CHICAGO -- The message might have been sent to Alex Rios, but on Saturday it looked as if everybody had received it loud and clear.
A day after Rios was benched for a lack of hustle, the entire Chicago White Sox team had a renewed energy about it. Rios had a grand slam among his three hits and drove in five runs, Alejandro De Aza added four hits out of the leadoff spot and rookie Josh Phegley had two doubles among his three hits in a 10-6 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
Afterward, neither manager Robin Ventura nor Rios himself wanted to make the connection from Friday’s discipline to his spirited effort a day later.
“I go about my business the same way every day,” Rios said. “It doesn’t matter what happens the day before or whatever. I try to do the same things every day and try to put forth my best performance.”
For Ventura, the benching was never about getting more out of a key member in the middle of the order. He saw complacency and dealt with it, for the sake of the team. The production that came from Rios was a bonus.
“I don’t think that was it,” Ventura said when asked if Rios was motivated. “The other day he was 6-for-6, so there’s nothing going on there. He’s just a good player, and he had a good day. He came up at the right times and hit a grand slam and got some big hits to help us win. I don’t think it had anything to do with last night because he’s a good player and it’s been proven before.”
It didn’t hurt the White Sox’s offense that Braves starter Paul Maholm seemed to be pitching while injured, leaving after three-plus innings with a sprained left wrist.
Chicago jumped on the former Pirates and Cubs pitcher, erasing an early 4-0 lead with seven runs on seven hits. But when the White Sox continued the attack with two more runs off reliever David Carpenter, the day appeared to be more about the bounce in their step than anything they were given from an injured pitcher.
“It has been a while since I’ve hit the ball hard, but you know what, today was a good game,” Rios said. “It got my confidence a little up. Hopefully, I can keep doing what I did today. What I try to do is try to be consistent at hitting the ball hard. I don’t mind about the results. If you hit the ball hard, you have a chance of doing good things throughout the season.”
It could also get him into another uniform before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline as the White Sox look to move established veterans for young talent.
“You know what, with trade rumors, I just don’t like to speak about them,” Rios said. “They are just rumors. Until it happens, I’ll just stick to the idea that they are just rumors. If it happens, we can talk about it.”