Tuesday, March 20, 2007

35 Reasons to Believe

The Phanatic Magazine continues its preseason coverage of the Phillies, profiling one player per day to get you set for the 2007 campaign. Our 35 straight days of Phillies coverage kicked off on February 25th, and will continue to roll until Opening Day on April 2nd. Then we will hand it over to Michael Rushton, who will provide an in-depth season preview before the first pitch is dealt.

DAY 24: Adam Eaton

By John McMullen
The Phanatic Magazine

Some scoffed when the Phillies signed Adam Eaton to a three-year, $24.5 million dollar contract over the winter.

In these parts, the right-hander might be remembered for being the 11th overall selection in the 1996 amateur draft or for being traded -- along with Carlton Loewer and Steve Montgomery -- for Andy Ashby.

Around baseball, he‘s known for his injuries. Eaton has landed on the disabled list five times in the last six seasons and was the ignominious winner of Sports Illustrated's Dumbest Injury of 2001 award.

In case you are wondering, Eaton’s shame involves a couple of DVDs, a knife and a trip to the emergency room. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound pitcher was struggling to open a pair of DVDs so he broke out a knife to slice open the package and ended up stabbing himself in the stomach.

You can tack that on to the traditional injuries. Eaton has found himself on the DL with elbow, groin and hand problems over the years. He‘s also already undergone Tommy John surgery and missed nearly four months recovering from April finger surgery last year.

When you add it all up, Eaton has missed almost two full major league seasons. So while most expected Eaton to be part of the Phillies’ starting rotation, it was probably a good idea to write him in with a pencil.

Few question Eaton's skill. In 146 big-league games, he has a solid 54-45 record and 4.40 earned run average in his stints with San Diego and Texas.

“His fastball looks easy, but has a lot of life,” catcher Chris Coste told the Wilmington News Journal. “It gets on you faster than people think. Plus, he's got three other pitches to go with it - a curveball, changeup and slider.”

That said, the constant injuries are a concern and Phillies general manager Pat Gillick had admitted signing the hurler was a bit of a risk. But, the Phils braintrust is banking on the fact that Eaton's arm is healthy and that his various finger issues are now cleared up.

“That's the reason we kind of went out on a limb the way we did,” Gillick said. “We think that he really hasn't touched his potential. We think there is a heck of a lot more in there.”

The limb Gillick is on doesn’t include trading his insurance policy, however. Gillick recently said he wasn’t going to trade any of his six starters before the April 2 season opener against Atlanta. If “Stand Pat” is true to his word, that means Eaton or Jon Lieber will be headed to the bullpen.

"A lot of things go through my mind," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said to the Philadelphia Inquirer regarding his extra starter. "We're still in that meeting stage. We're still discussing things. Is it unfair [sending a starter to the bullpen]? I don't know about that. People ask me a lot of things that I think are unfair. This game is a game. If it makes us better to do something, believe me, I'm all for doing it. And I'm sure that player probably is, too."

Eaton’s stuff certainly translates to the pen better than Lieber’s but Eaton is part of the future and is making over $8 million per year.

So, expect Lieber to be the long man until the Phillies can unload him.

Tomorrow: Cole Hamels

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