Adam Eaton has a gift for angering other people, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers has decided. The other day, the center fielder bunted on James Shields and the Kansas City Royals seemed put off by that, and when Eaton slid into third base he banged against Mike Moustakas.
"I think everybody likes him on our team," said Towers, "but everybody on the other team hates him. He's just one of those guys."
Towers is closing in on two decades as a big league GM, and while Quilvio Veras did some nice things in Towers' years with the Padres, Towers can't recall ever having a prototypical leadoff hitter like Eaton before: someone who gets on base consistently, who pressures the defense, who forces the issue. Towers has watched the Giants set a standard for the NL West in recent years and sees a steady drumbeat in the way they compete, despite lacking a dynamic offense.
"They'll get guys on base and they'll put pressure on the defense," said Towers. "They won't make mistakes, and you look up in the late innings and you're down a run, and they've got that great bullpen."
Justin Upton and Chris Young could carry the Diamondbacks for stretches with their power, Towers felt, but when that duo stopped hitting home runs, Towers thought the Arizona offense just stopped. He's hoping now that Eaton can alter that equation, because speed doesn't slump. Eaton might run out a hit, steal a base, run down a ball in the gap.
"He's one of those guys who does something every day to help," said Towers. "He's going to do something that's going to show up offensively or defensively to help your club every night."
Eaton is 5-foot-8, weighs 185 and was a 19th-round draft pick after attending Miami (Ohio); that uphill climb is why Towers believes Eaton plays with a chip on his shoulder. There seems to be a little streak of Dustin Pedroia in him. As the Diamondbacks moved to sign Jason Kubel last winter, Eaton -- who had spent the 2011 season in Class A and Double-A, phoned his agent and asked if he could call Towers. His agent asked him why.
"They don't need Kubel," Eaton said. "They have me."
Eaton has a powerful arm -- Towers distinctly recalled this powerful throw that Eaton made for the Diamondbacks last September -- and more power than you'd expect, given his size. He had almost as many extra-base hits in the minor leagues last year as strikeouts (see table) -- again, very Pedroia-like.
When Eaton was playing in Triple-A last year, a rival scout approached his manager, Brett Butler, and asked if he could speak to Eaton, so that he could thank him. He explained that he had been following Reno for the better part of a week, as they played the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate, and that in many cases, the scout could not draw a true home-to-first time because the players had not run hard. With Eaton, on the other hand, the scout had never failed to get a time at 4.1 seconds or better, and he wanted to pass on his appreciation.
Eaton has a total of 103 plate appearances in the big leagues, in 22 games at the end of last season, so logic will tell you there will be valleys and peaks. But when Eaton posted a .382 on-base percentage in that handful of chances, this was in keeping with what he has done at every single level he has played in professional baseball.
Eaton enters this year as the No. 91 overall prospect as ranked by Keith Law, but some folks who he competes against feel a little more strongly than that. Just before the Diamondbacks promoted Eaton last year, a manager and a hitting coach of another team stood and chatted with Towers and Butler. "Can you just get that little pissant out of our league?" said the manager, and he meant it as a complement.
"He's a guy who seems to be in the middle of something good every day," said Towers.
The Diamondbacks will need that this year, in what figures to be a very competitive NL West.
Around the league
• The Miami New Times won't hand over its documents to Major League Baseball, but more important, the paper reports that there is an ongoing investigation of Anthony Bosch by the state of Florida. If this happens in an aggressive manner, with subpoena power wielded, there will be a growing paper trail and testimony -- which is not good for any players who dealt with Bosch.
Major League Baseball does not have subpoena power; the state of Florida does.
• What had been a really smooth spring for the Phillies took a turn Tuesday, when Roy Halladay's velocity dropped significantly -- and he got whacked around, as Bob Brookover writes. From Bob's piece:
"I would say there's some concern," Dubee said when asked about Halladay's lack of velocity. "But I would say a lot of it has to do with him having no tempo to his delivery."
Asked if Halladay was in the process of reinventing himself as a pitcher, Dubee said the veteran righthander is going to have to learn to trust his fastball even if it does not have the same bite it once did.
"I think he's probably going to pitch similar to what he used to pitch with his dominant sinker," Dubee said. "I think sometimes he runs away from his fastball and we had a good talk about that afterward today.
"Whether it is 88 or 92, he is still going to have to pitch off his fastball and trust his fastball. I think now even some of our catchers are getting caught in too many ruts where we are going soft with him and not protecting the soft with the fastball."
The Tigers' hitters spoke loudly, writes Jim Salisbury. From his story:
"Yeah, it concerns me," said manager Charlie Manuel, who met with GM Ruben Amaro Jr. after the game.
It was unclear what that meeting was about, but Halladay, coming off an injury-plagued and disappointing season in 2012, has been one of the big topics in camp. His productivity is crucial to the team's chances.
Manuel, who was downcast after the 10-6 loss, went on to say that Halladay was healthy and needed to keep working to be ready for the regular season.
Halladay is famous for his hard work. After the game, he said the hard work caught up with him.
"I was really lethargic," he said. "Warming up it was as good as it has been all year. Once we got out there (in the game) it was completely different. I think it's just that time of spring. You're going all the time. We had an extra day so I threw two bullpens in between, and you're trying to work on as much stuff as you can. So I really feel that kind of caught up with me today."
• The Dominican Republic and the U.S. won in the WBC. The wins are coming bloodlessly for the U.S., writes Jerry Crasnick.
Robinson Cano was not happy with something that Nick Punto did. Giancarlo Stanton was a help.
• Randy Smith was general manager of the San Diego Padres at the end of the 1994 season, and when manager Jim Riggleman left to go with the Chicago Cubs, Smith knew whom he wanted to hire as manager. Smith's candidate, he thought, was excellent at dealing with players and was tough when he needed to be, and thrived at in-game strategy -- but he had no major league experience and wasn't a big name. The Padres were right in the middle of being sold, from Tom Werner to John Moores. Larry Lucchino, who was part of Moores' group and would be the boss to whom Smith would answer, lobbied for Davey Lopes, who didn't have major league managerial experience but was very well known. Smith went so far as to put his job on the line in pushing his own candidate over Lopes, and those who know Lucchino say that's what he prefers from the people who work for him -- that they make a stand for what they want.
So it came to pass that the Padres hired Bruce Bochy, who is entering his 19th year managing, the Giants as well as San Diego, and now Randy Smith's unheralded candidate has emerged as a candidate for the Hall of Fame. Bochy, 57, is 23rd all time in victories among managers, and 14 of the 22 managers who rank ahead of him are already in the Hall of Fame, with Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre to join sooner, and Jim Leyland later.
By the way: Bochy wouldn't answer a question about whether he is happy with Pablo Sandoval's conditioning, after Sandoval rejoined the Giants from the WBC.
• Rival scouts who see the Yankees these days speak separately, but the consensus is this: Short of strong, complete seasons from CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, they cannot view the '13 Yankees as anything but a team that struggles to reach .500.
George Vecsey wonders: Where are the Yankees he loved to hate?