Eric Chavez arrived at the Oakland Athletics' training camp a few days early hoping to get an answer to one big question: Can he field a groundball and make the throw from third base without feeling pain in his right shoulder or back?
"I can do pretty much everything else," the six-time Gold Glove winner said Monday. "When you start the year, you start with a clean slate."
Chavez won't be ready to start playing games until March 1 at the earliest. But that's the least of his worries.
"The missing component is getting on the field," Chavez said. "Last year was unrealistic for me."
Chavez missed all but 113 games over the past two years with various ailments. He underwent four operations between September 2007 and August 2008, two of them to repair a torn right shoulder.
He also had surgery on his back and left shoulder.
"Historically we've always had a lot of players come early," Athletics manager Bob Geren said. "Chavez and (Mark) Ellis are on specific programs designed by the medical staff and they are sticking to it."
That's just fine with Chavez, who set a goal of playing in at least 140 games this season.
"If I can do that then the numbers and the talent will be there," Chavez said. "Back problems are going to stay with you and you just have to pay attention to maintenance."
Chavez, who usually bats third or fourth in the lineup, could suddenly become part of a formidable middle of the order with the additions of Jason Giambi and Matt Holliday, who combined for 57 home runs and 184 RBIs last year.
Giambi and Chavez were A's teammates between 1999 and 2001 before Giambi signed with the New York Yankees as a free agent. They averaged a combined 62 home runs and 210 RBIs per year during that span.
Notes: A's RHP Henry Rodriguez is the only pitcher in camp who has yet to throw a bullpen session as he recovers from hernia surgery. ... There are 22 position players in camp. "They aren't on the schedule at all but I think we can accommodate them," Geren said. "That's the most impressive thing, to see so many position players show up to get some work in." ... Daric Barton, Bobby Crosby and Jack Cust were among Monday's arrivals. Barton underwent hip surgery in October and hopes to be able to go 100 percent when official workouts begin Thursday.