Chavez keen to prove himself in starting role

Chavez keen to prove himself in starting role
March 28, 2014, 11:30 pm
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Jesse Chavez delivered his best outing yet in a 4-1 victory over the Giants on Friday night at AT&T Park. (AP IMAGES)

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SAN FRANCISCO –- Jesse Chavez wasn’t getting the traditional treatment from his Oakland A’s teammates as he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning Friday night against the Giants.

“It’s a little more casual (during exhibitions),” catcher John Jaso said. “It’s funny. We treat homers like in-season homers. But when it comes to pitchers doing cool things, it’s like ‘Aw, he’s just getting his work in.’”

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Or perhaps the A’s have just grown accustomed to Chavez’s efficiency this spring. It’s been a standout exhibition season for the reliever-turned-starter, and Chavez delivered his best outing yet in a 4-1 victory at AT&T Park.

He didn’t allow a hit until his final batter. After Angel Pagan doubled with one out in the sixth, A’s manager Bob Melvin called to the bullpen.

“I don’t normally take guys out of potential no-hitters at the time,” Melvin said with a smile. “I was almost glad Pagan got the hit to tell you the truth.”

As good as Chavez has been this spring – 2.22 ERA, 25 strikeouts and just six walks – the focus now shifts to what the right-hander will do moving forward. He wasn’t expected to be in the starting rotation, but injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin necessitated his shift from the bullpen.

Of Chavez’s 191 major league appearances in a career that began in 2008, just two have been starts. His work in spring training suggests he’s ready for the challenge, and Melvin is convinced of it.

“Once we put him in a starting role, you can kind of see the eye of the tiger now, that he really wants to show what he can do."

Chavez, quiet and understated by nature, expects that he’ll be plenty keyed up when he takes the mound against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday in the A’s third game of the regular season.

“It’ll be different,” Chavez admitted. “There will be a lot of adrenaline, a lot of excitement -- something that I’ll have to calm down.”

His outing Friday continued a theme of pitching dominance for Oakland through two games of the Bay Bridge Series. The A’s have held the Giants to one run and nine hits over 18 innings.

Jaso provided a highlight of his own when he crushed a first-pitch fastball from Tim Lincecum for a solo homer in the third. Jaso is hitting .292 with two homers, and 13 RBI rank third on the A’s this spring behind Josh Reddick (15) and Brandon Moss (14).

Jaso’s offense is his calling card. But as the roster seems to be shaping up, he’s likely to get substantial time behind the plate rather than as the designated hitter. Signs are pointing to the A’s keeping just two catchers – Jaso and Derek Norris – with Stephen Vogt heading to the minors. In that scenario, Jaso would start against right-handed pitchers, so he figures to be catching a lot.

He doesn’t have the reputation of a particularly strong defensive catcher, but after missing the final two months of last season -- plus the playoffs -- with a concussion, Jaso would welcome the chance to catch at least semi-regularly.

“I like catching, I take a lot of pride in it,” Jaso said. “It’s fun getting a win and helping the pitcher out. That’s the position I love, and it’s good to be back there.”

On a night when Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum left the game after getting nailed in the leg by a comebacker, it looked as if A’s fans might have reason to worry too.

Center fielder Coco Crisp was removed from the game in the third inning and replaced by Sam Fuld. No big deal, Melvin assured. He was aiming to get Crisp a couple of at-bats before resting him.

Melvin was pondering giving Crisp the entire night off Friday, but with rain potentially in the picture for Saturday’s exhibition finale at the Coliseum, Melvin wanted to make sure Crisp got some playing time in case he holds the veteran out as a precaution on a slippery field.

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