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03/14/10 8:08 PM ET

Chavez simply enjoying the moment

A's veteran plays on consecutive days in attempted return

PHOENIX -- A's third baseman Eric Chavez played in back-to-back games at first base this weekend for the first time this spring in his rehabilitation from last year's back surgery.

Chavez, trying to reclaim his career, started against the Padres on Saturday and the Royals on Sunday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. No wonder he had a big smile on his bearded face on Sunday morning. This is the first spring he's been healthy in several years.

"I'm feeling really good," Chavez told MLB.com hours before going hitless in three at-bats as the A's won, 10-3, over Kansas City. "I've really enjoyed myself. The first two weeks of spring have just been phenomenal. It's not as if anything is coming easy. There's a lot of work I put in each morning just to get loose. But when I do get on the baseball field it has been fun for a change."

Chavez has played one regular-season game at first base in his 12-year career, all with the A's, and that was in 2001. Chavez is a six-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman. But Kevin Kouzmanoff now is ensconced at the hot corner after the trade that brought him over from San Diego this past offseason.

Because of a series of back and shoulder injuries to 32-year-old Chavez, the A's could no longer count on him and are now making room for him elsewhere. If he remains healthy, he'll share first base duties with Daric Burton, back up Kouzmanoff at third, and perhaps even play a little shortstop.

Asked what he expected out of Chavez this season, A's manager Bob Geren said: "Whatever he can give us. Chavey is healthy right now. He's swinging the bat good and he feels good. We'll just take it as it goes and be optimistic."

The A's plan to have Chavez play some third base later in the spring, but he knows that adjusting to the different right-side angles of fielding grounders at first base and taking throws is where his immediate future lies.

"If anything, playing first base has been a visual thing for me," Chavez said. "I just have to trick my eyes a little bit. But every day I go over there I'm getting a little more comfortable. I still know I need to play some third and also start taking ground balls at short. First base isn't actually a lock position, but I think that's the one where they think they can get me out there the most."

It's a miracle of modern medicine and his own sheer will that Chavez is back at it again, batting .286 with two homers and four RBIs this spring.

Chavez has been limited to 121 games during the past three seasons. His 2009 season ended after eight games and back surgery to repair a ruptured disk on June 23.

"The safest thing to say about last year is that I wasn't really ready to play," Chavez said.

His 2008 season wasn't much better. It began in Spring Training with Chavez recovering from a previous back surgery. It ended on Aug. 13 with surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

Chavez has had five surgeries in less than two years, including three on his back and shoulders during a 10-week period in 2007. Chavez hasn't played a full season since 2006 when he appeared in 137 games, batted .241 with 22 homers, 72 RBIs and won his sixth Gold Glove.

Chavez is in the final guaranteed year of his six-year, $66 million contract that will pay him $12 million this season. The A's have a club option for 2011 worth $12.5 million with a $3 million buyout.

He could easily have taken the money and run. But he didn't.

"It's going great right now, but even if it doesn't happen my mind and spirit are in the right place to move forward," Chavez said. "I'm not investing too much into, 'I've got to play, I've got to play.' I'm giving it my best effort. I'm really going to enjoy myself. But if it doesn't work out, I'm ready for that, too."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.