"I remember being told to pitch him very tough and carefully," said Thornton of the White Sox top force with the bat over the first two months of the 2010 season. "Don't leave anything over the plate with him. Pound him in and off the plate. If you walk him, you walk him."
Opposing pitchers didn't have to worry much about Rios when he first joined the White Sox last year, as he hit just .199 over 41 games. But the multitalented Rios has proven this season how those two months were the exception rather than the rule.
"Last year, he was in a slump and couldn't get out of it," said Thornton of Rios. "What he's doing now is pretty impressive."
Now, it's time for White Sox fans to take notice of Rios. The center fielder has played Gold Glove-caliber defense in center. He leads the White Sox with a .315 average, while knocking out 11 home runs and driving in 27. Rios has fanned just 21 times in 178 at-bats, and with 16 stolen bases, he's on pace to become the franchise's first 30-30 man in a single season.
Yet, Rios sits on the outside looking in of the top 15 vote-getters among American League outfielders in the second round of online voting, with the results released on Tuesday.
Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites using the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot sponsored by Sprint until July 1 at 10:59 p.m. CT. Sprint subscribers can now vote on the go with select Sprint devices. They can learn more about how to vote on their smart phones at MLB.com/Sprint.
Starting rosters will be announced during the 2010 All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS on July 4. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Sprint.
And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote sponsored by Sprint.
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.
Aside from Rios, the most deserving White Sox All-Star candidates come from their bullpen. Thornton carries a 1.59 ERA over 21 games and 22 2/3 innings, fanning 32, walking five and picking up two saves. Sergio Santos, the converted infielder who started pitching in the Minors just over one year ago, has made 19 scoreless appearances in 21 trips to the mound, producing a miniscule 0.93 ERA.
As setup men, though, Thornton isn't holding out much hope for selection to the Midsummer Classic to be played on Tuesday, July 13, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
"No, it hasn't crossed my mind one time," said Thornton, arguably one of the top relievers in the AL. "I know how it works, so it doesn't bother me.
"Starting pitchers and closers go to the All-Star Game, and setup men go every five years. It's one of those things where you get overlooked in that way. But your team appreciates the things you do, and you have to understand there are a lot of guys who deserve to go that don't go on every time in baseball."
In-stadium voting began at U.S. Cellular Field on May 3 and ends on June 23, the latest for any stadium in baseball.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less