Arizona's Adam Eaton Out 6-8 Weeks

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

A left elbow UCL sprain knocks out a promising rookie.

Rookie Adam Eaton, a Brett Butler type who was projected to open the season as the Arizona Diamondbacks' center fielder, won't be with them for awhile:

Eaton came up last September and played well, hitting .259/.382/.412 in 22 games. He had also played well this spring, hitting .390 in 62 plate appearances, though that only means so much when you're talking about the Cactus League.

The Diamondbacks were already down an outfielder with free agent signee Cody Ross struggling to come back from a calf injury -- he may yet be ready for Opening Day, but it's an open question right now. The last man standing is left fielder Jason Kubel.

The team does have some depth in the form of glove man Gerald Parra, who looked to have slid to fourth on the depth chart this offseason but now will get some playing time. They also have minor league veteran Tony Campana in camp, but he might qualify as the most punchless player in the majors just now this side of Dee Gordon, having slugged an even .300 in 347 big-league plate appearances. Another rookie who made his debut last season, A.J. Pollock, may stick as well. A .302/.354/.418 hitter in a brief minor-league career, the 25-year-old former first-round (2009) draft choice doesn't walk much or have a ton of power, so there will be a lot of pressure on him to hit for a decent average -- and some of that .302 average was compiled in Reno, one of the Pacific Coast League's more inflationary hitting environments.

Parra hit .292/357/.427 with tremendous defense two years ago, and looked to have established himself as a solid every-day choice in left field at 24. Both the bat and glove slipped last season, and between the signing of Ross and the arrival of Eaton, he had seemingly been relegated to fourth outfielder status. Eaton's injury represents a chance for him to undo that with a hot start.

On the bright side, if there is a bright side, both Parra and Pollock are good gloves (Kubel, who lost whatever speed he possessed to the devastating knee injury that cost him the entire 2005 season, is the farthest thing from). Neither is likely to generate a lot of offense, and the Diamondbacks will miss Eaton's patience. Arizona was second in the National League in walks last season, a valuable quality given their ballpark's propensity towards allowing home runs. If home team and visitor alike get an equal boost in the power department, the team that hits theirs with runners on base comes out ahead. That seems obvious, but historically it has not been clear to many teams (read: the Cubs). As Parra showed two years ago, an outfielder can make an outstanding contribution on defense, so at the very least the team shouldn't suffer on that side of things while Eaton is out.

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Though in a tough division with the champion Giants and the free-spending Dodgers, the D'backs do have a solid chance of competing for a postseason spot this year. The loss of Eaton, even if only temporary, has to be rated a serious blow.

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