White Sox

New approach has Adam Eaton continuing to thrive with White Sox

adameaton092615.png

New approach has Adam Eaton continuing to thrive with White Sox

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.

[NBC SHOP: Buy an Adam Eaton jersey right here!]

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.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

jose.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

With Jose Abreu playing in the All-Star Game, we asked some of his American League teammates about the White Sox first baseman. Justin Verlander, Craig Kimbrel and Michael Brantley rave about Abreu, explaining why he’s such a great hitter and a tough out for pitchers. 

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

0716-abreu-moncada.jpg
USA TODAY

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the White Sox wait for their All Stars of the future to develop, Jose Abreu is representing the club at the All-Star Game in the nation’s capital.

Abreu, elected by the fans to be the American League’s starting first baseman Tuesday night, might represent the White Sox present, but he’s a key part of their future, as well. While his contract situation remains a mystery — the team would need to extend him in order to keep around past the 2019 season — he’s helping to develop the players who are planned to make up the next contending group on the South Side.

No player is more under Abreu’s guiding hand than Yoan Moncada, his fellow Cuban who just a season ago was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Moncada’s development from top prospect into star of the future is the biggest storyline of the season for the White Sox. And Abreu, the role model in this clubhouse, is in part tasked with helping Moncada do just that.

“Our friendship is special,” Moncada said through a team translator last week. “We’re always talking about everything, having fun. He gives me advice, and I always try to make fun of him. Our relationship has been for a long time. We were friends in Cuba. And now we are rejoined here. It’s just a very good relationship. I’m blessed having him here.”

“He’s a Cuban, and it’s always special to play with a fellow Cuban countryman. He’s a great kid,” Abreu said through a team translator Monday. “I think that it’s a blessing. The White Sox did all that they could do for us to play together. I’m just enjoying the moment and every day with him. It’s special. It’s definitely a very special feeling.”

Abreu is often lauded by White Sox brass as the perfect example of what they want their young players to become. His incredible production makes that an easy comparison: He put up at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first four major league seasons. But it’s what he does outside the lines that gets the highest praise. Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all of Abreu’s teammates constantly talk about his work ethic, his routine, his dedication to getting better and the way he goes about his business.

Moncada’s noticed. And he sees Abreu’s latest accomplishment — getting picked as an All-Star starter — as vindication that, yes, Abreu’s methods certainly work.

“Knowing him, knowing all the effort that he puts into his preparation, his work ethic, all that work that he puts into his preparation is paying off and he’s recognized with this election,” Moncada said. “That’s something that motivates you, something that lets you know that if you do things the right way, you’re going to get rewarded. For me, it’s a motivation, and I feel really honored to share this team with him.”

Moncada’s first full season in the bigs hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s had his hot stretches — including the last couple weeks; he’s slashing .356/.453/.644 since July 2 — but he’s also had long periods of struggles. Certain aspects, such as a propensity for striking out and making errors at second base, have been constants throughout the campaign.

Renteria refers to the mistakes and the poor results as teachable moments. Does he have a proxy teacher in Abreu?

“I tell him to enjoy the game,” Abreu said. “Enjoy the game, have fun, be a little more focused on the situation of the game. But I think the key is to have fun.”

Mostly, though, Abreu is convinced that Moncada will blossom into the kind of player White Sox fans hoped he would when he brought that top-prospect track record to the organization in the Chris Sale trade. The expectations are undoubtedly high, but Abreu’s been seeing Moncada meet them for some time. The two have known each other since the younger Moncada was 17 years old.

“I think that he was born with special abilities to play this sport,” Abreu said. “Before I met him, there were a lot of people talking about him in Cuba because of his abilities, the talent that he has. And when I met him, it was a very special moment. As soon as I met him, I realized, ‘Wow, what people say about him is true.’ His body type, his ability to play the game. He’s special.”

So will the All Star of today and the All Star of tomorrow one day share the All-Star stage?

“I would like to have that opportunity. Let’s pray to God to have that opportunity,” Abreu said. “If that happens, that would be really special for us.”