Despite the obvious slow pace of the workout schedule, Sayles wouldn't speculate about whether he expected Chavez to be ready for the opener, which is now 19 days away."It's not for me to rule him out," Sayles said. "That's for people, as I like to say, who are on a higher pay grade than me." Still, the A's are slated to break camp in 13 days on March 19 and fly 13 hours from Phoenix to Tokyo. Asked whether it was a prudent thing for a player in Chavez's condition to take that kind of flight, Sayles said: "It's not ideal. Again, it's not the best of circumstances." Chavez said his back stiffened when he began to participate in baseball workouts upon arriving at camp with the position players about two weeks ago. Because the stiffness persisted, Chavez said he decided to take a conservative route and not push himself this spring, opting instead for the epidural. "It started when I put on cleats and took part in some baseball activity," Chavez explained on Monday. "During the winter, it was totally different. It was so controlled. You get on the baseball field and it's just a different environment. I could do a lot of things at home that I couldn't practice in the baseball environment." To that end, Chavez was not wearing spikes on the field Thursday, but flat athletic shoes. Asked how many days it would take for Chavez to play baseball competitively, Sayles said: "It just really depends on how he progresses. As long as we don't hit any more snags, as long as he doesn't have any more spasms. It's hard to say what we're going to be able to do each day. We have to see how he reacts to everything we're doing."
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.