Pro baseball

EC’s Lofton a role model for ‘dirtbag’ new Sox Eaton

2013-12-11T18:50:00Z 2013-12-12T01:57:06Z EC’s Lofton a role model for ‘dirtbag’ new Sox EatonGeorge Castle Times Correspondent
December 11, 2013 6:50 pm  • 

Now if only Adam Eaton could walk the walk like Kenny Lofton, after talking the talk Wednesday, the White Sox might have something.

After all, East Chicago native Lofton, now in the entertainment business in Los Angeles, was a skilled center fielder, leadoff man and base stealer from the early 1990s through 2003, when he helped spark the Cubs to within five outs of the World Series.

“I’d like to think I’m like a Lenny Dykstra-Kenny Lofton mix, kind of a guy who’s going to be a scrappy dirtbag guy who’s going after it day in and day out. Hopefully bring a little bit of speed and quickness, and score some runs.

“Hang my hat on .300 hitting and score 100 runs with an on-base percentage of around .400, I’d think I’d have a heck of a year. I think it’s definitely doable. That’s what I’m shooting for this year.”

Such bravado is music to the ears of Sox general manager Rick Hahn. Hahn finally dipped into his starting pitching depth to re-tool the lineup Tuesday. He dealt lefty Hector Santiago to the Arizona Diamondbacks for center fielder Eaton, who is earmarked to wake up a somnolent Sox batting order as possibly the leadoff man.

Hahn is steadily trying to make the Sox younger and speedier. If Eaton plays center, he’ll be flanked in right by 240-pound Avisail Garcia, who has uncommon swiftness for his size.

Hahn evaluated Eaton correctly, said Schererville’s Bill Bryk, special assistant to Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers.

“I would say yes,” Bryk said when asked if the 25-year-old left-handed hitting Eaton is a prototypical leadoff-man type. “He’s what you expect from a center fielder.”

Hahn also wants to transform the Sox from a swing-first, ask-questions-later hitting mentality that has produced sagging on-base percentages the past few years.

Eaton, who had a .456 on-base percentage in a big season at Class AA and Triple-A in 2012, has that potential. But he’s still a work in progress.

“He’s still learning to do it,” Bryk said of Eaton’s patience at the plate. “He’ll get better the more he plays. He’s an aggressive hitter, maybe a little too aggressive. I think he’ll learn on the job.”

Listening to Eaton, he might get bumped and bruised as he pays his big-league dues trying to get on base.

“I don’t care if I get hit in the head, hit in the ankle, see 10-12 pitches,” he said. “See as many pitches as I can and get on base any way. I could be 0-2 and chop a ball to the third baseman, as long as I get on base, I was successful.”

Once Eaton reaches base, he could cause havoc. He stole 44 bases overall in 2012.

“He’s got something: plus-plus speed,” said Bryk. “Speed never slumps. We liked him, but we had to trade something to get something.”

If Eaton paid attention at Triple-A Reno, he had Brett Butler, one of the master bunters of modern times, as manager. As a left-handed-hitting speedster, he could pick up some infield hits if he can drag-bunt.

Eaton is eager to meet his new cheering section. He immediately committed to attending SoxFest at the downtown Palmer House Hilton on Jan. 24-26.

Eaton will be joined by all-time Sox Paul Konerko, attending his final mid-winter fan convention as a player. Newly-acquired Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu also will appear.

Home-grown Sox speedster Micah Johnson, who swiped 84 stolen bases with three minor-league teams last season, will be on hand to swap max-velocity stories with Eaton.

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