If anybody understands misconceptions it’s A.J. Pierzynski. He’s been voted baseball’s meanest and most hated player.

Have a conversation with him however and you may wonder why he has been cast in that light. He’s accommodating and insightful.

So Pierzynski just shakes his head at the questions surrounding Alex Rios’ motivation.

Rios had a publicized benching last month when Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura pulled him out of a game for not hustling out a double-play grounder that cost the team a run and possibly a win.

“Everyone has had a bad day and not hustled” Pierzynski said. “Those things happen and unfortunately it happened at the wrong time so people guessed the wrong thing. That’s the way it works but Alex plays hard and he wants to do well.”

Rios has shown just that in his first week with the Texas Rangers making a favorable first impression. He has hits in four of his first five games with Texas including an impressive debut with the team.

Rios drove in the game-tying run Saturday in Houston with a triple in the eighth inning and then scored the go-ahead run by dislodging the ball from the catcher on a play at the plate — a hustle play.

Going from a last-place team to a first-place team certainly helped re-energize and rejuvenate Rios. After all Rios is still searching for his first postseason action after more than 1400 games. Adam Dunn and Vernon Wells are the only active players who have played in more games without a playoff berth.

“It is exciting because this is what we all play for we play to play in October” Rios said. “So for me to have this opportunity is unbelievable. It’s something that I never experienced and it feels good so far.”

That energy and excitement wasn’t there in Chicago he admitted. The White Sox felt they would contend for the American League Central coming out of spring training but they were 10 1/2 games back by June 20 and were 14 back going into the game when Rios was benched.

Rios somewhat ironically had a two-run double in the at-bat before he bounced into the fateful 6-4-3 double play.

“We thought we were going to have a pretty good chance to compete” Rios said. “But when things like that happen sometimes you lose focus sometimes it makes it harder to come to the field and focus on the things you have to do.

“When you have that extra motivation of contending it makes you focus better and it makes you go about your business in a different way. It’s a good thing to go from a last-place team to a first-place team because it changes everything. It changes maybe your attitude your mindset it makes it more exciting. Right now I’m in a different spot and hopefully I can continue doing good things.”

So far so good for Rios and the Rangers.

He’s provided a much-needed boost to the team after Nelson Cruz accepted a 50-game suspension for his ties to the Biogenesis of America clinic.