He endured a half season of difficulty with his left elbow in 2013, but White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton believes his troubles have passed.
Eaton, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Dec. 10., was limited to 66 games with Arizona last season after he suffered a tear in his left ulnar collateral ligament in spring training. But Eaton worked his way back to health and said earlier this month he has benefited from constant rest this offseason.
“Throughout the rest of the season the confidence grew back in it and the strength of it came back,” Eaton said. “It hasn’t been an issue this offseason. I haven’t thrown at all, but you can kind of feel it here and there during the injury and throughout the offseason it has been a lot better.”
Eaton hopes 2014 is an improvement over last season.
He was on the verge of taking over as the Diamondbacks’ everyday center fielder when he suffered the injury on March 22.
Eaton, who was acquired in a three-team trade that sent Hector Santiago to the Los Angeles Angels, was on the comeback trail until he reinjured himself in Round Rock, Texas, in May.
“It was a very difficult time in my life,” Eaton said. “I was two to three days out from actually returning and made a hard throw in and it kind of blew up on me again, so we restarted the process of it again. I came back fairly healthy I would say. I don’t think I came back too soon by any stretch of the imagination. As I heard before with these injuries every throw, especially with the outfield, you don’t throw for four innings and all of a sudden you let one loose.”
Eaton started playing in a minor league rehab assignment on June 26 and maintained his health through the end of the season. He produced a .252/.314/.360 line with three homers and 22 RBIs in 277 plate appearances for Arizona after he returned in early July.
MLB.com’s Bernie Pleskoff, a former pro scout, thought Eaton might have rushed back from his injury. But Pleskoff still sees a good future for Eaton in Chicago.
“He came back too soon,” Pleskoff said. “He’s good. ... Eaton could start for (the White Sox) this spring, that’s how advanced he is.”
Pleskoff isn’t high on Eaton’s arm strength, noting it’s not as strong as he’d like.
The White Sox have a different opinion on the matter. They also have little concern about his elbow being an issue in the future and watched closely how Eaton responded when he returned.
“The elbow injury wasn't something we felt, and our medical people felt, would be a long‑term issue,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “We were able to see the same player who knew the strike zone and was able to work the count, had a short, compact, line drive stroke, ran well, obviously not affected by the elbow injury and still had the plus arm. We certainly paid attention to what he looked like coming back from that injury, but it was the kind of thing that shouldn't be a lingering issue.”
Eaton agrees and looks forward to hitting the field in a little less than two months in Glendale, Ariz., especially with a little more rest.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an issue at all during spring training,” Eaton said.