Center Fielder Adam Eaton gets the most out of his body and usually pays the price for it. There is rarely a game that goes by where Eaton fails to dive head first on the base paths or risk his life and limb attempting to make a play in the outfield. With this in mind, it seems strange that Eaton’s most recent ailment comes from a normal, run of the mill baseball play.
The 25-year-old speedster will miss at least a couple more games for the White Sox after sitting out Sunday’s victory over the Rangers with a strained hamstring. Eaton originally tweaked both his hamstring and ankle when attempting to round first on a base hit in Friday’s match-up with Texas. He left that game early, but then was inserted at the top of Saturday’s line-up for the Sox. In his third at bat Saturday, Eaton says he tweaked his already sore hamstring as he was attempting to sprint out of the box when he grounded out to end the inning for the White Sox.
“I need to make sure that I take care of the body a little better and we’ll be just fine,” Eaton said. “Make sure we pay a little more attention to it and take care of things and take care of…my legs.”
Taking care of his body is not something for which the scrappy outfielder is known. In the first week of the season, his first with the White Sox, Eaton managed to put his body in harm’s way six times in five games. He needlessly slid into first base twice, unsuccessfully trying to leg out infield hits. He ran into the outfield wall making a great catch in center and he later slid into the wall, just missing another one. He slid hard into third base legging out a triple and he used his head and shoulder as weapons while trying to take out an unsuspecting Twins’ shortstop in an attempt to break up a double play.
While all of these plays show the outfielder’s toughness and passion for the game, they also reveal a haphazard, reckless mentality that might cost the team drastically in the long run. With Avisail Garcia already lost for the season and no outfielders at the White Sox’ triple-A Charlotte affiliate hitting above .215, the last thing that the club needs is to lose Eaton for any extended period of time.
Eaton, who White Sox General Manager Kevin Towers affectionately refers to as “a true dirtbag type of player,” is the pesky type that Towers and Sox brass were looking for to get under the skin of their opponents. The .282 hitter has 20 hits already in 18 games this season and obviously plays with a go for broke, no holds barred mentality. On the play just prior to the ground out that re-aggravated his hamstring injury he illustrated the perfect example of this. Eaton dribbled a ball down the first base line that went foul. As behemoth Prince Fielder was picking up the ball in foul territory Eaton ran into him at full speed. Fielder, who nearly weighs twice as much as the 5-8, 180-pound Eaton, just swatted the outfielder away as he absorbed the impact, but could have done much worse. Not only that, had the ball been fair, Eaton would have been ruled out for interfering with the fielder attempting to make a play. This kind of recklessness is what can hurt the White Sox down the road.
For what it is worth, Eaton does not believe that the collision had anything to do with his subsequent injury. He just said that on his two previous at-bats on Saturday he ran at about 85 percent, but on the third at-bat, he tried to go full force. When he tried to leave the batter’s box he said it felt like “someone was strumming” on his hamstring.
Commentary by Jeremy Mika