Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Eaton ready to help Sox in a flash
By Doug Padilla
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There was a moment during Wednesday's conference call with reporters that new Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton checked out for a few seconds only to return and pick up right where he left off.
The White Sox are hoping Adam Eaton can carry over his ability to get on base in the minors to the South Side this season.
You couldn't help but imagine an antique vase falling off a shelf across the room, Eaton flashing his speed to save it and then returning his focus to the task at hand.
The White Sox could use somebody capable of making heroic decisions in a split second, especially after a 2013 season that was equal parts lackluster and uninspiring.
It's exactly why general manager Rick Hahn had been calling the Arizona Diamondbacks with regularity this offseason, trying to see what it would take to pry the speedy, determined, left-handed hitter away from the National League.
Hahn's work finally yielded a return when he was able to join the Diamondbacks-Los Angeles Angels trade talks, with the White Sox sending Hector Santiago to the Angels and a player to be named later to the Diamondbacks. Arizona came away with slugger Mark Trumbo and the Angels also added pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
Everybody in the trade filled a team need, but Eaton, an Ohio native, wants to make a difference. You want lofty goals? The 25-year-old, at 5-foot-8, has them.
"You give me a glove and anything you want me to do I'll do," he said a day after the trade was completed. "I'm comfortable at the top of the lineup but if that's not where I'm needed, that's not where I'm needed. I think of myself as a Lenny Dykstra, Kenny Lofton mix, a scrappy dirtbag, get after it day in and day out, bring a little finesse."
If those goals are too general, the expected leadoff man and starting center fielder can get specific as well.
"It would be great if I could hang my hat around a .300 [batting average], 100 runs scored and an on-base percentage around .400," he said. "I think it's definitely doable."
Not to put pressure on the kid, but that .400 OBP is practically necessary. The team's collective .302 OBP last season was 14th in the American League, ahead of only the Houston Astros' .299 mark. The Boston Red Sox led the league with a .349 mark and went on to win the World Series.
In his last full season at the Triple-A level in 2012, Eaton posted a robust .456 on-base percentage, using a mindset to get on first base even if trying makes him unable to see straight.
"I don't care if I get hit in the head, hit in the ankle, see 10 or 12 pitches, as many as I need to get on base," he said of his strategy in the leadoff spot. "I could be 0-2 and chop a ball over the third baseman. I know with the guys we have behind us, [Paul] Konerko, [Adam] Dunn, [Gordon] Beckham; I'm one pitch away from scoring. I'm in scoring position on first. Just see as many pitches as possible and get on base any means necessary."
The former Cleveland Indians fan set a high standard with his personal Lofton comparison. He also said he was a big fan of Jim Thome, among other Indians. He couldn't have been more pumped up to know that Thome is now in the White Sox's front office.
Coming off an elbow injury last year and another physical condition that cost him a bit of foot speed, Eaton is happy to be fully healthy now.
And say what you want about the value of players who are considered "grinders," but Eaton fits that mold.
"I think that with my 5-8 stature, I can relate to it," he said about being an energy guy.
At that moment, he paused, doing whatever it is that guys with energy and speed and a healthy dose of self confidence can do in a few seconds time.
"I think I can definitely do that," he continued. "Being the young guy, I need that energy and spark. Last year I was too focused on struggling and trying to get back in a groove. I'm excited to bring energy to the team, whatever they need me to do."