Alex Rios begins his first series in front of home fans at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Tuesday night as the Milwaukee Brewers come to town for a two-game interleague set.
The new Texas right fielder now has played three games in the Ranger red, white, and blue. And his favorite thing about his new club is the energy.
“It’s been great, it’s a clubhouse with a lot of energy, and that’s how a team should be,” Rios said. “They have a lot of energy and a desire to win. It’s a good thing for me and it’s a good thing for the ball club.”
Rios came from the Chicago White Sox, who entered Tuesday in last place in the AL Central, 24 games out of first place. Joining a Rangers club that sits in first in the AL West and is riding an eight-game winning streak is a welcome sight for the 32-year-old outfielder.
“It’s very exciting. As you know I came from a team that didn’t have much of a chance to [make the playoffs] to a team that has a pretty good chance to do it as a first place, contending team. It’s exciting and I’m very happy to be here,” he said.
But the arrival of Rios in Texas doesn’t only spark a mutualistic relationship between a proven major league slugger and a contending team.
It also marks a reunion with two former teammates.
Rios played with catcher A.J. Pierzynski in Chicago for four full seasons and part of a fifth, and was a teammate of Ranger reliever Jason Frasor for over five seasons in Toronto.
Rios spoke highly of Pierzynski and the relationship the two were able to build in Chicago. The two were teammates from 2009 to 2012.
“We built a pretty good [relationship],” he said. “We talked a lot about baseball and non-baseball related stuff. It’s good to have him back.”
Having a relationship with a former teammate, especially one with experience and knowledge of the game like Pierzynski, is comforting for Rios as he transitions to his new club. But Rios still expected a little difficulty switching teams at this point in the season.
“Even though I know him, and I didn’t know the other guys, the transition wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. They have welcomed me with open arms and I feel like I’ve been here forever now,” Rios said.
Pierzynski was ejected from Monday’s game for debating a strike call from home plate umpire Ron Kulpa that resulted in the first baserunner allowed by Darvish, ending his perfect-game bid. Rios said, however, that A.J. was simply standing up for his teammate.
“He obviously wanted the best for Darvish. He thought it was the wrong call and he stood up for it,” Rios said. “He does that. I’ve seen it as his teammate in Chicago, too. He’s a great guy.”
Most importantly, Pierzynski goes out every night and gives it his all, which is what you look for in a player, Rios said.
And the feeling is mutual between Rios and his teammates. Jason Frasor, who was called up to the Toronto Blue Jays in the same year as Rios, was asked what his favorite thing about Rios was.
“That he plays good defense,” Frasor said with a wink. “No, he’s a good dude. His teammates will love him, the media will love him. He’s easy to get along with.”
Frasor noted that his wife and Rios’s wife are also friends.
It didn’t take long for the Rangers to see what Rios could do on the field, including that good defense to which Frasor alluded.
Rios showcased his ability at the plate, on the base paths and in the outfield as he started 4-for-7 with a double and two RBIs in his first two games. He scored the game-winning run in a 5-4 victory in his Ranger debut. Rios also added an outfield assist in the first inning of his second game with Texas.
But his new manager has been pleased with Rios’s attitude as well. When asked what he’s seen off the field, Ron Washington’s answer was simple.
“Smiles on his face, and that’s enough for me,” Washington said. “He’s happy where he is.”
Having legitimate playoff hopes could do that for a 12-year major league veteran, one could guess. Rios said it helps motivate him to make plays and help a team win, being on a team with the energy and desire to win Rios has seen in these Rangers.
Rios even took to twitter (@arios51) after Sunday’s game in Houston, commending his team’s attitude in the midst of what was, at the time, a seven-game win streak.
“The energy this team has is off the charts. Wow! #Rangers,” the tweet read.
It should also be noted that, about eight hours before Tuesday’s game, Rios tweeted that he had “the worst cup of coffee ever.” But he was optimistic about that as well, saying, “Bad coffee is better than no coffee.”
Through four days in Texas, it appears Rios’s glass is half-full, no matter what it’s filled with.
Hopefully the bad coffee doesn’t slow him down.