Also, in the offseason, Chavez worked with Dodgers hitting coach Jeff Pentland, which is one reason that Los Angeles was viewed as the favorite to sign Chavez. Pentland told Chavez to keep his head up longer in the swing. That mild switch enabled Chavez to shorten his swing. That put less stress on his damaged shoulders. Chavez smiled when he talked about how much better he feels swinging a bat, right now.
In games, he has been able to hit with that swing without displaying much power. But hitting coach Kevin Long insists the power is there in batting practice. And Chavez said he is developing more and more backspin with this approach and believes it is going to translate into games with extra lift. If Chavez can get that, he would be a threat, in particular, at Yankee Stadium, while spelling A-Rod, Mark Teixeira some at first and Jorge Posada as the DH. In fact, he could give the Yankees an option in case Posada is incapable of picking up the DH spot.
It wasn’t that long ago that Eric Chavez was one of the best players in baseball and he is still just 33-year-old which isn’t too old for his entire game to have left him. If he’s healthy, fully healthy, then it might be too late for him to come 100 percent back to form, but certainly possible for him to regain something close to what he once was.
So while it is good to hear that he is working on his swing and it feels much better, how effective he is in 2011 really depends, like it always has, on his health. If his back is healthy then he’ll be able to work on correcting the imperfections in his swing and it will get closer to the point it once was. If his back doesn’t hold up though all of his hard work goes out the window and the Yankees have Nick Johnson II on their hands.
But hopefully that doesn’t happen. The Yankees will be in a pretty good spot if Chavez has a productive season where he could potentially get 300-450 at bats filling in at third, first, and DH. More importantly, if somebody gets hurt (with Alex Rodriguez turning 36 and Jorge Posada turning 40 injuries are a real possibility) then Chavez could potentially step in and provide solid offense.
Right now Chavez is healthy, productive, and seems like a lock to make the team. That’s all based on health though. He has it now and hopefully it stays that way.