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Adam Eaton can't return soon enough

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As rehab stint nears, White Sox leadoff man is missed in more ways than one

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

I was out of town for Sunday's game against the Diamondbacks, but based on Robin Ventura's postgame comments, it didn't sound like I missed anything.

The White Sox' performance indeed put a bee in his bonnet, because he revisited the topic before Monday's game against Oakland.

"I could tell right when I walked in," Ventura said. "I got there from airport and you could kind of tell it was flat. You’re trying to get them going and it was flat the whole time. The first play kind of set me off from there. It was just flat the whole time, and the position we’re in with as many guys hurt and the way we’re trying to get through this period right now, you can’t come out flat.  You don’t want to see it any time, but there are exceptions to it. Right now, you can’t play that way." [...]

"It has nothing to do with [the result]," Ventura said. "I can tell the way we are by the way it is in our dugout. I can tell. And I know what it’s like. It’s not like I haven’t had a day when I felt flat. You can either give in to it or you can try and change it. And I didn’t think anybody tried to change it. They knew what I was thinking during the game. They knew exactly what I was thinking during the game. That’s what comes out."

Hawk Harrelson spent some time on the idea of energy during Monday's broadcast, drawing a direct connection to Adam Eaton's absence. While intangible talk can often be too convenient for its own good, the last few games have shown just how essential Eaton is to the way the rest of the team operates -- and you don't even have to bring energy into it, if you think that's pure hokum.

Batting order: With Eaton out of the lineup, Ventura's had to turn to a weird mishmash of less savory options. The divide is pretty noticeable:

  • Eaton: .276/.363/.378 over 113 PA
  • The rest: 194/.237/.319 over 77 PA

And when the game hinges on a guy like Leury Garcia instead of Eaton like it did on Monday, the leadoff spot becomes an even bigger speed bump.

Lineup balance: With Eaton in the mix, the Sox can roll out three above-average left-handed bats, and maybe a fourth if Alejandro De Aza can get rolling.

Outfield alignment: With Eaton playing center and seldom a risk for substitution, Ventura can get a lot more aggressive with mixing and matching in the corners without tipping over dominoes across the rest of the diamond.

Those individual aspects have little to do with energy, at least the kind of energy that is reflected in words and actions and personality. But add them all up, and there's probably a cumulative effect. Play or hit enough guys out of the preferred position, and that places a lot of stress on the club's weaker joints, which in turn can sap quite a bit of juice.

The good news? Eaton said he's at 98 percent, and he's scheduled to start a rehab stint in Charlotte on Wednesday. Since he's watched the way the offense has sputtered in his absence, perhaps that will make him less sensitive to arguments against his all-out style. The concern comes from a good place.