Chavez's Opening Day status sketchy
A's third baseman limited to light action after back spasms
PHOENIX -- Third baseman Eric Chavez was back in limited action for the first time on Thursday, six days after he had an epidural in his back to relieve spasms and inflammation.The curtailed pace of his workouts, as dictated by the team trainers, and the fact that he was set back at least a week from where he was before the injection, makes him highly questionable for the team's two-game season-opening series against the Red Sox in Japan, March 25-26. A's manager Bob Geren, though, said he was still clinging to the hope that Chavez would be available. "I don't want to count him out," Geren said as the team prepared for its Cactus League game on Thursday against the Cubs at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. "I'm still counting on him to go to Japan until given notice otherwise." Chavez, for his part, declined to talk in depth about his situation, which was defined in detail for the media on Thursday by head trainer Stephen Sayles. "Just repeat it all," Chavez said in the clubhouse a day after his wife, Alex, gave birth on Wednesday to their second child, a girl. "He gave you all the information you needed, right? I'm feeling good. We're all on the same page." Chavez rode the stationary recumbent bike, lifted light weights and took part in about 10 minutes of soft toss on the sidelines with assistant trainer Walt Horn. Asked if Chavez was going to partake in any more baseball activity on Thursday, Sayles said: "You just saw it." Chavez had to have an epidural administered last Friday to alleviate stiffness in the L4-L5 area of his back, where he underwent microsurgery to repair damaged discs this past November. He's also recovering from labrum surgery in both shoulders. Chavez played only 90 games last season because of the assorted injuries, batting .240 with 15 homers and 46 RBIs. He hasn't played a full season since 2005, when he appeared in 160 games. Sayles said that the medical staff would now "stagger rather than stack" Chavez's baseball activities. That means he won't hit, throw or take grounders on the same day until further notice. "We just want him to go home comfortable," Sayles said. "We want him to end each day in as little pain as possible. Hopefully, he'll be pain free. We're just going to take it day to day right now."
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.