PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks got good news Thursday in learning that a setback in center fielder Adam Eaton’s recovery from a sprained ulnar collateral ligament does not involve structural damage, but the team still wants to be sure its relief is not misplaced.
Eaton said Friday he will get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, the renowned orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports injuries, early next week to make sure the initial diagnosis by team physician Dr. Michael Lee is accurate.
“We’re going to see what he has to say,” Eaton said. “We’re going to let him look at it, and he’ll go from there.”
Eaton was shut down earlier this week during a rehab assignment with Single-A Visalia after experiencing discomfort. He had spent two weeks with Triple-A Reno as a designated hitter before starting to play the field with Visalia last Friday.
“The first day in Round Rock I played the field, and I made a throw home and it didn’t feel right,” Eaton said. “The doctor said there’s a little fluid in there. … As of right now, we’re going to take off about three weeks and then re-evaluate from there.”
In those three weeks, Eaton will not throw, instead doing strengthening exercises before beginning a throwing program. With the setback, it’s likely Eaton won’t be able to get on the field with the D-backs until the end of June at the earliest and perhaps into July. He was initially expected back near the end of May after suffering the injury in spring training.
The D-backs had anticipated Eaton being their starting center fielder and leadoff man this season before he was injured in a March 18 spring training game. While the D-backs would certainly liked to have started the year with Eaton, they haven’t seemed to miss a beat in center field without him.
Last week, we took a look at projections and where certain injured players might be without injuries. Doing so again with Eaton, via the ZiPS projections on fangraphs.com, we can guess that he might be somewhere around 25 runs, 18 RBI and two home runs at this point. In Eaton’s place, center fielders (A.J. Pollock and Gerardo Parra, primarily) have totaled 28 runs, 18 RBI and five home runs.
Still, the D-backs aren’t thinking about Eaton’s injury in the context of what he might have done or what guys in place now are doing.
“You just try to get guys healthy,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “You don’t get disappointed — it’s just what it is. When guys are ready to play, you make decisions how they fit into the schematic of trying to win ballgames.
“Until they are, you don’t. … You don’t put the cart ahead of the horse. That’s the way I look at it.”
Eaton is trying to think the same way, but he conceded Friday the setback is a test of his patience.
“It is kind of starting all over again,” Eaton said. “As tough as it is and as young as I am, I haven’t ever tasted any kind of adversity like this before, so it’s definitely going to be a learning process for me to kind of take a step back and learn day-to-day how to be patient and get healthy.”