Alejandro De Aza went three months without any of the mainstream outlets mentioning his name. After hitting a home run in his first post-promotion at-bat, which resulted in all the Sox scoring in a big 2-1 victory over the Tigers, now everybody seems to realize he is a legitimate solution for the Alex Rios problem.
This weekend will be Rios' best chance to respond, as Doug Padilla writes:
Manager Ozzie Guillen was hesitant to call De Aza his new center fielder, though. With Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield facing the White Sox on Friday, followed by two Red Sox left handers, Guillen gave himself some wiggle room to go back to Rios for a day or two.
And that's the way it should be.
Granted, it was important for De Aza to come out of the gate strong and establish his presence. You couldn't have written a better stage-setter with Kenny Williams telling the media that Rios will be taking a backseat, followed by De Aza delivering with a full-bodied blast into the Bullpen Sports Bar.
But hopefully the initial excitement doesn't turn into outlandish expectations, whether in terms of production or playing time. De Aza isn't much more than a rookie -- albeit one with plenty of seasoning -- and while he hit Triple-A lefties well this season (.306/.344/.405), he battled through massive lefty-lefty struggles the year before (,208/.283/.302).
For all his problems this year, Rios has been mildly productive when the matchup is in his favor -- .287/.306/.351 over 98 plate appearances against lefties. That goes to show you how terrible he's been against righties (.520 OPS), but at least it makes for a potentially potent platoon.
I wouldn't take this Boston series as any kind of indicator of De Aza's standing. Rios has more PAs against Wakefield than any other pitcher, and hasn't been completely fooled (.245 OBP, but .451 slugging). Throw in a couple of lefties, and I woudl expect Rios to start two of three.
Hopefully De Aza would start one of the weekend games, just to see how he hangs in against left-handed pitching. But even if Rios ends up turning one start into three, the Yankees roll into town after with three righties ready to go, and maybe four (a doubleheader might alter their schedule). After that point, I would hope Guillen would find his platoon groove and let it roll the rest of the season.
But who knows? Maybe Rios only starts one game of the Boston series. Or maybe he doesn't start at all. Maybe with De Aza around and Williams' blessing, Guillen finally has a way to send Rios to the doghouse without enduring Brent Lillibridge's strikeouts. It's nice to finally have options, even if it took a few weeks too long.