NEW YORK -- Adam Eaton has already appeared in 147 games with another seven to go in the regular season.
Given his frantic style of play in 2014, when injuries limited Eaton to 123 contests, there was some question whether or not the White Sox center fielder could endure an entire season. But the combination of an improved workout program as well as maturity on his part has not only left Eaton merely standing at the season’s end, he has thrived.
The most noticeable difference for Eaton -- who has reached base in 16 straight after he singled and walked in a 2-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Saturday afternoon -- is the reasons given for days off. Whereas last year it was about health, this season it’s for a better matchup or to give rookie Trayce Thompson a look.
“They haven’t been forced like last year,” Eaton said. “I feel like there were a lot of forced days where ‘You need to have a day to survive.’
“Days off haven’t been survival days, which is good.”
Eaton’s production has been even better.
Entering Saturday, Eaton was hitting .283/.355/.423 with 13 home runs among his 47 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs and 93 runs in 658 plate appearances.
He attributes it directly to his health and ability to stay on the field, which he believes is partly the result of an offseason plan developed for him by Allen Thomas, the team’s strength and conditioning coordinator.
Eaton had already begun his offseason program when the White Sox acquired him from Arizona in December 2014 and felt like he was in limbo. He tried to combine parts of the Diamondbacks’ program with some of Thomas’ suggestions and later realized that was incorrect.
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But last offseason, Eaton worked entirely on Thomas’ program, which features more heavy lifting than he previously did in Arizona.
“It’s really night and day between the two,” Eaton said. “He worked his magic in his plan and I followed it and it has paid dividends.”
Thomas said the team’s program is based on consistency and includes phases for endurance strength and power. He credits Eaton for adhering to a much different program than he was accustomed.
“He followed our offseason part of our strength and conditioning program to a tee,” Thomas said. “Commend only him for putting the work in and the diligence to stay with the program and give it a chance.”
Eaton has done the same with the team’s message to dial it back a little on the field in the name of preservation.
Whereas he played in 2014 like his hair was on fire, running into outfield walls at full speed and trying to beat out routine ground balls as if his life depended on it, Eaton has taken a more measured approach this season.
“He’s able to throttle it back at times better than he did last year because it was all out or not at all,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s kind of found that sweet spot being able to know when to turn it on and there’s time when he can slow it down a little and not be able to have to use everything to get be able to play the game.
“There are smarter ways to do it and I think he’s progressed and learned how to do it.”
Eaton said part of his motivation in 2014 was to make a good impression on the White Sox. The outfielder clearly did as the club gave him a five-year, $23.5-million extension in March. But the extension came with another request from management to be smarter on the field.
“You put your body through some extra abuse that doesn’t need to be there,” he said. “I’m still trying to work out kinks in the offseason as well as in season in understanding when to run into a wall and when not to. I’m still learning on a day-to-day basis.”
Eaton considers it all part of the process. He’s “decently pleased” by his performance this season, but wishes he had gotten off to a better start. Still, Eaton’s proud of the resiliency he showed after a stressful first five weeks and hopes to improve from the experience.
“I learned you don’t make or break a year in a month-and-a-half,” Eaton said. “There’s things I need to work on, continue to work on, get better and the week after the season I’ll reflect and make a plan for myself in the offseason and go from there.”