Jesse Chavez’s spring setup hasn’t changed, even if everything else has.
In the space of a year, the right-handed pitcher went from the A’s bullpen to the starting rotation, then back to the bullpen. He became a starter due to injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, lost his job after 21 starts when the A’s traded for Jon Lester, and now has a chance to start again.
Chavez, who starts Game 2 of the Cactus League season against the Giants Wednesday in Scottsdale, could have blamed the Lester trade for losing his job. He didn’t. He blamed himself.
“It wasn’t a case of the job being taken away,’’ he said. “It was a case of I didn’t hold it. I shouldn’t have put the team in a position to doubt me.’’
The A’s had no early doubt. In Chavez’s first 18 starts, Oakland went 13-5 and he was 7-5 with a 3.06 ERA with hitters averaging just .248 against him. Then came a three-game July stretch against the Mariners once and the Astros twice in which he went 1-2 with a 5.94 ERA while his opponents’ average leaped to .279. He also allowed four homers, three of those against the Astros in Houston on July 28. Three days later came the trade for Lester.
“I think it came down to those three starts, a couple of bad innings,’’ Chavez said. “The three homers against the Astros was the really bad one.’’
Mare than that, there was a belief that Chavez, who’d most been a reliever for the previous decade after signing with the Rangers, was wearing down. Twelve of his first 18 starts saw him go at least six innings. Only one of his last four met that standard.
“That was the problem,’’ he said. “I was going from getting us into the seventh inning to struggling to get into the sixth.’’
So Wednesday’s start is a new beginning, although as A’s manager Bob Melvin said, “whether he had a job locked up or he was trying to win one, Chavvy would have the same all-out approach.’’
“The chance to be a starter is there,’’ Chavez said. “For me, I just approach it like last year when I was trying to just win a spot on the staff. I’m always going to pitch like I’m pitching to win a job.’’