KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Adam Eaton’s max-effort game takes no days off. After throwing his body around U.S. Cellular Field with reckless abandon this week, the White Sox center fielder got his uniform dirty during the Royals’ home opener at Kauffman Stadium on Friday.
Like it or not, wherever Eaton goes, he promises to play the same way. And believe it or not, not everyone seems to like Eaton’s style — one that almost always resonates well with fans.
“Yeah. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of grief for that, which I think is quite ridiculous,’’ Eaton said. “You get static if you don’t play hard, and when you do play hard, you get static.’’
The 5-8 lefty crashed into the wall once at U.S. Cellular Field, slid into it another time and made two head-first slides into first base in the season-opening series against the Twins. In the Sox’ 7-5 loss to the Royals on Friday, he laid out and came up short trying to catch Omar Infante’s blooper that fell for a single. He also got hit by a pitch, singled in two runs and went 2-for-4 to hike his average to .313. A 19th-round draft choice acquired from the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that cost the Sox pitcher Hector Santiago, Eaton takes pride in his working-class pedigree.
“Like I’ve said before, I’m not supposed to be here so I’m going to play like every day is my last day,’’ he said. “The fans pay their hard-earned money to come see me play, and if I don’t give my 110 percent, I’m doing them an injustice, especially where we play on the South Side. Those are blue-collar people , it’s our job to give them a show and give them 110 percent. If that’s upsetting, I’m sorry. I don’t want to do an injustice to my team, myself, my family, the name on the back and front of the jersey, and that’s what I’m going to do.’’
Eaton seemed to be caught off guard by the criticism of his hard-nosed play, which he said came from “everywhere.’’
“I feel like Twitter blew up, that I’m no good on the disabled list and this and that. It is what it is.’’
Sox first base coach Daryl Boston, who works with outfielders, has expressed concern that Eaton will injure himself diving into first base. It’s generally accepted that a runner will reach the bag sooner by running through it rather than diving, so it makes sense only when trying to avoid a collision, Boston said.
“The only thing I’m concerned about is his diving at first base,’’ Boston said. “We have to have him on the field. But that’s the kind of energy we’re looking for. That’s what we need out of him.’’
In center field, “he has the green light to kind of roam. We give him some general directions and I’ve given him the freedom to make his own judgment on where he wants to be. Turn him loose. Let him go. It’s good to see.’’
Whether Eaton’s energy level has a direct effect on the lineup is difficult to measure. What’s known is that, through four games, the Sox haven’t been beaten for lack of fight through their at-bats. If you want to credit Eaton for setting the tone at the top, go ahead.
“You have an offense that feels like they can come back,’’ manager Robin Ventura said after his team fell behind 3-1 in the first inning and 7-2 after five but was never out of it. “You are one hit away or that one inning way. Guys are still getting on base and they are still battling. You like that kind of effort.’’