CHICAGO -- As bad as the Chicago White Sox have been of late – a struggle that includes the pitching staff, defense and now offense – they still have somebody willing to pay the ultimate price for success.
Adam Eaton refuses to slow down, even with the White Sox fading fast in the won-loss columns. His 11-game hit streak and 21-game on-base streak might be finished, but his full-speed crash into the right-center field fence Wednesday showed that he still has plenty of fight left in him.
Not only did Eaton have to leave the game in the second inning against the Texas Rangers, he required X-rays, which came back negative. Despite going face-first into the fence, his biggest issue was with his lower back.
“I’ve been better,” Eaton said. “I’ve never done that before. I’m a little embarrassed. But my back kind of took a beating a little bit there. I’m very happy that it wasn’t my head. I thought that I went into the wall pretty hard.
Eaton sounded as if he wouldn’t be able to play Thursday in Seattle, but he said he would let the four-hour flight to the West Coast determine his fate. From the way he struggled to put on his dress clothes for the plane ride, playing Thursday seems highly unlikely.
Eaton obviously hit the fence running forward in a full sprint, but the impact was so violent that the energy transfer affected his back.
“I think it was the kind of snap, coming back,” Eaton said. “As soon as I hit the wall, that was my initial feeling. I felt a little tension in the back. Not a pop but definitely felt it. It was kind of scary. (Dayan Viciedo) kind of kept trying to pick me up. I told him to leave me alone, I can’t even breathe. Let me catch my breath. It knocked the wind out of me.”
Eaton said he was glad a head injury wasn’t involved and he didn’t have a concussion, but when asked about the homestand he couldn’t think of who the White Sox played before the Ranges were in town. He also couldn’t remember how many games the team won or lost since the homestand started Friday.
For the record, the White Sox went 2-4 during the six-game home games, and the pitching staff gave up 16 runs to the Twins on Sunday and another 16 to the Rangers on Tuesday.
With some rough defeats in mind, manager Robin Ventura was more than appreciative for a player fighting to keep the losses from mounting, although a defeat happened anyway Wednesday. Ventura did not knock Eaton’s effort, which some might have viewed as reckless.
“He’s going after everything; that’s just the way he plays,” Ventura said. “You don’t want to take that away from him. He has done the same thing and made some great catches. That’s part of playing the game. It wasn’t necessarily silly. He thought he had a shot at it and it ended up carrying out of the ballpark. Right there, the way the wind blows, it can ride through that area and just keep sailing. He thought he had a shot at it at first.”
Eaton’s all-out style, especially for such a young player, reportedly rubbed some players the wrong way with his former team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The word was that Eaton’s rah-rah style grows tiresome quickly.
White Sox starter Chris Sale has no problem with a high-energy teammate willing to run through fences to prevent runs. The drive Eaton was chasing ended up being a two-run home run from the Rangers’ Adam Rosales, the only two runs Sale gave up in the game.
“That hurts him and obviously helps him, but you respect it,” Sale said of Eaton’s no-feat style that is reminiscent of how Aaron Rowand played center field. “You've got a guy who brings it every day and plays hard every single day. If the worst thing you say about the guy is he plays too hard, that's probably the best compliment you can possibly give him.
“I know he prides himself on that and that's why you respect him as a player and a teammate, because he goes out there every day and obviously risks his body for his teammates and his team, and I have nothing but respect for that.”
Obviously there is a fine line between doing everything he can for the team and risking an injury that could cost him some games. In this case, Eaton insists he didn’t mean to be as reckless as he might have seemed.
“I was so in the moment; I had a good read,” Eaton said. “I thought that the ball was going to stay in right off the bat. My initial read with the play, I had plenty of room. As soon as the ball was hit, I thought the pitch was kind of middle in and he hit it to right-center. My initial read was the ball staying in the ballpark.
“As soon as I got a decent jump on it, I thought that I was going to be able to make a play on the ball. The crazy wind of Chicago kept pushing it. I felt like all my senses went out the window.”
It might be tough to get out of his hotel bed Thursday morning, but Sale plans to make the effort worth his while.
“I’ll buy him some dinner or something,” Sale said.