Updated: May 23, 2014 12:24AM
It took Adam Eaton a couple of weeks to stop sliding head first into first base. That took a little talk from general manager Rick Hahn. Now, after seven weeks, the White Sox’ max-effort leadoff man and energy source has decided to scale back — when the situation is right — to conserve some juice running out ground balls.
That decision came after some talks with team captain Paul Konerko and veteran Adam Dunn.
Eaton, who missed five games from April 20 to 24 with a strained left knee and was on the 15-day disabled list from May 3 to 17 with a strained right hamstring, is credited by the Sox’ coaching staff and players for changing the dynamic of the lineup. They say a big part of the change is from Eaton’s all-out effort. But in the Sox’ 3-1 loss to the Royals on Wednesday, the 5-8 center fielder eased off the gas pedal on two groundouts. He even walked the last few steps off the field before reaching the dugout.
“I hate doing it. I really do,’’ Eaton said. “It’s like pulling teeth for me to not bust [it] down the line, but it’s something I need to do to play 162 games and be in this lineup every day for these guys.”
Konerko and Dunn know from experience that a season, and a career, are marathons, not sprints.
“Paul’s just saying, ‘You want to play in this game a long time, and you want to be able to walk when you’re 60, you’ve got to take it easy,’ ’’ Eaton said.
Eaton has run all-out on routine grounders over and again, only to be out by a hard-landing, finishing step.
“For me, whenever I hit the ball on the ground, I have a chance,’’ he said. “I really do believe that, but at the same time, if there’s a 14-hopper to second base, I just need to, you know, not coast — I hate that word, and I’ve talked to you guys about doing an injustice to the game; I freaking hate it — but 99.9 percent of the time, they’re going to make the play and I’m going to be out by a step. So just go ahead and get down the line, have your out and get it the next time up.’’