Rios hoping to catch fire in familiar territory

Rios hoping to catch fire in familiar territory

TORONTO -- Alex Rios is hoping that the familiarity of Toronto's Rogers Centre -- where he played the first six and a half years of his career -- can help him break out of the slump that has dogged him all season.

The center fielder was hitting just .206 with four home runs and 13 RBIs entering Thursday. With 180 at-bats under his belt, Rios' batting average and on-base percentage (.265) are both second worst on the team among everyday players.

"I just don't feel comfortable at the plate," Rios said. "I'm not doing very well and I'm not pleased. But you're going to go through cycles like this. I'm just hoping to get out of this funk quick."

Rios has tried just about everything he can to break out and is hoping a return to Canada could be what finally turns the page. The Puerto Rican played his best years with the Blue Jays, hitting .288 over his first five Major League campaigns, including All-Star seasons in 2006 and 2007.

Rios was especially dangerous in '07, hitting .297 with 24 home runs and 85 RBIs while playing in all but one of Toronto's games.

"I still have plenty of good memories from this great town," Rios said before Thursday's series opener. "But it's just another team that we have to go out and beat."

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen thinks that Rios has been hurt by the simple flukes of baseball, like hitting line drives that fly directly into gloves or ground balls that don't find the hole.

The statistics back him up, as Rios' batting average on balls in play was just .213, which is significantly lower than the team average of .275.

"He went through some bad luck," Guillen said. "Not every day, but he has been hitting some pretty good balls that have been caught.

Designated hitter Adam Dunn is also in an extended slump, hitting just .191 with five home runs and 22 RBIS. He is also leading the Major Leagues in strikeouts going into Thursday's game with 61. The strikeouts are no surprise -- Dunn has led the leagues in whiffs three times in his career -- but typically the 31-year-old remedies that stat with high numbers in the home run and RBI columns.

Dunn has hit at least 38 home runs and 92 RBIs in each of his last seven seasons, but this year he's on pace for just 16 home runs and 69 RBIs.

"With no production from Dunn and Rios, it's going to be hard for us to compete," Guillen said. "I don't want to put pressure on those guys, but that's the truth. We can't rely on [first baseman Paul Konerko] and Carlos Quentin every night."