A rough start means Adam Eaton hasn’t been very easy on himself.
In discussing his slump last week, the White Sox outfielder and leadoff man said anyone who spent a minute inside his head would run for the hills.
Eaton is very critical of his play and often seeks areas of improvement even when he succeeds. He wants to prove he’s worthy of the five-year, $23.5-million contract extension he received from the White Sox last month and that it hasn’t changed his work ethic.
You can only imagine how much Eaton has beaten himself up this season as he carries a .149/.216/.191 slash line into Tuesday’s 7:10 p.m. game against the Cleveland Indians.
Conversely, Eaton believes Monday’s contest, in which he walked twice and singled during a four-run rally in the ninth inning, should give him the boost he’s needed through the season’s first dozen games.
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“It does the world for me, personally,” Eaton said. “But to keep the line moving and be part of a team when (we rally), it goes along way with me. I want to help this team win any way, shape or form. I want to help these guys and I want them to like me up there at the top of the order. I really care what they think and want to continue to please them.”
His latest performance is another sign that Eaton has begun to rediscover his game.
It’s pretty evident Eaton has begun to see the ball better over the last three days.
He drew his first walk of the season on Saturday, a second on Sunday and two more on Monday.
Though he’s mostly felt good at the plate, Eaton thinks pitchers have executed well when he’s up, often leaving him in counts that don’t favor hitters. Eaton has only six strikeouts in 51 plate appearances but only has a .171 average on balls in play. His career BABIP is .324, according to Fangraphs.com.
“My numbers don’t speak for how well I feel up there and how hard I’ve worked in the offseason,” Eaton said. “It’s very frustrating when I bust my tail all offseason and it doesn’t correlate in the first two weeks of the season. I hope everyone knows I’m working my ass off to get better.”
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Perhaps Monday’s easing of the tensions will do Eaton some good. Before the game, manager Robin Ventura cited Eaton’s play on the bases as a sign he has tried to make too much happen instead of letting the game come to him.
Eaton has run into three outs, all as a result of aggressive play. While he’s normally aggressive, Eaton has pushed it in each instance and cost his team an out.
“You need to relax, be calm,” Ventura said. “When a guy struggles, that’s part of what happens in a guy’s brain. They try and make up for it by trying to get an extra base when you don’t need it or stealing a bag when you don’t need to. You have to be patient. Play the game, and understand the situations.”
Eaton demonstrated his ability to slow things down in the ninth inning against Cleveland Indians closer Cody Allen. With runners on first and second and one out, Eaton quickly fell behind in the count 0-2. He thought Allen would try to get him to chase his knuckle curveball and watched two balls to even the count.
Then he lined a 94-mph fastball to left field to load the bases for Melky Cabrera, who singled in the winning run.
“Even if I don’t get a hit there, and hopefully I square one up or something happens, I’ve still had a good day at the plate,” Eaton said. “There’s some good thoughts there and I was happy with it overall.”