Alex Rios does not expect the occasional discomfort in his right thumb to disappear for good. He played with this condition for the second half of 2014. He has grown used to the pain he experiences on mis-hit balls and ill-timed swings. He described protecting his thumb as a “matter of management from now on” as he begins his first season as a Royal.
“There’s no way to find a way to figure out for it not to hurt,” Rios said. “There’s so many factors that go into these kind of things. But we’re trying to find ways to protect it, at least. That’s one thing that we can do.”
Rios sat out on Friday night for the second game in a row. He insisted his thumb “feels good” after he underwent treatment for the second consecutive day. If this were the regular season, Rios said, he would be able to play. But the club has opted for prudence, especially given how Rios’ thumb affected him last season.
Manager Ned Yost intends to rest Rios until Sunday afternoon to avoid a recurrence of pain in the digit.
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“He’s feeling better today,” Yost said before Friday night’s game against the Mariners at Surprise Stadium. “The swelling’s gone way down. Just give him two more days. He’s feeling ready to go. We don’t need to push these things.”
The Royals do not expect the injury blip to remove Rios from the Opening Day lineup on April 6 at Kauffman Stadium. But Rios conceded he has dealt with this issue since his arrival to camp last month. The incident raises the injury concerns that lingered around Rios after a fitful campaign in Texas last season.
Rios first injured his thumb last summer with the Rangers. He attributed it to an ankle sprain. The lack of mobility exposed his hand to bruising caused by his bat. It is the same issue now.
“It’s just when you hit a ball in the wrong spot,” Rios said. “When you get jammed, either way, when you hit the ball up front or your let it go deep, it would make it more sensitive.”
Rios played through the injury. He did require surgery to clean out an infection in September. Rios has declined to use his physical condition as an excuse, but he hit a mere four home runs in 2014 after averaging 19 per season from 2011 to 2013.
By signing Rios to an $11 million deal for 2015, the Royals banked on a bounce-back campaign. Rios swatted a trio of homers early in camp and maintained a .968 on-base plus slugging percentage through 15 games.
Rios and the training staff have been tinkering with padding to cover the digit.
“We’re working on that,” Rios said. “That’s how it’s going to have to be. We’re going to have to find a way to protect it and get treatment on it. And that’s it.”