Plan for Rios in '12 is to stick with one stance

Plan for Rios in '12 is to stick with one stance

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The secret to Alex Rios' success at the plate ultimately might have nothing to do with a move back to right field or even focusing on hitting the ball up the middle and the opposite way.

Those factors certainly will contribute, but the 31-year-old veteran has a simple approach he hopes to stick with throughout the good times and bad times of the entire 2012 campaign.

"Stay the same and be positive," Rios said. "That's all I'm going to do."

Having a positive outlook from start to finish is self-explanatory. The staying the same part, though, deals with Rios' batting stance.

During his forgettable 2011 campaign, when he hit .227 with just 13 homers, 44 RBIs and 64 runs scored, Rios altered his stance at the plate so frequently that he couldn't present an exact count when asked recently. All he tried to do was find something where he could get comfortable and where he found a little bit of consistency.

Now, Rios employs a stance that seems to fit best, which was the culmination of an extended search process beginning with offseason video studies of previous standout years to incorporate into the present.

In Wednesday afternoon's game against the Padres at Camelback Ranch, Rios faced Edinson Volquez with his legs spread shoulder width apart, his hands back and just above mid-chest height and in a slight crouch.

"It's kind of like in 2010, when my hands were a little lower and I was crouched a little bit," said Rios, who hit .284 with 21 homers and 88 RBIs to go with 34 stolen bases that season. "So that's where I'm trying to stay the whole year. That's how I feel strong and comfortable.

"When you do constant changes like that, you never feel comfortable in one spot. You are always searching, and when you are searching, you don't focus on your approach. And it's like a chain reaction. Everything piles up, and when you look back, it's too much. Just too much to handle.

"I don't want to go back to the changes," Rios said. "I know that doesn't work. I'm going to stick to it this year and be positive. That's the only thing I can do, stay positive and have a good approach at the plate."

As for that positive outlook, it's really difficult to hold such a mental state when you are struggling throughout the season like Rios did in 2011. Rios is a good-natured, low-key individual, but there were moments last year where he let the frustration of failure overwhelm him.

For the most part, he internalized the disappointment. That feeling is not something Rios wants to deal with again anytime in the near future.

"Yeah, it's not a situation where you want to be," Rios said. "I wouldn't wish that to anyone. It's a bad spot to be, where nothing works out for you. So it was frustrating, and it's not an excuse, but it doesn't make it easier to play like that.

"I've made some progress from last year," said Rios, referring back to his offensive game. "I finally found a spot where I want to be, mechanics-wise. I'm just working on my approach. I was swinging at bad pitches and I was chasing pitches out of the strike zone, but I'm trying to fine tune that right now and from there, I go."

According to White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Rios is not alone in his stance changes when times get tough. It's not just about switching approaches for this superstitious world of trying to make contact.

"You literally try anything as a hitter when you are struggling," Pierzynski said. "New stance, new bats, new batting gloves, new shoes, new jerseys. Everything.

"It's just the way hitting is. It's probably the hardest thing to do in sports, so hard that when things are going bad, you feel like starting your day over. You try whatever you can literally come up with, you'll do it. It might not help, but you get a hit doing something different and you think that it helps so you do it again."

San Diego's 13-2 victory featured four plate appearances for Rios, and while he was hitless in three to drop his Cactus League average to .229, he didn't change his approach. The White Sox actually hope the only thing changing for Rios in 2012 are his on-field results.

"He's huge. We need him and [Adam] Dunn both to have good years," said Pierzynski. "Alex is a guy who can hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases and play great defense and drive in big runs. He's done it all. He is a guy we need, and we need him to be right and feel good. He looks great this spring."

"Going through that many stances, it gets to a point where you don't even know how to go to the basics," Rios said. "And that's the worst part of it. So that's why I'm going to stick to this stance no matter what happens."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.