Chavez now in spotlight for Yankees

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
7:20
PM ET
It's easy to forget that Eric Chavez was once a pretty good baseball player, it's been so many years ago. When the Oakland A's made the playoffs five times in seven seven seasons between 2000 and 2006, Chavez was one of the key components, a power-hitting, Gold Glove third baseman. In fact, by 2006 all the guys from the 2000 team had been dispersed throughout the majors, with only Chavez and Barry Zito remaining. That team swept the Twins in the Division Series but was then swept by the Tigers in the ALCS.

Zito would depart for a big deal across the Bay, leaving Chavez as the one Oakland star who signed a long-term contract with the A's, but it was a contract A's general manager Billy Beane would live to regret. From 2007 through 2010, Chavez battled back problems and played just 154 games but earned $45 million. His career perhaps over, the Yankees signed him in 2011 as a utility guy and he hit .263 with two home runs in 175 plate appearances, enough to draw another invite from the Yankees.

Now, at age 34, the injury to Alex Rodriguez will put the spotlight back on Chavez as he'll play third base until A-Rod's broken hand heals, a period estimated at 6-8 weeks.

Baseball has a way sometimes of mixing cruelty with opportunity. As a young prospect, Chavez's sweet left-handed stroke brought comparisons to Barry Bonds. He never hit for a high enough average to live up to that status, of course, but he was terrific player on a team the baseball gods never quite granted their good graces to. The A's always fell short in the playoffs, and Chavez was a big reason why, a career .222 hitter in the postseason with the A's with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 27 games.

He can help the Yankees get there. Healthier than he's been in years, he's played well this year, hitting .266/.328/.468 with eight home runs in 158 at-bats. That was in a part-time role, of course. For the first time since early in 2007, he'll be expected to play every day. Along the kid who reached the majors at the age of 20, there won't be expectations this time around. Just make the plays at third, get a few hits and hold down the fort until Rodriguez returns.

I'll be rooting for him. It's always easy to root for a player who could sit at home, counting his millions, but instead plugs along, playing because he loves the game.

David Schoenfield | email

SweetSpot blogger

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