Oakland's six-time Golf Glove third baseman, who didn't make the trip so he could continue strengthening his surgically repaired back, has been shut down completely and will almost certainly open the season on the disabled list.
A's head athletic trainer Steve Sayles, who while in Japan has been getting updates on Chavez from Jeff Collins, Oakland's coordinator of Minor League athletic trainers, said he spoke with Chavez on Saturday and plans to speak with him regularly throughout the duration of the trip.
"He sounds disappointed," Sayles said at the Tokyo Dome before the A's took on the Hanshin Tigers in an exhibition game. "Extremely disappointed. He really thought he had this thing beat."
Chavez, who underwent two shoulder surgeries and a microdiscectomy procedure on his lower back late in 2007, has started a team-record-tying nine consecutive Opening Days. The streak will come to an end Tuesday with the first game of Opening Series Japan 2008, a two-game series between the 2007 World Series champion Red Sox and the A's, March 25-26, that officially opens Major League Baseball's regular season.
"It feels very weird not having him here," admitted Sayles.
Chavez, 30, did not play in any Cactus League games but had been taking batting practice without pain for several days before the A's left for Japan. He was cleared to start fielding ground balls right before Oakland's departure for the Far East, and that's when the problems resurfaced.
"His left side is keeping him from bending over," Sayles said. "He said his right side is OK, but the left side is not doing as well as we'd hoped, so we're gonna shut him down and have to start completely over. We have to get him back into rehab and get this taken care of.
"We're not as far back as we were [before Chavez started hitting], but we are starting all over. ... Square one."
Asked if that meant Chavez would be placed on the DL, Sayles said, "That's not my decision, but that's what I'm recommending."
Oakland's assistant general manager David Forst, who said Oakland's Opening Day roster must be submitted by 1 p.m. local time on Tuesday, said the club is "leaning in that direction."
"We'll meet with the staff tomorrow after the workout and make some decisions, but we're definitely leaning [toward putting Chavez on the DL]."
Forst also confirmed that righty starter Chad Gaudin, who underwent hip and foot surgeries in December, will open the season on the DL. Gaudin stayed behind in Phoenix when the A's left for Japan, too, but Gaudin has been progressing at a much swifter pace than has Chavez and is on track to make his regular-season debut April 12 in Cleveland.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.