Rios clears waivers, lands with White Sox

Alex Rios showed up at Yankee Stadium and saw his name in the Toronto starting lineup Monday night. He left the ballpark a few hours later, on his way to join the Chicago White Sox and a pennant race.

The two-time All-Star outfielder was claimed off waivers by Chicago and learned the news about 30 minutes before the first pitch between the Blue Jays and New York Yankees. The White Sox assume his entire huge contract while Toronto receives no compensation.

“I’d heard the rumors, but yeah, I thought I was going to stay here,” Rios said outside the Blue Jays clubhouse. “Stuff happens, and I just have to move on.”

Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said the move was not “a financial dump,” but acknowledged that Toronto needs “more financial flexibility.”

Rios signed a seven-year contract with the Blue Jays in April 2008 that guarantees him $69,835,000. He was due $5.9 million this season, $9.7 million in 2010, $12 million each in 2011 and 2012 and $12.5 million apiece in 2013 and 2014.

There is also a $13.5 million team option for 2015 with a $1 million buyout.

“Since we did the contract, so many things have changed in the game economically in the last year, little over a year, and this allows us to get out from under a contract and enables us to do more to address our club going forward,” Ricciardi said.

Rios has struggled most of the season, batting .264 with 14 homers and 62 RBI in 108 games, although Ricciardi said that wasn’t much of a factor in the decision.

He said that the White Sox had expressed interest in Rios for some time, but the two sides never came close to a trade before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Even so, the Blue Jays have several gaping holes in the lineup and could use the cash.

It was the second big move involving a high-priced player in the past two weeks for the White Sox. They acquired former National League Cy Young winner Jake Peavy on July 31 from San Diego for four young pitchers.

Peavy, currently on the disabled list, is set to make $15 million in 2010, $16 million in 2011 and $17 million in 2012. There is a $22 million club option for 2013 with a $4 million buyout.

Mantle’s widow dies

The widow of New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle has died at a hospice facility in Plano, Texas. She was 77.

Family spokesman Marty Appel said Monday night that Merlyn Mantle died from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. She had not appeared in public since last August, at a private dinner before a memorial for former Yankees star Bobby Murcer.

Merlyn married Mickey on Dec. 23, 1951, following his rookie season. They were married for 43 years, until the Hall of Fame outfielder died of cancer on Aug. 13, 1995.

The Mantles had four children — Mickey Jr., David, Billy and Danny. Mickey Jr. died in 2000 and Billy died in 1993.

Merlyn will be buried next to her husband and children at Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas.

Short hops

Washington Nationals rookie right-hander Jordan Zimmermann probably needs reconstructive elbow surgery, a procedure that would sideline him for at least a year. The pitcher is considered one of the last-place team’s top building blocks. Dr. James Andrews reviewed an MRI done on the 23-year-old Zimmermann’s right elbow and agreed with a Nationals team doctor that the pitcher should have an operation to repair a torn ligament, acting GM Mike Rizzo said. … All-Star pitcher Chad Billingsley will miss his scheduled start against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday with a strained left hamstring. Billingsley left his last start against Atlanta on Friday after straining his hamstring on a single. … Center fielder Chris Young, in a season-long offensive funk, has been optioned to Triple-A Reno by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Young was hitting .194 with 23 doubles, seven home runs and 28 RBI in 103 games when he was sent down. He had two hits in his last 30 at-bats, and his average has not been above .205 since April 30. He had three RBI in his last 24 games. … A former gym owner has sued the authors of a book that details the alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs by pitcher Roger Clemens. Kelly Blair claimed in a defamation lawsuit filed Monday in Harris County, Texas, that the authors falsely accused him of being a steroids dealer.