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Rios excited for pennant race with Sox

Rios excited for pennant race

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CHICAGO -- Alex Rios sat in the White Sox dugout, hours before Monday night's scheduled series opener with the Royals, flashing a broad smile as he spoke with the media.

That happiness certainly wasn't produced by Rios' 3-for-17 start as a member of the White Sox after the outfielder was claimed on waivers from Toronto last Monday. Instead, the 28-year-old simply is happy to be away from the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays atop the American League East and in contention for a postseason berth in the AL Central.

"It's something that I've never experienced, being in the playoffs, or being so close to being in the playoffs," Rios said. "So I think it's going to be a good experience for myself, my family, everybody.

"I'm looking forward to it. I'll be glad if we make it. It's going to be a great experience. I'm going to enjoy the whole thing."

Adding Rios seemed natural for general manager Ken Williams, aside from the remainder of Rios' seven-year, $69.835 million deal, starting in 2008, which came with him. Rios stands out as a bona fide five-tool talent, and he should benefit offensively by moving to the hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.

The only team issue is finding playing time for four outfielders, including Jermaine Dye, Carlos Quentin and Scott Podsednik, who all have earned their spots. With Jim Thome nursing a sore left heel, Podsednik moved to designated hitter and Quentin, Rios and Dye started from left to right on Monday.

Rios is most familiar with playing right field, but added how he enjoys playing center -- the location where he figures to get most of his time in Chicago. His quickness in center actually might take a bit of an adjustment for the individuals stationed around him.

"Defensively, we've had some issues, but I think our left fielder and right fielder are not used to having a guy getting on them as quickly as he does," said Williams of Rios' defense. "We might have to spread them out a little bit and go towards the lines more than we have the last couple of years, just to get him some freedom to roam. That's a good problem, makes us better.

"He's pressing a little bit, but he's a good player. Once he settles in, he'll be just fine."

As for the lineup alignment over the final 44 games of the season, manager Ozzie Guillen quipped as to how Rios should play every day because "he's making a lot of money." But Guillen has a simple way for any of his players to remain on the field.

"I told the players, 'If you want to play, I've never seen any manager in baseball bench anybody [who was] hitting,'" Guillen said. "'You want to play? You better start hitting.' I talked to them about it, I talked to a couple people about their situation. They have to understand my situation. My situation is to put the best lineup out there."

"What I've seen so far is that everybody is pretty good with it," Rios said. "I haven't heard anything or stuff like that. It's a tough situation, but I guess we've just got to deal with it, and try to make the team better and win games."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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