Coleman has Sox itching to step on gas

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Adam Eaton already is off to a flying start with new Chicago White Sox baserunning instructor Vince Coleman.

After meeting Coleman over the weekend, Eaton got out on the bases Monday for some one-on-one instruction with one of the base-stealing greats the game has ever seen.

“I briefly spoke to him (Sunday), and he came off a little aggressive,” Eaton said. “I was like, 'Daggone, this guy is going to be on it.' And then I came back (Monday) and we went out on the basepaths a little bit, and he pumped me up. He really did.”

Despite some blazing speed, Eaton had just 15 stolen bases in 2014 and was caught stealing a whopping nine times. That unsightly steal percentage, and the fact that Eaton didn’t run as often as expected, is part of what prompted the White Sox to bring Coleman aboard.

Nagging leg injuries played into Eaton’s lack of base-stealing production, but at times he also seemed timid or unsure of himself when a prime opportunity arose. It’s not what was expected from a guy who had as many as 44 steals in 130 minor league games in 2012.

If Micah Johnson makes the roster, Coleman could have plenty of speed to work with, but as the leadoff man, Eaton figures to be his highest-profile student, for now.

“You want to talk about knowledge and the understanding of stealing a base in baseball, his knack for being aggressive on the basepaths,” Eaton said. “You know me, I’m always thrilled and ready to play tomorrow, but he really got me in the mood.

“I want to steal bags. Get some pitchers out here. I want to do it now. I’m very, very, very thrilled to be able to work with him. I’m very blessed. I’m excited to pick his brain and learn everything I can from him.”

If Johnson makes the club, he’s expected to bat in the No. 9 hole, leading around to Eaton in the leadoff spot. With the heart of the order due up soon after, having Johnson and Eaton on the bases wreak the type of havoc the White Sox could take advantage of.

“Yeah, he’s really enthusiastic; it’s good to see,” Johnson said of Coleman. “Obviously he’s new with the team, so he’s trying to make an impression too. The knowledge he has is unbelievable. He stole 100 bases and stuff. He’s going to have a lot of knowledge for me and other baserunners. He’s already made some adjustments on my running game. I’m open ears to him. Whatever he tells me, I’m listening, no matter what I’ve done.”

Johnson stole a combined 87 bases over four minor-league levels in 2013 and thinks a return to a 100 steals in a major league season is possible. The last to steal 100 in one year was Coleman in 1987 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

“I don’t think those days are over at all; I think athletes are faster, stronger now than ever,” Johnson said. “It’s like now you have to use the information wisely and have the athletic ability. Vince talks about mental aspect of it a lot. That’s basically what it is, the mental aspect -- the keys pitchers have, the confidence to steal and not being afraid to get picked off and thrown out.”