New right fielder Alex Rios almost certainly earned a legion of fans among the Royals’ faithful Monday with a dynamite debut during a 10-1 season-opening rout of the Chicago White Sox.
Rios, who was slotted seventh in Ned Yost’s first lineup of the season, went three for four and delivered the knockout blow in the seventh inning, a three-run home run to left-center that extended the Royals’ lead to eight runs at the time.
“I don’t have any doubts that our team is a well-balanced team with good defense and offense,” said Rios, who received the team’s traditional postgame ice-bucket shower on the field. “We showed it today.
“Obviously, if we keep playing the way that we did today, it’s going to be good.”
Rios averaged more than 34 doubles, five triples, nearly 19 home runs, 78 RBIs and 25 stolen bases with a .279 average and 105 OPS+ during an eight-year span from 2006-13.
With the Rangers last season, Rios only hit four home runs in 131 games and his .311 on-base percentage and 99 OPS+ were the a career-worst since 2009.
That prompted a few raised eyebrows when the Royals signed Rios to a one-year, $11 million contract during the offseason as Nori Aoki’s replacement.
Those doubts weren’t shared by his new teammates.
“A guy like Rios is going to hit,” third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “He’s a great player and we’re all excited to have him. He really did put the icing on the cake today.”
Rios had the opportunity to sign longer deals possibly for more money with other clubs, but he felt like the Royals were the right place for him.
“I’ve played this team for quite a long time now and I knew what they had,” Rios said. “I’ve seen them grow as ballplayers, as good ballplayers, and it’s exciting for me to come here and join them. The youth that this team has, it brings a lot of energy and that energy I can absorb. It’s a good thing for me.”
It certainly seemed like a mutually benefit partnership Monday as Rios, who also stole second base in the sixth inning in addition to showing off his power for the reigning American League champions.
He brings that same unwavering confidence into what the Royals hope will be a bounce-back season, though Rios doesn’t necessarily see it that way.
“I don’t believe that I have to prove anything,” Rios said. “I just have to come out and do my job. That’s about it.”