Chavez opens season in DH role

Chavez opens season in DH role

OAKLAND -- Eric Chavez still carries four gloves with him on a daily basis.

The probability of him using any of them, though, is seemingly becoming more and more unlikely.

That's the message he took from the club's decision to designate slugger Jack Cust for assignment on Saturday. Both general manager Billy Beane and skipper Bob Geren made it clear to reporters that day that Chavez would resume full-time designated hitter duties. However, two days later, neither Beane nor Geren have yet to speak to Chavez about the situation.

"I really don't know what the plan is for me right now," Chavez said Monday as the A's prepared to open the season against the visiting Mariners. "I'm not sure if I'm playing at first a little still. They haven't really told me anything."

Luckily, Monday's Opening Night lineup let him know he's the DH. Where he'll be Tuesday, or a week from now, is unknown.

"That's a really good question, because I just planned on Jack being the DH from the beginning and they were going to need me on the field," Chavez said. "So things have changed. I really don't know what they want me to do. I'll just kind of play it by ear and make adjustments as we go along. They know I can play in the field, I just don't know how much they want me there."

The 32-year-old Chavez appeared in 13 games at first base this spring and broke camp with the assumption that he'd be playing three to four times a week there during the regular season. However, Saturday's news has left him questioning why he spent so much time grooming his surgically repaired back and shoulders to acclimate to a new position when the club now wants him solely focusing on hitting.

At the same time, Chavez realizes that being a productive offensive contributor was his primary goal heading into camp and understands his newly formed DH role could give him the best chance to fulfill that objective.

"Nobody's told me one thing," Chavez said, "but having to DH, I could play more games. Not throwing a baseball gives me the best opportunity to do that. They're obviously giving me the opportunity to do that, so I'm going to take advantage of it."

Chavez made his 11th Opening Day start, tying Jimmy Dykes for second-most in Oakland history. He also marks the A's sixth different Opening Day DH in the last six years.

"We'll see how he holds up there," Geren said. "Having him in the DH role gives him the best chance to get the at-bats he needs."

At the very least, Chavez is simply pleased to be healthy.

"It definitely feels good to be here," he said. "The goal is not just to be here Opening Day, even though it's definitely a step forward, but to be here at the end of the year. If I'm here at the end of the year, that means I've stayed healthy."

If placed in the DH role on a fairly regular basis, Chavez will have to specifically keep watch on his right shoulder. The back-and-forth movement involved with swinging a bat, though, doesn't give him any back issues.

Health will continue to be a question for the remainder of Chavez's career, but for now he'd rather just concentrate on the task at hand.

"All I know is I'm DH'ing tonight, and it's going to be fun for me to be out there," he said. "I have a job. I'm employed. I have a uniform. I'll do whatever they want me to do."