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White Sox Wed Feb 27 2013

Alex Rios Can Reinvent Image With Strong 2013 Season

Sox_200.pngIn sports, long-standing reputations can be changed in what feels like an instant. LeBron James is no longer thought of as a choker after his first title, and Mike Tyson's lunacy is considered quirky instead of disturbing after recent success outside of the ring. Even the Blackhawks underwent a transformation from a lame ticket to a hot ticket in only half a decade.

Alex Rios is in a position to flip his reputation, too.

The outfielder, before last year, was thought to be mediocre, overpaid and one of the league's worst contracts. Before the 2008 season, Rios signed a seven-year deal worth nearly $70 million and declined so badly in 2009 that Toronto waived him. The Sox claimed him and were criticized for it. Rios is typically solid in even-numbered years but subpar in odd-numbered years (for whatever reason), leading to disappointment among fans and management with the expensive and inconsistent right fielder.

In 2012 though, Rios had his finest year as a pro. He hit .304, had an .850 OPS and slugged a career-high 25 homers and 91 RBIs. He had a 4.2 WAR, 15th among position players in the AL. Rios attributes his success to altered mechanics in his stance at the plate. He stood more upright in the batter's box and kept his hands away from his body.

He was a big factor in every facet of the game: he hit for power and average, fielded well and was quick on the basepaths. While other Sox players like Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and AJ Pierzynski had streaky seasons, getting hot for a few weeks to a month and then cooling down, Rios played well all season.

Rios can keep it going in 2013. One way to prove this is to look at Rios' second half stats from last year. He had a line of .289/.315/.509 and hit 13 home runs. Among Sox regulars, Rios had the highest OPS -- by far - post all-star break.

The Sox believe in Rios, bumping him up to third in the batting order (Dunn shifts to fifth). With continued success in 2013, Rios can go from being tagged as inconsistent to being recognized as the rock of the Sox lineup.

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