Eaton pitches in for his new community

Eaton pitches in for his new community

PHILADELPHIA -- In his first Phillies appearance since signing in November, Adam Eaton spent Monday morning building chairs for a new library at the KIPP Philadelphia Charter School in North Philadelphia.

How did it go?

"I put quite a few IKEA things together," he said. "That was my first chair. I struggled a little bit and needed some help. I made one though."

While no carpenter, Eaton figures to have a greater impact on the reconstructed Phillies starting rotation. With some success, perhaps Eaton can help author a story on a successful 2007 season that includes a postseason appearance.

"The Phillies in the past couple of years have had a pretty good run at the end," Eaton said, taking a break from the morning's activities. "We have good talent here. If we don't make the playoffs, it's a disappointment and a little bit of an underachievement."

While the return to the organization that drafted him in the first round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft may seem like a homecoming to Eaton, the physical move across the country represents a new experience. The 29-year-old has spent most of his Major League life in San Diego, save for a year in Texas, and his parents and most of his family live in Seattle.

The Mariners made a play for him this winter, but Eaton was swayed by general manager Pat Gillick's recruiting, which included a personal visit. From a teammate standpoint, Eaton knows Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins from his time in the Minor Leagues, Shane Victorino from the Padres, and Rod Barajas from last year's Rangers team.

He's also come across Jamie Moyer a few times, perhaps over a coffee at the local Starbucks, when they were neighbors in Seattle.

The biggest lure of playing for Philadelphia, however, was the team's pursuit of the playoffs.

"At [this] point in my career, obviously Seattle is at a different spot in the development of [its] organization," said Eaton, who signed a three-year, $24.5 million deal. "I'd love to go back and play in Seattle, but this time wasn't the right time."

The best thing Eaton can do for the Phillies is stay healthy. He went 7-4 with a 5.12 ERA for the Rangers in 2006, but he was limited to just 13 starts because a torn tendon in his right middle finger -- suffered in his final start of Spring Training -- sidelined him until July 25.

Injuries have plagued Eaton his throughout his career. He was especially frustrated that it cost him the second half of 2005, when he felt he was pitching well for the Padres. The silver lining to 2006's woes is that he didn't have any shoulder or elbow trouble. He's eager to arrive at Spring Training next month.

"One thing about being hurt is that my shoulder and elbow haven't been taxed at all, hardly," Eaton said. "Getting back in the swing of things, without injury, I should be able to [return to form]."

The Phillies rotation is expected to include Freddy Garcia, Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Eaton, Moyer and, for the moment, Jon Lieber.

Eaton acknowledges that he's a different pitcher than the lanky high school kid drafted out of Snohomish (WA) High School, at least mentally.

"I throw a slider, cutter, and, hopefully, I'm better," he said with a laugh. "I'm experienced. I'm not a young punk. Shoot, I'm 11 years older, though I still feel like I'm 18, which is good."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.