looks different doing so.
Part two is for everybody else to prepare for one really down month. It’s kind of his calling card, the thing that brings down his overall numbers and makes people wonder why he hasn’t had that one great season.
When that slump rolls around, remember his defense. He’s made everything look easy so far, especially between Juan Pierre’s wall issues (and it seems like this has calmed down) and Quentin’s bucket feet. Unless he brings back the unforgivable drop, this should keep his value afloat when the bat disappears — provided it’s not for an unusually long duration.
For now, it appears the Sox have themselves a center fielder. Enjoy it while it lasts — which may be longer than a lot of people think.
Minor league roundup:
- Norfolk 4, Charlotte 2
- Better outing for Carlos Torres: 7 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 2 HR.
- Jordan Danks and Tyler Flowers went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts against Jake Arrieta, who has allowed just one earned run over 25 innings thus far.
- Dayan Viciedo went 1-for-4 with a K; C.J. Retherford went 1-for-3 with a K.
- Wilmington 7, Winston-Salem 3
- Justin Edwards allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks over six innings, striking out four.
- Dan Remenowsky gave up two runs on three hits (one homer) and a walk over 1 1/3 innings. He struck out three.
- Kenny Williams went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, but struck out twice and was caught stealing.
- Brandon Short’s hitting streak is at 13 games with two singles.
- Jon Gilmore went 1-for-4 with his fifth error; Eduardo Escobar went 1-for-3 with his third error.
- Birmingham at Tennessee PPD
- West Virginia at Kannapolis PPD