GLENDALE, Ariz. – Injuries limited Adam Eaton to 123 games with the White Sox last season. His goal in 2015?
“Staying off the DL,’’ Eaton said.
Hamstring and oblique injuries put the center fielder and leadoff man on it twice in 2014. Eaton crashed into the U.S. Cellular Field center field wall running at full speed, dove head first into first base trying to beat out ground balls and ran out the most routine of grounders at full speed often landing on the bag hard with his final step.
The energy is good. Channeling it would be even better and Eaton, 26, is learning to pick his spots.
“Looking at last year there were a lot of mistakes I made in certain instances and plays,’’ he said Friday. “Over the season, taking care of my body a little better [is important]. I’m looking forward to putting that whole ‘stay healthy thing’ behind me.’’
Eaton said he talked to other players about the subject.
“You look at guys my size, how they go about it and how they stay healthy and take care of their body,’’ Eaton said.
The Sox need Eaton in the lineup. He was a Gold Glove candidate and a .300 hitter who got on base a lot – his .362 on-base percentage ranked fifth among AL outfielders behind Jose Bautista, Michael Brantley, Mike Trout and Dexter Fowler.
“I asked Michael Bourn how he stays healthy and Dee Gordon, being speed guys who bring energy every day. They gave me a few tidbits. If I stay off walls and be smart, we’ll stay off the DL and play 150-plus [games]. It’s doable.’’
So is doing one better than that Gold Glove candidacy.
“We want to get him the Gold,” outfielders coach Daryl Boston said after Friday’s workout. “He talked today about wanting one.’’
To that end, Boston is working on cleaning up Eaton’s footwork and getting the ball out his hand quicker on throws. In the spring of 2013 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Eaton tore his left ulnar collateral ligament.
“He has a strong arm but coming off the elbow injury he can be a little deliberate,’’ Boston said. “We’re trying to speed that process up just a little faster. It does take him a little while to get it out.’’
Boston loves Eaton’s exuberance and while he wants him to stay on the field, obviously, he doesn’t want to see him lose his edge.
“That comes with experience,’’ Boston said. “There’s a fine line for him to play fast and aggressive baseball. That’s his style. I’m not going to be the guy to change that. We need that energy.
“But we talk to him about keeping him healthy and not running into the fence when there is absolutely no chance of catching the ball.’’
“You can run into a wall if you’re actually going after it and can actually get it, but you don’t want him running into a wall when it’s 20 feet back,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “I think there is a level of learning how to play and keeping yourself on the field and that’s important for us. We learned that last year.’’