BALTIMORE -- A year ago, Adam Eaton was on the verge of beginning his second rehab assignment for his strained left elbow.
But those days, the ones where he wondered with every throw whether or not he’d injure himself again, are in the past as evidenced by Eaton’s performance in Minneapolis this weekend. Eaton could be seen throwing balls all over Target Field and cut down a runner at home plate in Sunday’s loss.
He said his progress is the result of a smart strengthening program he and the White Sox training staff have worked on since before the start of spring training. Eaton said his strength also isn’t all the way back to where it was before a hellish 2013 season in which he suffered the injury and a serious setback during his first rehab.
“The whole 2013 season was ‘I’m going to throw this ball, I’m going to throw it hard and hopefully nothing happens,’ ” Eaton said. “I’d throw it searching my body like ‘Is it all right?’ I’d feel a little something and it kind of depletes and goes back to normal. Every throw was like that.
After the offseason I got in early and talking to (physical trainer Allen Thomas) and (trainer Herm Schneider)…not really getting on a throwing program, but just being smart about it. It hasn’t been an issue this year, which is great.”
Thomas thinks several things are at play, the first being that Eaton has had more than a year since he suffered a setback last May while playing for Triple-A Reno at Round Rock. The other aspect, Thomas said, is that Eaton understands his arm and isn’t afraid to speak up.
The communication between he, Eaton and Schneider has resulted in a smart program that has the leadoff man feeling “at home.” Thomas likes how Eaton works with him.
“Adam has really taken care of himself,” Thomas said. “I commend him. He’s a young kid and has a strong head and I don’t dislike that. I like that he knows what he needs at an early age in his career and hopefully that carries over. He knows the days that he does throw a lot, we back off on the other days. Just use common sense and good judgment and if we pick it up another day it’s not going to bother him.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura has noticed Eaton has a strong arm and likes to show it off. The only aspect of it that bothers Ventura is how Eaton is willing to launch a throw from everywhere, perhaps even from the stands if he were allowed.
Eaton has four assists this season, though Sunday’s, when he cut down Kurt Suzuki at home, was the first Eaton said hadn’t been cut off.
“He has a great arm,” Ventura said. “You hear about players and what they bring, for him he’s got a great arm and he likes to show it off, too. Knowing he had the injury I don’t necessarily like him throwing all the way from the fence to first base, but I think he likes to show it off.”
Eaton admits a lot of it is a respect thing.
He was set to be Arizona’s 2013 Opening Day center fielder until he suffered the first injury near the end of spring training. Eaton then rehabbed furiously until the setback in May and had to start all over again. When he returned, Eaton wasn’t at full strength and he didn’t like how his opponents treated his arm.
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He hopes one day it’s seen in line with Dayan Viciedo, who rarely has opponents run on him any more because of the assists he racked up when they did. He also wants to match the accuracy of former teammate Gerardo Parra.
And he’s on the way.
“It feels a lot better,” Eaton said. “I played left field a lot with Arizona and it was kind of embarrassing when guys go first to third on you when you’re in left field. You wanna show that you can throw guys out and get the respect they give “Tanky.”
Tanky threw a lot of guys out early and now guys hardly run on him and when they do they pay the price.
“(The strength is) not 100 percent -- it feels great, feels phenomenal. But the strength is continuing to come back and I have to continue to concentrate on making smart throws and keeping the ball down and continuing to get good carry until that strength comes back.”