By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The growth chart for outfielder Adam Eaton has been evident over the past three seasons with the White Sox.
Suspected immaturity was an issue that was held against the 27-year-old Eaton when he was coming up in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, but there was never any real doubt about his baseball talent. Eaton loved to play and did so without any regard for personal safety or holding his tongue.
“You learn along the way,” Eaton said. “You are around guys for 200 or more days. What you learn is that some things are better left unsaid. You are better off learning a lot by watching instead of opening your mouth. Hopefully, guys have seen me in that light this year.”
On the diamond, the initial results said this was a player who couldn’t stay on the field due to his affinity for running into walls in full stride. These days you see a right fielder who’s under control at all times and is vying for not only his first Gold Glove but possibly the defensive player of the year award.
Those around the White Sox also say Eaton has changed.
“Adam is more comfortable in his own skin now,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He knows what he can do and he goes out and does it. There are times now where he doesn’t have to try so hard now. This year, for him, there has been an easier transition to do that. There are different personalities that can do that. I believe this year has worked well for him.”
At some point after 2014, Eaton started to understand playing hard and playing smart equals staying on the field for 150-plus games. This mentality was learned after many collisions with the center-field wall. Now, he has had two straight seasons of quality numbers and 153-plus games in the lineup.
“The main gripe with my game had always been I couldn’t stay on the field,” Eaton said. “Being able to curb the reckless abandonment process has helped me be more valuable to the team.”
Eaton moved to the right field spot to start the season, though he’s played center field again on numerous occasions after Austin Jackson was lost for the season in June. Eaton’s 18 outfield assists lead the majors.
Three straight losing seasons wear on players. Eaton is frustrated by the team’s sub-.500 records.
“This last week we played with our hair on fire,” he said. “We have scored runs, our pitching staff has pitched the way they are capable of. The key is being consistent, and we have not done that all season.
“We need to be more consistent. If we just have played a little more like we are now each month, we are a playoff team. I think the pieces are here. Having said that, we have to do it.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.