D-backs see Eaton's debut as 'huge success'
SEP 30, 2012 2:14p ET
“I’d say, overall, a huge success in the time he was up here and encouraging what his future is, what he could do for us,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said in evaluating Eaton’s 26 days in the major leagues after his promotion from Class AAA Reno on Sept. 4.
Eaton, 23, has the skill set of a prototypical leadoff man. He sees pitches. He gets on base. He runs well. The D-backs have not had that hitter in the recent past, and the style of game he plays gives the team another way to score rather than only with home runs. The D-backs were 63-39 when they homered, 17-39 when they did not entering Sunday’s game.
Eaton ended the season hitting .259 in 85 at-bats with three doubles, two triples, two home runs and two stolen bases. He drew 14 walks and was hit by three pitches, giving him a .382 on-base percentage. Miguel Montero’s .394 on-base percentage is the highest on the team.
“He makes some young mistakes, yet I like his drive, his determination, the different things that he can do," Gibson said of Eaton. "The energy that he brings. He’s found out some things they will exploit on him and he made some adjustments, and I think he did decently at that. Showed a little bit of power. Showed a little bit of slashing and slapping at the ball. Certainly aggressive on the bases.”
Eaton made 21 starts, all in the leadoff spot and 20 in center field as the D-backs attempted to get a read on his ability.
“Certainly curious about that,” Gibson said when asked if Eaton is a leadoff hitter at this level. “He’s a battler, for sure. That’s what we’re looking for. It’s disruptive. We want to see as many pitches as we can. Want to see a guy who doesn’t go down easily.
"Certainly, the way he exits the box, any time he puts the all on the ground, certainly to the left side, (his speed) gives him an opportunity. He’s beaten several balls out to the infield since he’s been here.”
Eaton fractured a bone on the outside of his right hand when he was hit by an inside fastball from Cubs left-hander Jeff Beliveau in Saturday night. He stayed in to run the bases and took center field in the eighth before going in for X-rays in the ninth. Doctors said surgery will not be necessary if the small bone chip settles into place, Eaton said. Otherwise, pins could be inserted to stabilize the area. He will receive an X-rays once a week for four weeks to check on the progress.
“To end on this note kind of sucks, but it’s better to happen now than in March or in spring training,” Eaton said.
Eaton was presented his opportunity when center fielder Chris Young suffered a strained quadriceps while running out a grounder in San Francisco on Sept. 3. Eaton hit .375 with 47 doubles and 44 stolen bases in the minors, all but two weeks of which were spent at Reno. He led the minors with 198 hits and 130 runs.
“It’s been a really memorable year,” Eaton said. “As a rookie, you want to try to get as comfortable as possible. I feel like these weeks I’ve been up here, I’ve learned so much ... about myself and about being a major league baseball player. Just being able to slow things down and try to produce and be consistent every day.
“I had my spells every now and then when I did struggle. These last two days, I kind of got back into what I can do and how I can hit and how I can try to put pressure on defense. With that lull that I had and those few weeks that I wasn’t doing as well, I felt I came out on the other end well.”
Eaton broke an 0-for-19 drought with a single in San Francisco on Thursday and reached base in six of his last 10 plate appearances in his last two games.
“He was good. I think he really had some good time up here,” Gibson said. "It’s going to be helpful to him to have been up here. He had such a great year in Triple-A ... and you could see flashes of the player that he was down there."