CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Adam Eaton pinpointed his struggles on Thursday afternoon. The right-hander lasted two innings in his second Grapefruit League outing and complained about lower back pain that could force him to miss some time this spring. "I would be a little more frustrated if [Thursday's performance] was due to a lack of preparation," he said after surrendering four runs against the Rays and seeing his ERA rise to 15.75. "Obviously, I didn't make good pitches. But at the same time, my back acted up a little bit and I didn't get good extension on anything."
Eaton said the discomfort dates to July, when he was moving a cage in Philadelphia, but it never prevented him from missing a turn. The righty did miss time with a sore right shoulder in September. The right-hander rested in the offseason, but felt something in his first start on Saturday against the Yankees. X-rays taken on Monday revealed no stress fracture, which had been suspected. Eaton said he felt good until warming up before Thursday's start. Describing the pain was another matter. "It's constant to the point of a tightness feel," Eaton said. "Once I go into my windup, I feel it. It's frustrating."
Depending on how he feels during the next week, Eaton might miss his next scheduled turn on Wednesday."If it continues bothering him, we'll probably shut him down," manager Charlie Manuel said. Back pain throws a wrench into Eaton's goal of staying healthy this season, as well as his hopes of redeeming himself after going 10-10 with a 6.29 ERA in 2007. He's viewed as the leader in the race for the fifth starter's job. Eaton is contending with Travis Blackley, J.D. Durbin and Chad Durbin for that role, though they all may be keeping the spot warm for Kris Benson. Eaton can't think about that now while he's concerned about performance. "They can't be half as frustrated as I am in myself," he said. "I'm frustrated, so they have to be frustrated as well." The good news? Eaton said his shoulder feels "great." "Can I just not hurt somewhere in my body?" he said. "Maybe my big toe ... I can handle that."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.