Adam Eaton, considered among the most exciting young players in baseball, was expected to start in center field and bat leadoff for the Arizona Diamondbacks this year. Instead, it was recently announced that he will miss up to the first two months of the season because of injury.
Arizona announced via the team’s Twitter account that the 24-year-old Eaton will miss the first six-to-eight weeks of the season because of a UCL injury in his left (throwing) elbow:
The story was confirmed in a separate report by CBSSports.com’s Mike Axisa.
He first came to the organization as a 19th-round draft choice in 2010.
Despite standing only 5’8”, he consistently impressed during his time in the minors, batting a combined .355 with a .966 OPS and 98 stolen bases in 319 games over three seasons.
Eaton also performed well in a 22-game major league cameo with Arizona last year. Playing regularly during the final month of the season, he hit .259 with two home runs, 19 runs and 14 walks.
The decision to go with him as a full-time starter in 2013 was looking good in light of his .390 batting average and 10 RBI in 20 games this spring.
Eaton was also starting to receive national accolades for his play.
ESPN.com’s Keith Law named the outfielder his top potential impact rookie this season in an Insider (subscription required) article.
He was also ranked as Baseball America’s 73rd-best overall prospect entering the season.
FoxSports.com’s Jack Magruder reported that Eaton has a small tear to a ligament in his elbow. He had noticed discomfort in the elbow two weeks ago but had continued playing until finally getting it tested.
According to an Associated Press article appearing on ESPN.com, Eaton was defiant in insisting that he would be back before his projected return timeline:
I'm sitting here today saying it's not going to take me that long. I'm going to do at all costs to get back quicker. I put all my faith in the doctors but at the same time for me there's an aspect where I want to try to get back a little sooner and try to push things a little bit. We'll be smart with it of course, we're not going to do anything stupid with it. But I'm definitely going to try to do a speedy recovery for sure.
While Eaton is sidelined, Gerardo Parra will likely receive the bulk of the playing time in center field for the Diamondbacks.
Arizona general manager Kevin Towers told MLB.com’s Tyler Emerick that the plan is to shut Eaton down for a month and then ease him into a throwing rehab schedule. He will be able to swing a bat during the shutdown period, so he may not need much time to be game-ready when he is finally cleared to play.
The scrappy Eaton explained to Emerick how bitterly disappointed he was to receive news of his injury:
It's the worst timing ever. 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.
If he can come back quickly, Eaton would still have enough time to have an impact rookie season. For now, he’ll have to wait, which seems to be the worst agony of all.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference