D-backs’ Eaton out 6-8 weeks with elbow injury

Diamondbacks rookie center fielder Adam Eaton is expected to miss between six and eight weeks with a slight tear in a ligament in his left elbow, the team announced Friday afternoon.

Eaton, expected to be the starter in center, first felt discomfort after throwing drills about two weeks ago. He did not miss any extended time but was removed from a game Monday against the Dodgers a half-inning after sliding headfirst into third base on a triple, although Eaton said his removal was solely for additional rest. He said he primarily felt pain when trying to throw from the outfield.

Eaton was hitting .390 with two home runs, three stolen bases and 10 RBI in 59 spring training at-bats, and he was expected to break camp atop the D-backs’ lineup.

D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said Eaton will be shut down for about a month before beginning rehab.

Towers compared the injury to one suffered by shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius this off-season, but “probably not as serious.”

The 24-year-old Eaton acknowledged the injury on Twitter after undergoing an MRI that showed the minor tear in his ulnar collateral ligament.

“It’s the worst timing ever,” Eaton said. “I didn’t sleep a wink last night and I probably won’t for the whole month I’m out. It’s going to be tough to see the guys have fun every day, but I guess it’s all part of the game. It’s going to kill me for sure.”

Eaton said he hopes to beat the six- to eight-week timetable for his return.

“I put all my faith in the doctors, but at the same time I’m going to try to push things,” he said. “We’ll be smart, we won’t do anything stupid, but I’m definitely going to try a speedy recovery.”

Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock are the candidates to replace Eaton in center.

Right fielder Cody Ross’ availability for Opening Day also is in question because of a left calf injury suffered the first week of March, meaning both Parra and Pollock could be called into starting duty in the short term.

Infielders Martin Prado, Willie Bloomquist and Eric Hinske also have major-league experience in the outfield. The injury could boost the chance of speedster Tony Campana making the Opening Day roster.