SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The much anticipated rookie season of D-backs center fielder Adam Eaton will be put on hold for 6-8 weeks after an MRI late Thursday night revealed a left elbow UCL sprain.
Even though the injury won't require surgery, D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said Eaton will be shut down for four weeks before beginning to throw again. Towers likened the 24-year-old's injury to the one that sidelined shortstop Didi Gregorius for more than a month earlier this spring.
"I'll sit here today and say it's not going to take me that long," Eaton said. "I'm going to do everything at all costs to get back quicker. I put all my faith in the doctors, but at the same time I'm going to try to push things. We'll be smart, we won't do anything stupid, but I'm definitely going to try a speedy recovery."
While he rests his elbow, Eaton will still be able to swing a bat. D-backs manager Kirk Gibson expects him to stay at Salt River Fields after camp breaks to take at-bats in extended spring training games, before embarking on a rehab assignment.
"He'll be able to hit after a week or two, because nothing really bothers him except when he really lets it go," Gibson said. "We'll err on the side of caution, but he'll get a lot of at-bats. Then when he gets within that window when he starts throwing, we'll send him out to do his rehab wherever."
Eaton, the D-backs' No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com, said the discomfort in his elbow began roughly two weeks ago when he and some of his teammates worked on their footwork and arm speed to get rid of the ball quicker in the outfield.
"I've always had a long motion to get it out, so I was trying to shorten it up," he said. "But it just didn't feel right that night and the next day."
After initially attempting to work through it, Eaton about a week and a half ago visited team doctor Michael Lee, who treated the elbow while the outfielder continued to play. Eaton figured the discomfort would eventually go away, but on Monday he felt the elbow tighten up while making a throw from the outfield to double up Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier at first base.
"The pain was weird. When I threw hard it would be there, but then it would relax and I'd be fine," Eaton said. "I had been trying to save my throws, but that one against the Dodgers, the competitive edge takes over."
Once the D-backs removed him from the game that day, Eaton told the coaching staff about what he felt on the throw and the club gave him the next two days off, aside from a pinch-hit at-bat on Tuesday. Eaton returned to the lineup Thursday against the Indians, collecting two hits in three at-bats before exiting. At that point, the team requested he undergo an MRI, which showed a small tear of a fiber around the UCL.
"They were just worried that it wasn't going away, especially after treatment," Eaton said. "Usually it should subside, and when it didn't they took precautions. I've never had arm issues, I have no idea why all of the sudden this happened.
"I just want to try to bug the heck out of them to get me out there a little quicker and get things going. Right now, though, I have to sit back, relax and let my body heal."
Eaton was slated to take over center field for the club after it traded away Chris Young in the offseason. Now, with Cody Ross also on the mend, Arizona's Opening Day outfield could instead feature Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra and A.J. Pollock.
"We have a lot of options," Gibson said. "We'll wait and see, because so much could happen still."
Eaton was batting .390 this spring, with 23 hits and 10 RBIs in 59 at-bats. The club's timeline puts the outfielder back with the D-backs around the beginning of May.
"It's the worst timing ever," Eaton said. "I didn't sleep a wink last night and I probably won't for the whole month I'm out. It's going to be tough to see the guys have fun every day, but I guess it's all part of the game. It's going to kill me for sure."
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less