Chavez cleared to start running
Third baseman may be nearing return from back surgery
TEMPE, Ariz. -- In the odyssey that is the recovery of Eric Chavez from back surgery, the A's third baseman was cleared to do some perimeter running around the infield on Monday. But he's still probably about a week away from fielding ground balls, said Stephen Sayles, the team's head athletic trainer."[Chavez] feels really good," Sayles said as the team worked out at Phoenix Municipal Stadium hours before playing the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. "We don't want to hold him back. We want him to do what he feels he can do. That's the kind of guys he is. He wants to get it done." The increased pace of the workouts came a day after Sayles had said there was no timetable for Chavez beginning to run or getting back out on the field. Chavez took batting practice again on Monday before embarking on the strides and light running prescribed to him. He's still highly doubtful for the team's two-game season opening series on March 25-26 against the Red Sox in Japan. The A's are slated to break camp in nine days on March 19 to fly 13 hours from Phoenix to Tokyo, a trip Sayles has said would not be in Chavez's best health interest. A's manager Bob Geren has yet to determine whether Chavez will make the trip. Both teams can take a maximum of 30 players, but must designated 28 of them -- 25 to play -- during the morning before the first game. If there's an injury in that game, one of the three extra designees can move to the active roster for the second game. As far as fielding goes, Sayles insisted that activity for Chavez is still somewhere down the line. "Fielding, I'm going to say, is just another week behind," Sayles said. "But don't hold me to that." Since Chavez virtually has been pain-free after hitting, there's a possibility he could ultimately fill the role as a designated hitter, if not as soon as the Japan excursion. "Those possibilities are up to Bob, as soon as he runs the bases," Sayles said. "When you see him running the bases, that means he's really close to doing something game-worthy. But until he can get on the bases, he can't play in a game. It's that simple. And he's not there yet."
Chavez had to have an epidural administered on Feb. 29 to alleviate stiffness in the L4-L5 area of the back where he underwent laser microsurgery to repair damaged discs this past November. He also had labrum surgery in both shoulders last year.Chavez played only 90 games in 2007 because of the assorted injuries, batting .240 with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. He hasn't played a full season since 2005, when he appeared in 160 games. Meanwhile, in other injury news, rookie outfielder Aaron Cunningham showed up with a cast on his left wrist and is out for from six to eight weeks. Cunningham said he was injured diving back into second base on a running play during Saturday's split-squad game against the Mariners in Peoria. Cunningham stayed in the game and took another at-bat. "But afterwards I realized something wasn't right," he said. X-rays revealed the injury on Sunday. Cunningham was re-assigned to the Minor League camp on Monday, along with pitcher Chris Gissell and catcher Anthony Recker. The A's have a total of 44 players remaining in the Major League camp: 34 on the 40-man roster and 10 non-roster invitees. The breakdown is 20 pitchers, 12 infielders, eight outfielders and four catchers.
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.