Alex Rios stood in front of his locker, legs wide, bat raised above his head. Teammate Marco Scutaro stood a few feet distant, offering his thoughts in Spanish. Rios pointed at his legs, his stance, indicated his arms, dropped his elbow a bit.
Scutaro shrugged and didn’t say much. The impromptu hitting consultation lasted only a few seconds.
Rios didn’t look satisfied with the results.
After a painfully slow start to the year, the two-time all-star is looking for help wherever he can.
Asked later what he thinks is causing his early season struggles, Rios seemed bewildered.
“I have no clue,” Rios said.
He talked about his missing swing like it was a lost dog: “If I knew where it was, I’d just go get it.”
The right-fielder is in the midst of the worst extended slump of his career. Over the last 15 games, he has gone 10-for-66. More ominously, his power has dried up completely. All but two of those hits are singles and he hasn’t hit a home run since May 1.
Rios isn’t the only one. Asked over the weekend to name the hitters he feel are at or reaching potential, manager John Gibbons quickly spat out Scott Rolen’s name. A few seconds later, he added that Aaron Hill and Lyle Overbay are “starting to show some signs of life.” Then he stopped cold, realized he was stuck and flashed a helpless smile.
Casting around a bit, Gibbons finally remembered Scutaro, who has hit .302 since stepping into the shortstop role.
This, of course, is the guy who goes back to the bench on Thursday when David Eckstein returns.
But there are signs of hope.
The offence — particularly through the power of Matt Stairs and Rod Barajas — pulled its weight in Minneapolis and Philadelphia, giving the team hope ahead of a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels beginning tonight.
With Vernon Wells sidelined for as many as seven more weeks by a broken wrist, an enormous weight has fallen on Rios. The team’s main offensive engine over the past two years, Rios must also deal with the expectations created by his recent six-year, $64-million US deal.
He has spent weeks working overtime in the cages with hitting coach Gary Denbo. Rios has worked individually with manager Gibbons, an unusual bit of extra tutoring.
“I’m just going to work on it until I find that feeling and then I’m going to go from there,” Rios said. “Right now, I’m just trying to do the things I was doing last year and in 2006. Just trying to go back in my memories and go from there. I don’t think there’s anything I can really do because my stance has always been the same. It’s something that just has to come to me.”