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Adam Eaton irked by criticism over his aggressive style

Adam Eaton is helped off the field by trainer Herm Schneider, left, and White Sox manager Robin Ventura during the sixth inning of a game against the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Phil Long)

CLEVELAND — Adam Eaton was sore the day after crashing into a wall to make a great catch.

His feelings were hurt somewhat, too, by reaction from the general public. Some of it implied or suggested Eaton made an unhealthy choice by putting his body at risk when he ran down a deep fly ball by Roberto Perez before hitting the wall, forcing him out of the game and to miss Saturday’s game as well.

“Instead of choosing my body, I chose my team,” Eaton said Saturday. “People can curse me for it, but the day that I backpedal and let the ball hit off the wall is the day I’m going to quit baseball. Either the team can like it that I hustle, run into walls and put my body on the line for my teammates or they can just, I guess it is what it is. I could care less.”

The 5-8, 185-pound Eaton, who missed a start for only the third time, had the wind knocked out of him and was tested for a concussion. He said he felt like he was in a car accident, “kind of a jolt, whiplash.”

“I feel better today,” he said.

In his third season with the Sox, Eaton has learned to reel in his aggressiveness in defensive situations and on the bases that in the past put his health at risk. Eaton face-planted into the center field fence on Adam Rosales’ home run at U.S. Cellular Field in 2014, hurt his back and didn’t play for another 17 days.

Eaton said the grief he got for this play, which was more aggressive than reckless, did not come from the clubhouse but from “social media. People of sorts. Like I said, curse me if I do, curse me if I don’t.”

“I just wanted to get that out there, because it’s damn me if I do, damn me if I don’t. I put my team before my body, just how I’ve been brought up, how I’ve been taught to play the game. If I die on the field, that’s where I want to die.”

Manager Robin Ventura said Eaton plays smarter now. In the past, “he would run after balls that were probably 10 rows deep,” Ventura said.

“This one he could at least put a glove on it and have a chance to catch it. Before he was just out there running crazy and right now he has a better understanding of what he can get to. Last night was just a great play.”

Eaton is a Gold Glove candidate and has played like the team’s best all-around position player this season.

“When you look what he does, he’s played a great right field but we’ve had a need out there in center as well,” Ventura said. “He’s been pretty dang valuable.”