Jays’ Rios still ironing out swing

Alex Rios has struggled at the plate during the early part of 2009, and Jays manager Cito Gaston will not deny that.

“His mechanics are a mess right now,” Gaston told reporters on the weekend. “He’s staying back on his back foot and not getting around. It’s also a matter of pitch selection. Geno (hitting coach Gene Tenace) and I have talked to him about it and we’ll continue to. It just has to kick in, and some guys go all year without that happening. Hopefully, that’s not what we’ll see with him.”

There’s a reason Rios is in the No. 3 spot in the lineup – Gaston & Co. think he’s the best all-around hitter on the club, and traditionally that’s exactly where you slot your best hitter. But it’s been a rough first six weeks for the 28-year-old, no longer a prospect but a veteran.

Through 34 games in 2009, Rios is hitting just .255 overall, second-to-lowest among Blue Jay regulars next to 21-year-old rookie Travis Snider (.250). Rios, who has just three home runs and 18 RBIs, has also struck out 29 times compared with just 11 walks. 

Coincidentally, he’s not alone with his struggles when it comes to his American League counterparts in the No. 3 spot. In fact, Rios currently sits about middle of the pack. Evan Longoria (.358, 11 HR, 44 RBI), Victor Martinez (.376, 6, 19) and Nick Markakis (.352, 6, 30) are mashing the ball, but David Ortiz (.224, 0, 14), Jason Giambi (.211, 3, 13) and Magglio Ordonez (.242 2, 12) have had slow starts just like Rios.

But that’s little consolation for Jays fans and their manager. Still, Gaston isn’t about to make a move just yet.

“He’s probably the most talented player on our team and he could carry us if he starts to come around. But he hasn’t yet.”

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