05/15/2013 8:39 PM ET
Chavez credits D-backs trainer for health, success
By Tyler Emerick / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- For most players, isolating a point in their season when things began to click is a difficult task. But for D-backs third baseman Eric Chavez, there's no hesitation at all when reflecting on the first month and a half of 2013.
"I wasn't feeling that great at the beginning of the year," Chavez said. "Then when we went to New York, that's when it changed."
A veteran in his 16th season, Chavez has a long history of back problems that allowed him to appear in only 212 games over a five-year span from 2007-11. But last season, with the Yankees, the 35-year-old was able to play 113 games. He credited a lot of that durability to the training staff in New York, so when Arizona visited Yankee Stadium in mid-April, he asked D-backs strength and conditioning coach Nate Shaw to visit with the Yankees' staff to learn some of the techniques they used on his back.
"They spent an hour showing him certain things that help me out, and we've done it ever since," Chavez said. "Thank goodness he's been able to duplicate it, and it's kept my back healthy. It's been feeling good, the fact that I can do it with someone here daily, it's really a huge factor for me."
Why those specific training methods work so well on Chavez, he's not sure. But he is certain that they have made a big impact on his health ever since.
"Everybody has different types of techniques, but for me and my history, there are certain things that work specific for me," he said. "The fact that Nate took the time to do that, and learn what makes me go, has been huge for me."
The numbers seem to back up Chavez's assessment. Before that trip to New York, the third baseman was just 5-for-21 with no extra-base hits on the season. Since then, he has hit .358 with 11 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs, including Wednesday's 5-3 win over Atlanta, when he went 2-for-3 with a pair of hits and three RBIs.
"He had brutal years when he was hurt, but that tells you a lot about the guy," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He has great determination and a love to compete. He understands the trials and tribulations of a long season as much as anybody in our clubhouse. He doesn't get too excited or down, he just has confidence and keeps pushing ahead."
The six-time Gold Glove winner has been steady defensively for the D-backs as well, still yet to commit an error at third base in 24 games played. Chavez dropped a line drive at third on Wednesday, but the play was ruled a hit.
"He gets the ball away immediately, and the feeds are great," Gibson said. "He doesn't have the same arm strength as he used to have, but he's got the knowledge and mechanics to get it there on time."
Gibson touts consistent glovework as team's strength
PHOENIX -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson can't put a number on it, but he's sure his club's stellar defense so far this season has translated into at least a handful of victories.
"I know it's helped for sure, but I can't measure it," Gibson said. "It's probably the strength of our team, the most consistent part."
Consistent indeed. Even though the D-backs committed a pair of errors in Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Braves, they still are tied for first in the Major Leagues in fielding percentage, at .992, with just 12 miscues in 41 games.
"We have an error here and there, but beyond the plays, we understand where to throw the ball, and that helps us stay out of big innings," Gibson said. "We've made some great plays when we've we needed them."
• D-backs outfielder Jason Kubel is suffering from a sore quad and hasn't started a game since Sunday. He has pinch-hit twice in that span, and Gibson said he could play if needed, but the club is being cautious with him until the soreness subsides.
"He's sore," Gibson said. "We're trying to do what's best for him and get this resolved."
• Gibson has taken some heat a couple of times this season for pulling his starters with a low pitch count while working on a shutout. Back on April 30, Gibson took Trevor Cahill out after he allowed a base hit to begin the ninth inning when he had only thrown 88 pitches. Then, on Sunday, Gibson pulled Brandon McCarthy after completing eight shutout innings in only 88 pitches against the Phillies.
On both occasions the bullpen blew the lead and the D-backs eventually lost the games. Gibson was asked Wednesday what goes into his decisions when considering to let his starters finish off games or go to the bullpen.
"It'll vary for certain guys," he said. "If he's done it before, how he's feeling, what his mechanics are, if he's younger or older. It just depends."
• Gerardo Parra continues to impress at the top of the D-backs' lineup, entering Wednesday's game with a .312 average to go along with three homers and 11 RBIs. He also has the highest wins above replacement rating of any Arizona player, at 2.5.
"He's just maturing," Gibson said. "He's got great enthusiasm, I shake my head at him sometimes, but he's got great confidence and he understands how to use his tools. It's taken a long time for him to harness them. You don't realize he's a young kid, he's not very old. He has always gone about it the same way, he just wants to play."
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.