TORONTO - After two frustrating years, Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams has come to the same conclusion as the Blue Jays before him: Alex Rios is a dud.
On the same day he traded to get Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart from Toronto, Williams called up Alejandro De Aza from triple-A Charlotte and manager Ozzie Guillen made him his centre fielder, dismissing Rios to the bench. The kid immediately hit a two-run homer, all of Chicago’s runs in a 2-1 victory over the Tigers.
Rios, who is being paid $12 million this year and has $37 million remaining on the contract he signed while with the Jays, is hitting .208 with a .555 OPS. In the month of July, he is 12-for-72 with three extra-base hits, no homers, three RBIs and an OPS of .397.
“Rios is going to have to take a back seat,” Williams said. “We are going to see if De Aza can give us a little bit of a spark and provide us a way to manufacture some runs.”
The matter of Rios’ salary will be a non-issue, Williams said.
“Here’s what I told Ozzie: ‘Do not worry about the size of the contracts. Just worry about putting the players out there on a given day that can win.’ The size of the contract is not Ozzie’s problem. It’s not Jerry’s (team owner Jerry Reinsdorf) problem. It’s not the coaches’ problem. That’s my problem,” said Williams.
“Put the players on the field that can win. I don’t give a darn if one guy is making $400,000 and the other guy is making $12 million.”
TWINS GAINING BELIEVERS
Could the Minnesota Twins fashion a rally for the ages and win their third consecutive American League Central title?
Heading into this weekend, with two months and 57 games left in the schedule, they have that chance.
The Twins started this season with a raft of key injuries and a torrent of losses that left them at 17-37 on June 1, 16.5 games behind the first-place Indians. Since then, the Indians have wilted and the Twins have won 32 of 51 games to sit six games behind the now division-leading Tigers.
Most, but not all of their injured players — including catcher Joe Mauer — have returned and they have by far the best record in the division in the past two months.
The largest deficit ever overcome was by the 1914 Boston Braves, who were 15 games back and won the NL pennant. The 1978 Yankees trailed the Red Sox by 14 games in July and won that division title on the season’s final day.
The Twins will have plenty of chances to move up with 33 of their 57 remaining games against division rivals.
MARINERS FINALLY WIN ONE
It took three full months for the Seattle Mariners to grind out a .500 record and earn some goodwill with their long-suffering fans.
Then it took exactly three weeks to squander it all.
On July 6, the Mariners went to the ballpark in Oakland in a decent frame of mind, having won the first two of four games with the A’s to sit a game under .500 and, more importantly, just 2.5 games behind the Texas Rangers for the AL West lead.
Twenty-one days later, they won a ballgame. In between, they lost 17 in a row. They lost early and they lost late. They lost just about every way you can lose. They were outscored 101-44, outhit .294 to .218. They averaged about 2.5 runs on offence and gave up six runs on defence.
They broke the streak Wednesday on the final day of a road trip from hell with Felix Hernandez on the mound at Yankee Stadium of all places, beating the mighty Yankees 9-2.
“It means everything right now,” manager Eric Wedge said of ending the streak. “These guys haven’t felt good in a very long time. We’ve got a long flight and an off-day (Thursday), and this is a real big win for us. When you’ve got a monkey on your back that size, it’s damn hard to get it off.”
During the streak, they went from a hopeful 2.5 games out to a hopeless 15.5 games out.
'DOES HE EVER MAKE A MISTAKE?'
Now there’s something you don’t see every day. Thursday afternoon, Scott Downs gave up two hits, including a home run, in one inning.
What makes that exceptional is that the former Jays’ reliever, now with the Angels, hadn’t given up two hits in an inning in about six weeks. Overall, Downs has worked 36 1/3 innings in 40 games, allowed 22 hits, eight walks and five earned runs, stranding 19 of 21 inherited baserunners.
“When he pitched against us, you’d look at the radar-gun readings and you’re thinking, ‘My gosh, does he ever make a mistake?’” manager Mike Scioscia said.
“I don’t know if there’s a reliever we’ve seen who is pitching with the consistency of Scott.”
BLUE JAY BLOWN SAVES
A lot of people have latched onto the fact the Blue Jays have 17 blown saves and thus have catastrophic bullpen problems. Yes, 17 blown saves puts them in the bottom third of major-league baseball, but they have some illustrious company, so you have to question the blown save as a measure of bottom line failure.
The Texas Rangers have 15 blown saves and lead the AL West standings. The Los Angeles Angels, two games back of Texas, have 18 blown saves. The contending St. Louis Cardinals have 19 blown saves. The Atlanta Braves are comfortably holding onto the NL wild card spot despite 15 blown saves.
The Jays’ 17 blown saves occurred in 15 games. They won five of those games, including one on May 10 when they blew the save twice, yet still pulled it out.
Rather than spend millions on risky closers, the best way to avoid blown saves is to have starters who routinely go seven, eight or nine innings, like the Phillies who have blown only three saves all year.