The A's haven't been too impressive as a team thus far in the spring, as they sit at 2-4 and are in route to losing their 5th game of the spring Friday. They have, however, gotten some very good news on the injury front this spring.
Former star third basemen, Eric Chavez, has regained his stroke and looks the best and healthiest I've seen him since 2005. Chavey's appeared in just 3 games so far, but his bat looks very quick with plenty of pop. He went deep twice in one game vs. the White Sox on Wednesday, and is hitting .500 with a triple in addition to his 2 homers and 3 RBI. He's also looked very good at first base, making a few nice plays and looking very comfortable in the process. The solid play from Chavez has caused a ripple effect at first base. It's lit a fire under Daric Barton, who has underachieved in his brief big league career so far. Barton's hitting an even .400 (6-15) with an RBI and a double. The A's are hoping the 25 year old will take reigns of first base this year and make himself the unquestionable starter there going forward, but he'll have plenty of competition. Besides the thriving Chavez, the A's have newly acquired Jake Fox in the mix at first base as well. I'm expecting big things out of Fox, and do still believe he'll force his way into the starting lineup somewhere because of his bat, but he has looked pretty bad so far this spring. Fox is hitting just .071 (1-14) with 0 RBI and may be playing himself out of starting lineup consideration.
Ben Sheets, who like Chavez is coming off a year missed by injury, has also had a pain-free spring thus far, although he hasn't yielded the positive results Chavey has quite yet. Sheets didn't have the best start in his first start of the spring against his former team (Brewers) in which he allowed 1 earned run in 1 2/3 innings while allowing 4 hits and striking out 1 batter. He got hit even harder in his most recent outing vs. the White Sox on Wednesday. In that game, Sheets allowed 5 earned runs on 5 hits and a walk and 0 strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. The good news though, is that he is healthy, and is throwing the ball without pain. There's little doubt in my mind that Ben Sheets will be just fine by opening day as long as he stays healthy and progresses. He may never again be the Ben Sheets of 2004 (2.70 era, 264 strikeouts, 0.97 WHIP) , but as long as he does stay healthy, a repeat of his last healthy year (2008) wouldn't be a bad year by any means. In 2008, Sheets went 13-9 with a 3.09 era and 1.15 WHIP and the A's would take those numbers in a heartbeat.
Another A's arm that's on his way back after missing 2009 is Joey Devine. The 26 year-old flame-throwing right handed reliever is just a couple of weeks away from making his return from Tommy John Surgery. In 2008 with the A's, Devine showed why the A's at that time considered him a closer of the future candidate (6-1, 0.59 era, 0.85 WHIP, 49 K's in 45 IP). Devine's return will further strengthen an already dominant bullpen... Coco Crisp, who's also been bitten hard by the injury bug in recent years, is currently day-to-day with his bum hamstring, but is expected back sooner than later... So, it looks like the A's may indeed have their full-squad ready to go by the end of the spring, and that would be huge for them and their chances in getting off to a good start.