Game 79: Tampa Bay at Toronto pregame
As manager Cito Gaston promised, right fielder Alex Rios was back in the Blue Jays’ starting lineup for Tuesday’s tilt against Tampa Bay. For the second time in the past week, Gaston slid Rios down into the seventh spot of the batting order.
Gaston was asked if, at the beginning of the season, someone told him Rios would be hitting seventh before the All-Star break, what would the manager’s reaction be?
“I wouldve thought that’d be bad,” Gaston replied. “It’s someone that we really need to step up and play well. I would’ve thought, ‘Hey, that’s not good.’ We still need him to step up and play well and hopefully he will before it’s all over.”
Overall, Rios entered Tuesday batting .263 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs through 76 games for the Blue Jays this season. He opened the year as Toronto’s No. 3 hitter for 61 games before being moved down to the sixth hole for 14 contests. Over his last eight games, Rios has hit just .188.
Gaston still believes the talent is in there.
“He has as much as anyone on this ballclub,” Gaston said. “He’s probably as strong as anybody on this ballclub. He has a lot of talent. It’s just putting it all together.”
That’s been the story year in and year out with Rios. Loads of potential, flashes of his raw ability in spurts, but prolonged slumps during which he can look completely lost at the plate. As he has stated numerous times before, Gaston said he believes timing is the root of Rios’ issues at the plate.
“I still believe a lot of times he’s not ready,” Gaston said. “I say this all the time, guys when they don’t hit well they just don’t get ready in time. Also, you have to have an approach up there, too. You can’t hit every pitch that they throw up there. You’ve got to have a plan about what you want to do.
“Alex has got to take a plan up to the plate with him, whether he’s going to hit a fastball or he’s going to hit a breaking ball. Start looking for some of those pitches.”
OTHER ITEMS: On Tuesday, closer Scott Downs (sprained toe on his left foot) threw off a mound in a bullpen session for the first time since injurying his foot on June 16. Downs said the session went well, and the injury hasn’t negatively affected his mechanics, but he has yet to test his foot with running. That step will come in he next few days. Downs said he hopes to be ready to return during the coming road trip, maybe even as early as Friday, when he’s eligible to be activated. Gaston said the club might be more cautious, possibly giving Downs until after the All-Star break. … Catcher Rod Barajas, who has been dealing with a sore right hamstring, was out of the lineup on Tuesday. Gaston said Barajas and catcher Raul Chavez will alternate starts for the time being. … Jays draft pick Jake Eliopoulos (68th overall) from nearby Newmarket, Ontario, visited Rogers Centre and threw in the bullpen on Tuesday. He remains unsigned. … If you have any Jays questions, send them with your name and hometown to email@example.com. Thinking of rolling out a mailbag on Thursday, if I get enough quality Q’s from the fanbase.
1. B.J. Upton, CF
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Willy Aybar, 3B
4. Carlos Pena, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Pat Burrell, DH
7. Gabe Gross, RF
8. Jason Bartlett, SS
9. Dioner Navarro, C
Starter: RHP Matt Garza (5-5, 3.61)
1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Vernon Wells, CF
4. Scott Rolen, 3B
5. Adam Lind, DH
6. Lyle Overbay, 1B
7. Alex Rios, RF
8. Russ Adams, LF
9. Raul Chavez, C
Starter: RHP Scott Richmond (6-4, 3.68)
Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter: @MLBastian
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