MINNEAPOLIS – The beard is gone, and so is the month of April.
Good riddance, says White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton.
There was nothing much good about it for the 26-year-old leadoff man. Fifteen hits and five walks in 19 games, which didn’t make for much of a spark at the top of the a White Sox lineup that scored two runs or less in 10 of its 19 games. Eaton heads into May with a .192 batting average and .242 on-base percentage, a far cry from the .300/.362 that earned him a $23 million contract extension in March.
In the White Sox’ 12-2 loss that opened a four-game road series against the Minnesota Twins Thursday, Eaton, a Gold Glove finalist in his first season with the Sox in 2014, made a throwing error, a mental error and was kicking himself for not making a running catch in the gap that bounced off his glove for a Joe Mauer double.
“It starts up the middle and I take full responsibility for that,’’ he said after the game. “If I make the plays down people will follow suit. And when I’m not doing it, it just isn’t good. You’ve got to make sure to get throws down and get throws in and catch the ball. Guys make some good players behind a good pitcher and we’ll be better.’’
Eaton looked different as he buttoned up his shirt. Oh yeah, the full, thick beard was gone.
“That guy sucked,’’ Eaton said. “Gotta get rid of him.”
Eaton is a gung-ho, 5-foot-8 fire plug who would dive head first into first base and injured himself running into the fence last year. He is learning the hard way to scale back the intensity for the good of his health after injuries limited him to 123 games last year. So it seems logical to assume that Eaton is pushing himself a little too hard.
“There’s a lot of pressing going on,’’ Ventura said Thursday. “He’s caught in between that. There’s frustration with that, and you understand that, but you just have to fight through it.’’
Eaton’s smiling face and approachable, talkative manner often get him placed in front of microphones and cameras. He was somber after his last game of the month, though.
“[This is] extremely hard,’’ he said of his struggle and the Sox’ 8-11 start that has included too many instances of poor defense, baserunning and offensive execution. “I get upset, it’s not for myself, but for my teammates. I want to go out and do it for them. I want to make plays for them. I want to make plays for every pitcher out there and I want to get on base and I want to start this offense.”
In his first month as a Sox last season, Eaton posted a .346 on-base percentage, then followed that with a .237 mark in 14 games in May, by far his worst month. He’s looking to flip-flop the first two months again, only this time in his favor, of course.
The Sox added Melky Cabrera to hit second behind him and Adam LaRoche to bat fourth, upgrades that figured to make the lineup more threatening to opposing pitchers. So far it hasn’t happened, and Ventura juggled the lineup Thursday, moving Cabrera down to third and moving Alexei Ramirez up to second.
“I take it very personal when the offense isn’t really up and going like it should be,” Eaton said. “It’s because I put a lot on myself because I’m the guy that’s at the beginning of the order that should get things going right now and I haven’t done that so far. I haven’t done much of anything so far. It kind of heats me up a little bit. With that being said, every day is an opportunity and I have to look at it that way and it’s the only way you can look at it.’’
The Sox play the Twins on Friday, Saturday and Sunday before heading home for an off day Monday. The Detroit Tigers come to U.S. Cellular Field for three games beginning Tuesday.
Here’s how the AL Central standings look today, courtesy of Major League Baseball.