The A’s traded for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff because Eric Chavez can’t be expected to play anything close to a full season, but Chavez is comfortable with his new role as a super utility player.
“I think getting Kouzmanoff was a great move for the organization,” Chavez told the media during a session at the Oakland Coliseum West Side Club on Thursday. “Since I’ve been here, it’s always been about the team, not any one player. They needed a third baseman. I’m in the last year of my contract and I can’t play a full season any more.”
Chavez has been rehabbing after still another operation — he’s had five on his back and shoulders — and said he feels fine.
“But I felt fine at this time last year,” he cautioned. “Last year, I just worked in the gym and when I took the field, I broke down. This year, I’m going to do baseball activities before spring training, so I’ll know where I am.”
He has talked with general manager Billy Beane about his role, playing some at third and first and possibly even at shortstop; Chavez was a shortstop in high school and often takes grounders there during infield practice.
“Billy said they could rest me four to five days if that’s necessary, which was never possible in the past,” Chavez said.
He’s never played first, but manager Bob Geren scoffed at the idea Chavez would have problems there.
“He’s a six-time Gold Glover,” Geren said. “He’ll have to work on his footwork in taking throws, but he won’t have any trouble.”
The A’s will also get another important piece back with the return of pitcher Justin Duchscherer. “I’d never have thought for a minute that Duke wouldn’t throw a pitch for us last season,” pitching coach Curt Young said.
But that’s how it worked out as Duchscherer battled first an injury and then depression. He was a free agent after the season but re-signed with the A’s.
Duchscherer brings a veteran presence to an otherwise young starting staff, and he also makes the manager’s job easier.
“He gives you a lot of quality innings and he can affect how you use your bullpen both the day before and the day after he pitches,” said Geren, referring to the fact that Duchscherer usually can be relied on to pitch seven strong innings. “If you’re debating whether to use another reliever, if you know he’s pitching the next day, you’d probably go ahead and use that reliever.”
The A’s in recent years have been known for strong pitching and defense, but the defense was below average for most of last season. That should improve this season. Kouzmanoff is a sure-handed defender at third, though not noted for his range. Mark Ellis, who missed 60 games at the start of last season, is healthy. Now if Geren can only be persuaded not to put Jack Cust in the field.
Though the A’s added some power in Kouzmanoff, who should boost his home run total some because he won’t be playing at Petco Park, they’re going to be a running team, especially with the addition of Coco Crisp to a team that already has Rajai Davis, who stole 41 bases last season.
“We started that in the second half of last season,” Geren noted. “We didn’t have a lot of power, so this was a way to score runs.”