Chavez gearing toward Opening Day
A's third baseman recovering from three offseason surgeries
PHOENIX -- Eric Chavez seemed pretty comfortable for a guy who had just emerged from a lengthy soak in an ice bath.
Coming off three offseason surgeries, the face of the A's franchise spoke with optimism Tuesday about his rehabilitation and the upcoming season.
Chavez had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder Sept. 5 and microdiscectomy surgery on his back Oct. 9. While those operations were something Chavez had contemplated after the 2007 season, the third surgery was unexpected.
Chavez said he experienced occasional discomfort in his left shoulder after landing awkwardly diving for a ball "three or four" years ago in Spring Training, but he had always been able to play through the pain.
But while doing rehabilitation exercises after his right shoulder surgery, Chavez found that his left shoulder wasn't doing as well as his right one, and he had it checked out.
"There was a pretty significant tear, almost as significant as the right shoulder," Chavez said, and that led to a left shoulder debridement surgery Oct. 16.
"Two surgeries I was OK with," Chavez said. "When I heard about the third one, I was kind of waving the white flag a little bit."
Fortunately, Chavez said he's coming along nicely and has been performing all manner of baseball activities at the complex he built at his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
"For the last month, I've been doing everything," Chavez said.
The A's have laid out a detailed, day-by-day calendar of what drills and exercises Chavez will perform this spring. The expectation is that he'll begin playing in exhibition games in early March and be ready to start at third base when the regular season opens March 25 with a two-game series against the World Series champion Red Sox in Japan.
"The trainers had a discussion this morning and they're energized by his progress," manager Bob Geren said.
Chavez said he's willing to put in the time in the training room every day to keep himself in the lineup, noting that until recently, he had been a very durable player. From 2000 through 2005, he appeared in at least 150 games five times.
"I'll be stretching and icing and doing what I have to do until I stop playing baseball," Chavez said.
Chavez's wife is expecting a child, but since they have planned a Caesarean section for March 7, Chavez said the pregnancy shouldn't interfere with the Japan trip.
Chavez, entering his 10th season, has spent more time in an Oakland uniform than all but three players: Rickey Henderson, Terry Steinbach and Mark McGwire.
Accordingly, he's seen plenty of players come and go in the name of both maintaining payroll and improving the team. Even so, he knows the moves made in the last few months represent a big change.
"It's rebuilding, that's what it is," Chavez said. "We've always been rebuilding, kind of slowly, every year since I've been here, but not that drastically."
Even so, Chavez said he believes the A's have a great deal of young talent -- a formula that's worked before.
There's been one change Chavez particularly appreciates, and that's the investment by the A's in new health equipment and training staff. He said it will make a big difference for him and other players.
While Chavez said the starting rotation will have the biggest impact on the team's fortunes, the A's know how much of a difference a healthy Chavez could make in the young lineup.
"He's one of the most talented guys I've ever seen play," Geren said. "He has power to all fields, he has six Gold Gloves. We all know what he's capable of."
Chavez said he's primed for a big season after dealing with a lot of injuries over the last two seasons.
"I think we figured it all out now," he said of how to get healthy. "I expect to have a great year, I really do."
Mark Thoma is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.