When the Arizona Diamondbacks called up Adam Eaton last September, it was thought they were doing so to get a glimpse of their center fielder of the future.
And they may have been, but that future is not necessarily going to be 2013.
Eaton, who hit .259 with two home runs, five RBI and two stolen bases in just 22 games may have entered the offseason as the favorite to be the team’s Opening Day center fielder, but the outfield is as crowded as ever and playing time is not guaranteed.
And that’s exactly how manager Kirk Gibson likes it.
“He’s got to win that job, I’m going to tell you that right now,” the skipper told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo Wednesday. Gibson noted that Eaton had a successful season in the minors and was solid in his brief Major League stint, but that doesn’t matter. “It’s a mistake for me to say ‘yeah, he’s going to be our center fielder and hope he gets 650-700 plate appearances’ and think he’s going to be able to handle that.
“That’s a lot of responsibility. I want him to play center field every day, lead off. That’s a tough go; just being a rookie is tough in itself.”
Instead of handing Eaton the job, Gibson said he is hoping Eaton earns one, but doesn’t want to “over-burden” the young player.
“I saw that with J-Up last year, you don’t want any player to go through that,” he said. “And you try to be proactive in that and stop that from happening or compounding too much where it’s all of a sudden unmanageable, so that’s a concern of mine with Adam.”
That’s not to say Gibson is not high on the 24-year-old, because he is. Saying he’s kind of a ‘throwback’ player, the manager said it’s important to see how he reacts to the pressure of being a big league ballplayer.
“When the competition starts,” he said. “Everything’s great now and this is a really positive part of the year and we love it and it’s that way every year.
“When the stuff starts hitting the fan, then we see how people react to it. The pressure. It’s tough.”