TORONTO (Reuters) - Former Blue Jay Alex Rios has been the main target of Toronto fans’ hostility during the American League Championship Series and on Tuesday the big Kansas City outfielder gave them more reason to jeer.
Rios collected three hits, including a second-inning solo home run, as the Royals hammered the Blue Jays 14-2 to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, leaving Kansas City one win away from a return to the World Series.
“I just felt that Alex was going to have a great day today,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “I told him before the game, ‘You’re going to have a great game today’.
“I don’t know why I felt it. But he sure did. The big home run, to give us the five-run lead and two more singles.
“You feel really good because you know how hard Alex has worked to get to this point this year, with the broken hand and the chicken pox.
“He’s never stopped working hard to get to the playoffs and in his first time in the playoffs he’s doing extremely well.”
Taken in the first round of the 1999 draft, Rios was promoted from the Blue Jays’ minor league system to the big leagues in 2004.
After All Star appearances in 2006 and 2007 he signed a massive seven-year $70 million contract the following year but failed to live up to expectations.
Rios soon became the target of frustrated fans and a symbol of an under-achieving, highly paid team, and when Toronto management was finally able to unload the contract it was viewed as a major achievement.
Rios was placed on waivers in 2009 and claimed by the Chicago White Sox. He spent four years there before moving on to Texas in 2013 and a year later he landed in Kansas City.
Despite the sour end to his time in Canada, the 34-year-old said he took no additional joy in sticking it to his former team.
“It doesn’t make any difference,” shrugged Rios, who went three-for-three at the plate in Game Four. “I think this is a team that we have to go out and beat.
“Even though I played here, I have great memories from when I was here. But it’s just another team that we have to go out and beat. So that’s what we’re focusing on.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford