ARLINGTON, Texas — Adam Eaton entered May hitting below the Mendoza line, but since the calendar flipped over he’s looked more like the guy the White Sox figured he'd be when they signed him to a five-year, $23.5 million extension in March.
Since returning to the White Sox lineup May 5 after a nasty bout with the flu, Eaton has a .263/.333/.430 slash line with 10 walks, 20 strikeouts and — somewhat surprisingly — three home runs. There’s still room for improvement for a guy who had a .362 on-base percentage last year, but things are finally starting to normalize for the 26-year-old center fielder.
“I haven’t really done much different besides upping my work load and just trying to swing at strikes,” Eaton said. “That’s the name of the game, if you can swing at strikes and put the ball in play you’re going to be successful so I try to concentrate on that, go up there and have a good, steady approach.”
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Compared to 2014, Eaton in 2015 has swung at a higher percentage of pitches out of the strike zone (up two percent) and fewer pitches in the strike zone (down two percent) while maintaining the same swing rate (43 percent). But he feels those numbers are trending in the right direction recently, and since the White Sox opened a six-game road trip May 11 in Milwaukee he’s hitting .284/.346/.463 over 104 plate appearances.
Eaton hasn’t had a day off in that stretch, and the White Sox are 12-11 in it.
“Definitely the more at-bats you get, the more in-tune you get with the play,” Eaton said. “And the more consecutive games you play in … you can kind of start getting into a rhythm. The more pitching you see, you see pitchers multiple times, it’s only an advantage for you as a hitter. So it’s definitely an advantage the longer the season goes.”
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As has been the case with other slumping White Sox players this year — including Melky Cabrera — manager Robin Ventura has stuck with Eaton atop the lineup based on his ability and track record. While Eaton only has played one full major league season, he did enough in 2014 to convince Ventura his early-season struggles were an aberration and not a sign of a far-reaching problem.
“With his skill-set, being able to put it in play and run, you feel like he’s able to do that,” Ventura said. “You are not feeling like you are stretching too far away of what he can actually do and how he can perform with what his tools are.”
Well, the opening game of this weekend's Crosstown series on the South Side just got a lot more interesting.
The Cubs are juggling their rotation a bit as they head toward the postseason, and in doing so, Jose Quintana is now scheduled to pitch against his former club Friday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. It will be the first time he's faced the South Siders since last summer's trade that sent him to the other side of town.
Rick Hahn's front office shipped Quintana to the North Side in exchange for a package that included Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease. The trade initially looked like a winner for both teams, with the Cubs in win-now mode and the White Sox in rebuilding mode. It's looking even better for both sides at the moment.
Quintana has been on fire of late, with a 2.10 ERA in his last six starts. Meanwhile, Jimenez and Cease are arguably the two best prospects in the White Sox loaded farm system. Jimenez is ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the game after a big season swinging the bat, and Cease was the organization's best minor league pitcher this season, both guys sparking big expectations for the team's bright future.
While the Cubs have to be confident in Quintana with how well he's pitched of late, he's returning to a ballpark where pitching well didn't always end in wins. He infamously received an unbelievably small amount of run support during his otherwise terrific tenure on the South Side and posted just a 22-27 record in his 84 games (all but two of which were starts) at Guaranteed Rate Field. Of course, the win-loss record doesn't reflect the 3.59 ERA he posted there in a White Sox uniform.
Quintana will almost surely get a nice ovation from White Sox fans, who treated also-traded starting pitcher Chris Sale well in his return to the South Side last season, but this Crosstown series could have a little more meaning than most. The Cubs remain in a tight division battle with the Milwaukee Brewers, meaning the White Sox have an opportunity to play spoiler. And while Quintana won't be trying to strike out Jimenez or battling against Cease, his former club could have an opportunity to pour some rain on the Cubs' late-season parade.
Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey and Vinnie Duber discuss the trials and tribulations of Yoan Moncada during his first full season in the majors and what kind of player they think he will become.
Plus, they talk about some White Sox buried treasure that Chuck found on the internet: Nolan Ryan pitching a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the White Sox from 1974 with audio from Harry Caray's call that night.
Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: