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La Russa's call whether Eaton is Sox everyday right fielder

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Wintrust
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Did the White Sox acquire Adam Eaton to be their everyday right fielder?

Apparently, that will be up to Tony La Russa.

General manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox new manager will determine how to divvy up playing time once the games start being played in a 2021 season with championship aspirations on the South Side.

RELATED: Sox welcome Eaton's edge, not concerned with clubhouse fit

"Ultimately, it will be up to Tony how he wants to deploy (Eaton), where in the lineup and how frequently," Hahn said. "We certainly think a healthy, productive Adam Eaton is an everyday right fielder for us, at the very least. He’s consistently shown the ability to be a solid offensive weapon against right-handed pitching and play solid defense for us.

"In the end, we want to provide Tony with as many quality options as possible, and Adam has been added to the mix."

Eaton would figure to be in line to get the lion's share of the at-bats in right field, a consistent producer at the plate during his career and a solid defender. But it's a question for a few reasons.

First, Eaton will have to be physically able to play every day in order to be in the running for the everyday gig. During his four seasons with the Washington Nationals, he suffered multiple significant injuries that wiped out huge chunks of games. Only during the 2019 campaign, which ended with Eaton and the Nationals winning the World Series, did Eaton stay healthy for an entire year. He tore his ACL early in his Nationals tenure, and his 2020 season ended early thanks to a broken index finger.

 

Eaton, too, will have to prove that the woeful stat line he owned during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign was an outlier. He slashed .226/.285/.384 in 41 games this past season, numbers vastly different from what he typically turns in. But being the most recent batch of statistics, he'll have to show it was just a fluke if he wants starter's at-bats on a team expecting to contend for a championship.

And then there's Adam Engel, who had a nice offensive season in 2020 to go along with his typically stellar defensive play. That the left-handed hitting Eaton has fared so well against right-handed pitching in his career and that the right-handed hitting Engel batted north of .300 against lefties in 2020 could set things up nicely for a platoon.

Additionally, if the White Sox have any other offseason moves up their sleeves before heading to spring training, that has the potential to impact things, as well.

All that will be under La Russa's purview when the season starts.

To Eaton's credit, he's ready to do whatever in pursuit of another ring to add to his jewelry collection.

"The role I'm going to play, I'm not real sure," Eaton said. "Once I talk to (La Russa), maybe he'll give me a little better understanding of what I'm going to do.

"I'd love to be an everyday player hitting in the top of the lineup, but if that is not my role, that is fine. I'm going to do anything, in any shape or form, to try to help these guys, may it be with (helping out) the younger players, may it be base running or hitting, fielding.

"I've done a lot of dumb things on the baseball field, so I think I can shed a lot of light of what not to do. If my role changes, I'm going to give the guys the support that they need in order to be successful."

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