LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Eight months ago, he believed he would stay with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the better part of the next decade.
So Adam Eaton was a more than a little surprised to learn via Twitter he would be traded to the White Sox.
While he admits he was jarred by the news at first, as just about any person with a pulse would, Eaton sounded Wednesday as if he’s more than eager to bring his roll-with-it style of hustle to the South Side.
The center fielder, a native of Springfield, Ohio, was acquired from Arizona on Tuesday as part of a three-team trade that sent Hector Santiago to the Los Angeles Angels.
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“It was very shocking,” Eaton said. “I thought I was going to be around for five to 10 years there (in Arizona). But they went a new direction and so have I and I’m excited for the opportunity. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be back in the Midwest and in the AL Central. As shocked as I was, it was more excitement to a new beginning and a new club and a new city. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Eaton experienced similar enthusiasm last March as he was on the verge of taking over as the Diamondbacks’ everyday center fielder. But 10 days before the season opener, Eaton suffered a slight tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. At the time, he carried a .390 average with two home runs and 10 RBI in 59 spring training at-bats.
Partway through his rehab, Eaton suffered a setback and had to start from scratch.
A.J. Pollock had supplanted Eaton in the lineup by the time he returned to the field in early July.
“It was a very difficult time in my life,” Eaton said. “I learned a lot about myself and my wife. We were basically newlyweds. I was ready to go. I felt like I earned my job and was pumped to start my year.”
He’s excited to return to the field with a fresh start and get back to the basics, which he said he got away from over the season’s final three months. The Miami, Ohio alum finished last season with a .252/.314/.360 slash line, three homers and 22 RBI in 250 at-bats. He said two months of rest this offseason has him confident his arm is back to full strength.
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“Last year I was too focused on struggling and trying to get back in a groove,” Eaton said. “I’m excited to bring energy to the team, whatever they need me to do.”
The White Sox are thrilled by the prospect of penciling Eaton into the leadoff spot for the foreseeable future. General manager Rick Hahn described Eaton on Tuesday as a “dirt bag” who should bring both edge and energy to the clubhouse. A rival executive said the White Sox would love Eaton even as he labeled the outfielder an annoyance, the type of player who thrives off driving opposing teams crazy.
Eaton describes himself as a blend of Kenny Lofton and Lenny Dykstra. He’s also pretty confident in his abilities after he produced a .450 career on-base percentage in more than 1,500 plate appearances.
“You give me a glove and anything you want me to do I’ll do,” Eaton said. “I’m comfortable at the top of the lineup, but if that’s not where I’m needed, that’s not where I’m needed. … (I’m) a scrappy dirt bag, get after it day in and day out. Bring a little finesse. It would be great if I could hang my hat around .300, 100 runs scored and an OBP around .400. Think it’s definitely doable.”
He also believes the transition back to the Midwest is doable, though he’ll have to adjust his sports priorities.
Eaton grew up a big fan of the Cleveland Indians and lists Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel among his all-time favorites. A hockey fanatic as well, Eaton said he now that he lives in Phoenix he rarely misses Phoenix Coyotes games.
“Two no-nos,” Eaton said. “I heard nothing but good things about the Blackhawks, and hopefully I can see a few games this winter. This is a tough transition, but we’re willing to do it.”