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Edwin Ríos set for fresh start with Cubs after Dodgers

MESA, Arizona — Edwin Ríos, who was recently signed by the Chicago Cubs on a one-year deal, is not good with names. It’s an issue that has surfaced in recent days since he joined the Cubs, as he has to learn so many new names. Ríos didn’t anticipate having to learn so many names when he signed up for spring 2023 training. He had envisioned another spring with the Dodgers, the only major league organization he knew, to prepare to help them compete for another World Series title.

On Friday, Ríos finally signed with a club and agreed to a $1 million deal with Chicago, two months after Cody Bellinger, another player not signed out by the Dodgers in November, joined the Cubs. Ríos is expected to primarily log game time as the designated batsman, with first base and third base available as options.

Despite limited opportunities, 28-year-old Ríos seemed to have found a home in Los Angeles. He made his major league debut in 2019 as part of a rookie wave that included Alex Verdugo and Matt Beaty and posted a 1.010 on-base plus slugging percentage in 56 plate appearances. He made a valuable contribution in 2020 but got off to a disastrous start in 2021, playing four for 51 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in May.

Last season he seemed to be back on track. He was second at the club with seven homers, 36 strikeouts, and a .793 percentage on-base plus slugging in 92 plate appearances at spot chances as a designated hitter. It produced almost as expected – with considerable power and a high penetration rate.

Then, as the calendar rolled to June, he strained his right hamstring, was placed on the injured list and was not seen in Los Angeles. The injury, Ríos said, was worse than first thought. He was placed on the 60-day injured list on June 22 but expected a return to the majors. In late July, he began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Three weeks later – after hitting .302 with .840 OPS in 14 games – he was activated from the injured list.

But instead of being included in the major league roster, he was selected to Oklahoma City. The decision didn’t entirely shock Ríos, as the Dodgers acquired Joey Gallo — a left-handed player with power and a high strikeout rate — at the close two weeks earlier. It still stung.

Ríos never made it again. He watched the Dodgers win a franchise-record 111 games only to be eliminated in four postseason games. A month later, the organization made him a free agent. The Dodgers did not believe Ríos was adequately developing his skills beyond his powers, according to people with knowledge of the situation who are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Ríos said he signed this late in the offseason because he wanted the right major league deal. He was invited to play for Puerto Rico at the World Baseball Classic but turned down the offer as he wanted to focus on adjusting to a new organization.

Ríos said he is eager for a fresh start with the Cubs. There are familiar faces. He “dismembered” it with Bellinger. Zach McKinstry is another former Dodger at the clubhouse. He said he had a relationship with Dansby Swanson while playing against him over the years. He believes that if he can stay healthy and stay on the field, everything else will take care of itself.

Edwin Ríos is ready to prove himself with the Chicago Cubs after being cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he is determined to make the most of this new opportunity. Despite the difficulty of learning so many new names, Ríos is ready to take on this new challenge and show the world what he can do.

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