05/21/08 8:10 PM ET
Rios working his way through slump
Gibbons not about to move slugger out of the No. 3 spot
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Not yet, anyway.
Gibbons intends on keeping Rios entrenched in the No. 3 spot of Toronto's order for now, despite the outfielder's recent struggles. Offensive issues or not, Rios is an important part of the Jays offense, and Gibbons believes the outfielder is due to break free from his ongoing dry spell.
"It's just a matter of time -- it's got to be," Gibbons said. "He's very important to us. He's a guy we're counting on."
Rios had been occupying the leadoff spot for the Jays, but slid back to the third slot after center fielder Vernon Wells broke his left wrist on May 9. Entering Wednesday's game against the Angels, Rios was batting .154 in nine games since moving into the No. 3 spot.
Over the past 18 games entering Wednesday, Rios has hit just .165 (13-for-79) with no home runs, only two RBIs, just three runs scored and 23 strikeouts. For the season, Rios sported a .253 average with three homers and 17 RBIs through 45 games for Toronto, which signed him to a six-year extension worth $64 million in April.
"He's never really struggled, if you think back, since he's been here, really," Gibbons said. "So just like anybody else, he's got to deal with that and learn how to deal with that and work your way through it."
Rios, who is a two-time American League All-Star, earned that payday because he's proved to be one of the Jays' most potent hitters over the past two seasons. Gibbons believes pitchers around the league are learning how to approach Rios, and the manager added that the outfielder needs to be more aggressive.
Gibbons said that's especially the case with pitches over the outer half of the strike zone.
"They know him a little bit more," Gibbons said. "That's why we're trying to get him to look out over the plate, because 90 percent of the game is pitched out there anyway. That's something we think, 'Hey, he's taking a lot of pitches out over the plate that he can do some damage on.'"
Gibbons noted that he doesn't intend on moving Rios down in the order just yet, and Toronto's skipper added that he's hesitant to move the outfielder up in the lineup as well. That's partly because Gibbons has liked slotting outfielder Brad Wilkerson and second baseman Aaron Hill in the Nos. 1-2 spots, respectively.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.