Chavez aiming to DH for A's in Japan
Veteran third baseman says he wants to travel if he'll play
MESA, Ariz. -- In his ongoing recovery from back surgery, Eric Chavez said on Tuesday he's ready to return as a designated hitter if and when the A's third baseman is cleared to play by the team's medical staff. Chavez also said he hopes to make the trip with the team to Japan, but he won't do it if he can't play."I could DH right now," Chavez said at Phoenix Municipal Stadium hours before the A's played the Cubs in a Cactus League game at HoHoKam Park. "I'm just getting my legs under me, so I don't pull a [hamstring] or anything. I can hit, though. I'm doing about 90 percent of what I'm supposed to do. I'm so close, but yet so far." The opening series against the Red Sox in the Tokyo Dome on March 25-26 is approaching. The team breaks camp in nine days to make the 13-hour flight. "I'd love to go, but if I go, I'm playing," Chavez added. "It doesn't make any sense for me to go if I'm not. They're going to need someone who's able to play. If I'm not going to play, it doesn't make any sense for me to be on the plane." Chavez's recovery was set back this spring when he had to have an epidural administered on Feb. 29 to alleviate spasms in the L4-L5 area of the back. That's where he underwent laser microsurgery to repair damaged discs this past November. He'll fly to Los Angeles on Wednesday to be examined by Dr. Robert Watkins, the noted back specialist who did the surgery. "It's just a routine visit, a checkup," said Stephen Sayles, the team's head athletic trainer. "There's nothing controversial about it. He's just closing the loop." The left-handed-hitting Chavez returned to workouts last week, and on Tuesday he hit three times in a simulated game at the Papago Park Minor League complex. He walked, flied to right (the ball was dropped) and smashed a shot off the left-field wall. Chavez jogged down the line on that one for a single. He was replaced all three times on the bases with a pinch-runner. Sayles said on Monday that Chavez would be close to game-ready when he was out there in practice running the bases, which now might be only days away. Chavez has yet to field any grounders because the bending motion seems to have been the cause of the recent spasms. Sayles also has said it might be counterproductive for Chavez to fly 26 hours roundtrip to Japan, a notion Chavez rejected on Tuesday. "I want to play. I want to be on the flight. I want to go to Japan," Chavez said. "I'm not worried about the travel. I know I can lie down on the plane. I'm not worried about that. I'm just worried more about the actual baseball activities than the traveling. But it's going to be completely up to them. There's a lot at stake here."
Chavez played only 90 games in 2007 because of the assorted injuries, batting .240 with 15 homers and 46 RBIs. He hasn't played a full season since 2005, when he appeared in 160 games.As far as utilizing Chavez in Japan as a DH, A's manager Bob Geren said on Tuesday that no determination has been made. "I haven't ruled anything out," Geren said. "But we haven't discussed anything like that. We just want him to be able to play first." And everything depends on Chavez's continued improvement. Calling this the most extended pain-free period he's had since joining the team in camp last month, Chavez also said he's pretty wary. "It's really going to depend," he said. "I feel great, like I do today, or something could happen tomorrow. If a little thing like that happens, snap, I'm not going. That's why I have to take it day-to-day." Meanwhile in other news, the A's cut two more non-roster invitees -- infielders Jeff Baisley and Wes Bankston -- and reassigned them to Minor League camp. That leaves 42 players in the Major League camp: 34 players on the 40-man roster and eight non-roster invitees. The breakdown includes 20 pitchers, four catchers, 10 infielders and eight outfielders.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.