PHOENIX (AP) -Eric Chavez warmed up for his workout on the elliptical machine in an empty weight room as many of his Oakland teammates were already outside on the field or in the batting cage.
He stayed indoors, and later emerged from his rehabilitation work in the training room with one ice bag on his right shoulder and another around his waist.
It will be normal for Chavez to be a step or two behind the rest of the Athletics this spring training following three operations in three months - a change for those who are so used to his keen anticipation and pinpoint defense that helped him win six straight Gold Glove awards. That will come, he says.
Chavez insists he is healthy and proclaimed he would be ready to open the season in Japan next month against the Boston Red Sox despite being a bit behind.
``I anticipate going to Japan,'' Chavez said. ``There are two regular-season games and I plan on playing in both of those.''
Yet, he likely won't have nearly the number of at-bats as the rest of the Athletics starters. Chavez isn't slated to begin appearing in Cactus League games until early March.
He turned up at the team's minor league complex Tuesday, a day before the A's position players were due to report in camp. Many have been arriving in recent days, with the first full-squad practice set for Thursday.
Chavez can get a lot done at his home, thanks to a new batting cage he had installed.
``It just makes sense to take it easy, take it slow, ease into it,'' he said. ``I'm going to be stretching and icing until I stop playing baseball.''
In November, Chavez had a procedure to remove damaged tissue from his left shoulder. Before that, he had right shoulder surgery performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum on Sept. 5 to repair a torn labrum, fix a damaged biceps tendon and remove a loose body from the joint. Then on Oct. 9, Chavez had surgery on his back.
In hindsight, he wishes he would have had the operation on his right shoulder after the 2006 season instead, saying it was a ``foregone conclusion.'' The left shoulder, which began bothering him again during rehab on the right side, surprised him most. There was a fairly significant tear in that side also.
``It was kind of a relief because I knew the problems I was having with my arms, now I knew there was a relation there,'' he said. ``The two surgeries, the right shoulder and the back, I was fine with. When I heard about the third, I was kind of waving the white flag a little bit.''
The 30-year-old Chavez, who hit .240 with 15 home runs in an injury-shortened 2007 season, has struggled with back and arm problems for two years. He appeared in just 90 games last season, his 10th year with the A's, and spent the final two months of the year on the disabled list.
In 2006, he played through pain in his forearms that made it tough to throw to first but still earned his sixth consecutive AL Gold Glove.
Chavez praised general manager Billy Beane for upgrading the organization's medical care, which included hiring massage therapist Yoshi Nishio for 2008.
``For a period there I was like, 'What's wrong?''' he said. ``I basically wasn't getting many answers and had to revert to outside answers. I have it all figured out now. I expect to have a great year. I don't know what that means. If I'm on the field for 140 games, I think I'm going to have a great year.''
It's been since before he broke his right hand in 2004 that Chavez has played without something hindering him.
``I saw him a couple times this winter and we worked out together,'' second baseman Mark Ellis said. ``I'm excited for him. It's nice to see him healthy and will be good having him back to doing what he can do. He has a body that recovers quickly. He's kind of a freak that way.''
Second-year skipper Bob Geren will be thrilled to see a healthy infield that he didn't have during his first season as manager a year ago. Shortstop Bobby Crosby is back from a broken left hand, and Ellis was about the only one to stay healthy in 2007. Rookie Daric Barton will get his shot at first base.
With as many new faces as ever in this franchise, Chavez offers stability. He is the longest-tenured member of a team that is accustomed to seeing its big-name players leave for big money elsewhere. Last year, it was lefty ace Barry Zito heading across the bay to the San Francisco Giants for $126 million and seven years.
This winter, All-Star right-hander Dan Haren was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Super-sub Marco Scutaro and popular outfielders Mark Kotsay and Nick Swisher also were traded. Mike Piazza and Shannon Stewart didn't return either.
``I joked to my wife, if we had any name tags I would put 'Hello, my name is Eric,''' Chavez said.
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