Health has always been an issue with the Oakland Athletics. Just ask six-time Gold Glove winner, Eric Chavez. Chavez, who signed a six year, $66 million contract in 2004, has played in only 121 games in the last three years. Forearm tendinitis, and back injuries have plagued Chavez’s career.
Chavez, who is coming off yet another surgery, will try to comeback and serve as the A’s utility player. He is expected to play first-base, shortstop, third and possible the outfield. He is also expected to share some time at DH with Jack Cust.
As a Gold Glove winner, Chavez is expected to be just fine in his transition over to first-base. In his first Spring Training game, Chavez hit a triple and played solid defense at first. Although he still has a little more work to do, Chavez is progressing nicely and that should be looked at in a very positive way.
Despite having a young starting rotation, the A’s finished with a team ERA of 4.26 (3rd in AL). Among those youngsters were Brett Anderson (11-11, 4.06 ERA) and ROY Andrew Bailey (26 SV, 1.84 ERA). Anderson was dominant in the second-half and Andrew Bailey emerged as one of the game’s finest closers.
But heading into 2010, A’s GM Billy Beane felt that the A’s could use an established veteran presence in their young rotation. Enter Ben Sheets.
Sheets, who missed all of the 2009 season, signed a one year, $10 million contract with Oakland. The A’s took a risk by signing Sheets to a big contract (at least for the A’s). However, the risk isn’t without its reward. Sheets, who has compiled an 86-83 record and a 3.72 ERA in his career, should be a clubhouse leader for the A’s. Sheets’ attitude towards the game should rub off on the younger guys like Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez.
Like Chavez, Sheets made considerable strides in his quest to get himself healthy and ready for Opening Day in his first Spring Training game. A’s manager, Bob Geren, said that he liked what he saw from Sheets. Despite giving up two runs in less than two innings, the fact that Sheets felt good after throwing is extremely encouraging.
The A’s have two players coming off injuries, and both players want to get out on the field and contribute as much as they can. For Chavez, it’s his last shot at salvaging what could have been a Hall of Fame career. For Sheets, it’s all about getting healthy and proving to those around him that he’s still an All-Star pitcher.