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White Sox hire Coleman as baserunning instructor

White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton’s basestealing shortcomings were a sensitive issue for him last year. Eaton expected more but didn’t meet the standards he had established for himself as a minor-leaguer.

“One thing you learn at this level, there are a lot more layers [to basestealing],’’ said Eaton, who stole 15 bases in 24 attempts. “A lot more finesse and baserunning smarts that go into it.”

Help is on the way. The Sox added basestealing great Vince Coleman as a baserunning coach, general manager Rick Hahn announced Saturday at SoxFest. It’s an addition that can’t hurt. Coleman topped 100 steals in each of his first three seasons in the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals and ranks sixth all time with 752.

Coleman will be at spring training and will move between the major-league team and the minors during the season. He’ll spend time with Eaton, Micah Johnson — who stole 84 bases in the minors two years ago before hamstring issues limited him to 22 last season —  among others.

“Hopefully he’ll draw out a little more in certain players,’’ Hahn said, mentioning those two. “It’s a real good get as far as rounding out our staffing.”

Eaton is all for it.

“Any help that I can get in any aspect of baseball is always help wanted,’’ he said after getting word that Coleman was coming.

Already ranked among baseball’s top 10 center fielders overall by most metrics analysts, Eaton batted .300 with 10 triples and a .362 on-base percentage that ranked fifth among American League outfielders. He would add to his value if he were to become a more proficient basestealer. Hamstring issues hindered him at times last year, particularly when the team opened the season in cold weather. Before Coleman was hired, Eaton said his goal for the season was to steal 40 bases. With Coleman on board, he said he might raise the bar.

“He’s still a young player learning some at the big-league level,’’ Hahn said. “He has some track record of success as a basestealer in the minors. His job is to get on base and score runs, so when he’s making outs on the bases, it counteracts some of the benefit he brings. That said, we don’t need Adam Eaton to steal 50 bases to be a contributor to a championship-caliber club.’’

It didn’t take long for Eaton to become a fan favorite because of his hustling style and go-get-’em attitude. He played to the crowd Saturday at SoxFest, surprising and interviewing fans in autograph lines and getting autographs himself from teammates. He wants to please them more by being a bigger threat on the bases. To that end, he has worked on his quickness and speed enhancement.

Eaton worked under the watch of former major-leaguers Joel Youngblood and Brett Butler in the Diamondbacks’ system, so it’s not as if he hasn’t been schooled. The prospect of Johnson (who first has a job to win at second base) batting ninth and Eaton first sets up a threatening tandem and sleeker, faster look on the South Side. The fact remains that they have 22 major-league steals between them.

Coleman, 52, was an outfield and baserunning coach in the Astros’ organization the last two seasons and a minor-league instructor for the Cubs in 2004-05.

“It’s a matter of bringing in a different voice that he brings,” Hahn said. “Everyone is excited about it. Kenny [Williams] has a relationship with Vince, as well, and their relationship was big as far as getting this done.”

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com
Twitter: @CST_soxvan