Adam Eaton leading off and leading for White Sox
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter September 4, 2014 10:01PM
Updated: October 6, 2014 11:08AM
CLEVELAND — Adam Dunn and Gordon Beckham are already gone, and retiring captain Paul Konerko will be, too.
As the White Sox transition into a newer, younger unit in 2015, places in the clubhouse will be reshuffled and leadership roles must be earned. Manager Robin Ventura says he won’t name a captain to replace Konerko, but there are enough leader types to assume the position. At 25 and winding up his first full season in the majors, Adam Eaton is a little short on service time to be the guy, but he’s growing into it as one who plays hard, plays well and, for what it’s worth, is willing to stand up before the media as Konerko, Dunn and Beckham always were.
Eaton will need a few more miles on his baseball odometer to qualify as a leader, but he’s on his way.
“I would think so,’’ Eaton said. “I hope I have those qualities. It kind of chooses you; you don’t really choose it. How you act on and off the field and interact with the guys, the respect comes through that. Paul and Beckham do the right things on and off the field. It stems from that.’’
Chris Sale and Jose Abreu are the Cy Young- and MVP-caliber leaders because of their talent and personalities, but as a pitcher, Sale is on the field every fifth day, and Abreu is in his first year. Abreu also doesn’t speak English, although he’s picking it up and is determined to learn.
Communication goes a long way, which is why Eaton and his wife have Rosetta Stone software paid for and waiting to be tapped into this offseason.
“I want to brush up on my Spanish to be a complete team guy,’’ Eaton said.
“Hopefully, we’ll surprise a few of the Spanish-speaking guys in spring training.’’
Abreu, Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, Carlos Sanchez, Moises Sierra and Maikel Cleto require translators when they talk to reporters. Avisail Garcia, Jose Quintana and Hector Noesi speak English with varying degrees of fluency. These days, clubhouse leadership is more than just talk. It’s talking so all can understand.
“We seem to be adding more Spanish-speaking guys, so it doesn’t hurt to be able to communicate, not only baseball-wise but personally,’’ said catcher Tyler Flowers, who used two years of Spanish in high school to help converse with Spanish-speaking teammates in junior college and the minor leagues. “I find it beneficial and a little more imperative right now, being a catcher, because we have a few more Spanish-speaking pitchers as well, and there isn’t anyone who can translate out there.’’
As a catcher, Flowers assumes a natural leadership role, and Eaton quickly noticed that Spanish-speaking teammates respected him for his ability to communicate, albeit far from fluently.
“I think they look at him differently because of that,’’ Eaton said.
When Flowers was a minor-leaguer, he was already making the effort, conversing with Venezuelan teammate Ernesto Mejia, who was trying hard to learn English.
“Nowadays, it’s something that’s very beneficial, and teams are conscious of it and should be,’’ Flowers said.
Eaton gets it. If his leadership role becomes bigger in the future, he’s on his way to doing the sort of things it takes beyond being a skilled center fielder who owns a .310/.377/.414 slash line (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage).
“I’ll do my best if it does happen to choose me,’’ he said.
NOTES: Chris Sale takes an American League-best 2.11 ERA into his start Friday against the Indians. Joel Horlen (2.08 in 1967) was the last Sox pitcher to lead the AL.
◆ Jose Abreu (.322, 33 home runs) needs one RBI to reach 100 and is on a 13-game hitting streak. Abreu also has streaks of 18 and 21 games in his rookie season.