‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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It may feel very far off in the past to some but Eric Chavez was performing splendidly for the New York Yankees before suffering a broken toe on May 5th. Currently, he’s making progress rehabbing in Single-A Tampa where he played six innings at third base for the first time since the injury.
In his last two appearances for the Tampa Yankees, Chavez has gone 4-for-5 at DH and 1-for-3 at third base with an RBI. After a few more rehab games in the high minors, Chavez should be ready to return to the majors once proving he can regularly play the field and run the bases without discomfort.
When Chavez makes his big league reemergence, he could be helpful to the Yankees in two areas of need. Adequate third base play has been a problem without Alex Rodriguez who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. Eduardo Nunez has looked somewhat competent at the plate in A-Rod’s place but would be better off in a part time role or developing in the minors. Nunez’s defense has been catastrophic as he’s made 4 errors in 13 games started at the hot corner.
Chavez, a six-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman would be an immediate upgrade over Nunez in all aspects. When filling in for Rodriguez earlier in the season, he was a more than admirable replacement and would be able to bridge the gap until A-Rod is able to return in late August or early September.
Another area of need for the Yankees is occasionally spelling Mark Teixeira at first base. Teixeria’s numbers have steadily fallen since early June to the point that he’s now batting .240 with an on-base percentage of .341. He’s spent the entire month of July homer-less and only managed a pitiful 4 RBI. Teixeira could use a rest and Joe Girardi doesn’t seem confident enough in Jorge Posada’s first base defense to give him a suitable break.
While at first base, Chavez fielded the position exceptionally well and could allow Teixeira a few days off here and there as well breaks from the field at DH. This could result in a rise in Teixeira’s production and keep the Yankees’ number three hitter fresh for the stretch run and playoffs.
It may have gone unnoticed by some but the Yankees have been missing an important piece in Chavez over the past few months. He can provide relief at both corner infield positions, be used as an occasional DH and as a valuable pinch-hitter off the bench. As he’s edging closer to a major league return, Chavez could be helping the Yankees out when they need him most.
Have the Yankees missed Chavez’s presence and versatility? Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.