In nine games since Adam Eaton went on the disabled list with a strained right oblique, White Sox hitters have combined for just a .286 on-base percentage. It's no coincidence that losing Eaton — and his .370 OBP — at the top of the order has significantly muted the effectiveness of the team's lineup.
The issue going forward for the 25-year-old center fielder is learning how to stay healthy while not scaling back the aggressive style of play that got him to the majors. Manager Robin Ventura said the best thing Eaton can do going forward is learn how pick his spots to be aggressive.
"Guys are going to get hurt, but I think there's ways for guys to manage it," Ventura said. "This is not a guy that's played 10 years, so he's got stuff that he'll learn as he goes along, how important he is to the team and when to run face-first into the wall and when not to when the ball's 10 feet over the fence."
Ventura was referencing Eaton crashing full speed into the right-center field fence at U.S. Cellular Field on Aug. 6 on a home run that easily cleared the wall. Eaton's hair-on-fire defense has often resulted in spectacular catches — like when he robbed Boston's David Ortiz of a home run in April — but in that instance, it wound up taking him out of the lineup for over two weeks.
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The White Sox told Eaton earlier in the season to stop diving head-first into first base, and general manager Rick Hahn praised some of the work Eaton's put in to keep himself healthy over the season. Eaton is viewed as part of the core, but obviously needs to be healthy to fully realize his potential.
"We view him as an important part going forward," Hahn said. "We see the way the offense functions a little bit better when he’s at the top playing the way he can play. He knows that. He knows he needs to be out there in order to help us.
"We don’t want to take away any of that aggressiveness that makes him special and gives him that edge and provides that spark at the top of the lineup."
Eaton is expected to head out on a minor league rehab assignment to Triple-A Charlotte in the next few days and, if all goes well, should be back in the White Sox lineup early next week.