The White Sox have no reservations about Alex Rios leaving next week to play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

They hope, though, that he returns healthy and with the same batting stance he employed to attain his most successful of nine major league seasons.

The latter might be a bigger issue, considering Rios played for several seasons with a sore toe dating to his days on the artificial turf in Toronto.

Rios, 32, downplayed the significance of keeping his hands away from his body so he's in a better position to hit. But hitting coach Jeff Manto stressed the importance of Rios reporting to spring training early so he could find the same rhythm that helped him produce a .304 batting average with 25 home runs and 91 RBIs.

"The sooner he gets to play, the sooner he gets his rhythm at the plate," Manto said. "For hitters like himself, he needs at-bats. Speaking from last year only, the more at-bats he got, the better he got. This is definitely going to expedite a good year."