09/06/08 12:40 PM ET
With Gaston's help, Rios has found form
Blue Jays slugger has raked since break thanks to adjustments
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
This time around, Rios has wielded a potent bat after the All-Star break, helping him move beyond a forgettable start to the season. With the help of a new coaching staff, and an important adjustment to Rios' swing, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston is hoping the outfielder can be more consistent come 2009.
"We'll see what happens with him next year," Gaston said. "I think this kid is going to get back to where he was before and be even better."
Rios said he's noticed a slight change since Gaston and hitting coach Gene Tenace joined the Blue Jays in June. Their approach is simple, but it's a style that Rios believes has given him the freedom to be more aggressive in the batter's box.
That theory is showing up in the box scores, which have included more home runs from Rios of late. Since Gaston and Tenace took over on June 20, Rios has hit at a .323 clip with 10 home runs, 26 doubles, five triples and 40 RBIs in 63 games. He was batting .270 with three homers and 27 RBIs in the season's first 71 tilts.
"They let us play -- that's a good thing about the whole staff," Rios said. "It's, 'If you see a good pitch to hit, just swing at it. Why not?' That's a good approach for me. ... I'm being aggressive, but in the strike zone. I don't want to be wild all over the place."
That was an issue early in the season for the 27-year-old Rios, who was handed a six-year extension worth $64 million in April. In the season's first half -- the time during which Rios has excelled throughout his career -- he hit .285 with just four home runs and 39 RBIs across 89 games for Toronto.
In the second half, Rios has hit .318 with a career-high nine homers after the break and 28 RBIs in 45 games. Over his past 20 games, Rios has hit .375 (33-for-88) with 18 extra-base hits, including five home runs, and 17 RBIs, with a .402 on-base percentage and a .727 slugging percentage.
In those 20 contests, Rios has had nine multi-hit games, including each of the past four games. On Friday night, Rios launched two home runs for his first multi-homer game since July 26. On Aug. 17, Rios had a five-hit game in a win over Boston, tying a big league record with four doubles in the game.
It's been an impressive stretch that had been aided by an improvement in Rios' mechanics. Gaston noted that Rios has had a tendency in the past to keep his weight shifted onto his back leg during his swing, instead of properly transferring the weight to his front side in order to generate more power.
"Gino is working with him," said Gaston, referring to Tenace, "and trying to get [Rios] to get off his back side a little bit, instead of falling back on that back side all the time. It's coming along pretty good. It's not bad."
Rios said it's been an issue he's fought throughout his career.
"I've tried to work on that since I got here," Rios said. "It's getting a little better. I'm just going to try to keep doing that and see what happens."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.