A lot of rest over the last week could have Adam Eaton back to normal.
Of the White Sox top four outfielders, Eaton is the only one not currently on the injured list. But that hasn't meant he's been healthy, bothered by a bruised knee and hamstring tightness. But a beneficial schedule and some days off on the last road trip could have Eaton nearing full strength.
Eaton was visibly hampered after he stepped into the May 2 game against the Cleveland Indians, subbing in for Luis Robert, who suffered a torn hip flexor in the first inning. Eaton was moving slowly around the field that day.
South Side skipper Tony La Russa has obviously been aware of that, and Eaton played in just two of the White Sox five games during a road trip through Cincinnati and Kansas City last week. The last week or so has also been peppered with scheduled off days, meaning Eaton's had to play just twice in the last eight days.
The White Sox right fielder was back in the starting lineup Tuesday, when the South Siders opened a seven-game home stand with a game against the division-rival Minnesota Twins.
"Texted him this morning and asked him, 'You good to go?' And he said, 'Always,'" La Russa said Tuesday. "He had to come in the other day after Luis (got hurt), and it might've added (to) the sore days for a while. But he's got out of it with the last two, gave it a rest and then yesterday, so I think he's pretty close to 100 percent."
Eaton's health is of obvious import with the White Sox thin in the outfield. Robert and Eloy Jiménez are slated to remain on the injured list for months as they recover from significant injuries. Meanwhile, Adam Engel has yet to play during the regular season, still on the mend from a strained hamstring suffered in the middle of spring training.
While Andrew Vaughn has filled in admirably in left field, it's clear the White Sox are well past the point of being able to afford another banged-up outfielder, with reserves Leury García and Billy Hamilton getting regular starts in center. In the two games Eaton sat out in Kansas City, reserve infielder Danny Mendick started in right field, the third regular infielder to be thrust into outfield duty for the White Sox this season, joining Vaughn and Jake Lamb.
Full health could allow Eaton to better contribute at the plate, as well. He was one of the White Sox more consistent hitters through the first few weeks of the campaign, with an .861 OPS through the team's first 17 games. But he's slumped woefully since, with a .140/.196/.209 slash line and 15 strikeouts compared to just two walks in his last 11 games.