PHOENIX (AP) -Bobby Crosby has been so beat up in recent seasons the Oakland shortstop can barely remember the last time he felt completely healthy the way he finally does this spring.
The AL Rookie of the Year in 2004, he had five stints on the disabled list in the past three seasons. There's been a recurring lower back injury, a broken left hand, stress fractures in his ribs and more.
``I wish we could start right now,'' Crosby said after a recent workout at the Athletics' Papago Park complex. ``I used to love coming to spring training and thinking the first day was opening day, trying to win the job and trying to impress. The last couple offseasons I haven't been able to prepare the way I wanted to because of the injuries.
``I was able to come into this spring thinking, 'I've got to prove myself. I've got to do this, I've got to do that.' That's a good feeling.''
It's tough to remember how good Crosby was in his standout first season of 2004, when he topped rookies with 22 home runs, 64 RBIs, 70 runs, 130 hits and 34 doubles. Even he acknowledges that seems so long ago considering all his health ordeals the past few years.
Not to mention everything else going on in his life.
He got married to wife, Gina, on Dec. 1 in Rome and was gone three weeks. Back home in Southern California, Crosby built a batting cage over his tennis court, studied film of his swing and took countless cuts at all hours of the day.
Crosby showed up about a week early at spring training, too, in order to get extra work done in the cage. The A's already are on an abbreviated program because they open the season early, March 25 in Tokyo against the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
``For a couple of years I haven't played up to my capabilities. That gives me motivation,'' he said. ``It's good to go out there and see that the things I worked on are at least going in the right direction.''
In the past when coming off an injury, Crosby has had as tough a time finding his groove in the field as he has regaining his timing at the plate. He committed two of his 14 errors on opening day last year in a 4-0 loss at Seattle. He batted a career-low .226 with eight home runs, 31 RBIs and 16 doubles.
``He seemed to be knocked off his game so many times because he hasn't been able to play a full season for a while,'' A's manager Bob Geren said. ``He needs that everyday consistency. We haven't seen him play to his level consistently yet.''
All the struggles affected Crosby mentally. He was far from the player he knew he could be, which was the toughest part of it. Crosby went close to eight months without fielding a groundball before spring training a year ago because he had to let his ailing back heal.
``I came into the season last year and for the first month I felt lost. I made a couple errors the first game and then I felt like it snowballed,'' said Crosby, son of former major leaguer Ed Crosby. ``I felt like I had no rhythm. When your defense isn't going well - that's something I've always prided myself on - it frustrates me more than anything. Because even if I'm not hitting I at least feel I can help out the pitchers and help out the team on defense.''
The A's are hopeful Crosby will be that reliable guy again. Oakland, in rebuilding mode and coming off its first losing season since 1998, has dealt with so many injuries the past two years and the infield has been hit hard. Six-time Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez is coming off three operations and was limited to 90 games last season.
Now, Chavez, Crosby and second baseman Mark Ellis will be back together - with Daric Barton the likely newcomer at first base.
``It will be very nice,'' Ellis said. ``To have both those guys out there will be a huge boost for our team.''
At 28, there's a maturity about Crosby now that certainly developed with going through the ups and downs - the high of his rookie year followed by all the injury frustrations. The former first-round draft pick played in 151 games in 2004.
Since then: 84 in 2005, 96 in '06 and 93 last year.
This offseason, he prepared the way he did during his time in the minor leagues and even further back. He could do everything he was used to, rather than have the limitations he had last spring training.
``I feel like I'm back in at least a mental mind-set of where I want to be,'' Crosby said. ``I feel like I'm prepared coming into spring and if we started right now I'd be fine.''

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