Notes: Chavez is the constant

A's notes: Chavez is the constant

TORONTO -- Finding a source of durability and consistency on Oakland's roster could seem difficult -- given the A's up-and-down journey through the first half of this season.

The A's have had to look no further than 90 feet to the left of home plate, though. Third baseman Eric Chavez was written into the starting lineup as usual on Tuesday for Oakland's series opener against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.

Chavez has now played in a team-high 82 games this year. In other words, he has played in every A's game in 2005.

"Obviously, the more at-bats you can get, you can help out your team," Chavez said. "I've been pretty fortunate to stay healthy, and that's pretty much what any player wants -- to stay healthy throughout a whole year. I've had some little nagging injuries, but I've still gotten out there every game."

The streak seems even more important for Oakland considering the number of players that have landed on the disabled list this season. Nick Swisher, Rich Harden, Bobby Crosby, Erubiel Durazo, Octavio Dotel, Kiko Calero and Chad Bradford have all spent time on the DL.

"I understand that certain things happen, and sometimes you're not in control of certain injuries," Chavez said.

That includes the broken right hand that Chavez suffered last year that limited him to just 125 games played. That broke a string of four seasons in which Chavez appeared in at least 151 games.

After the injury, he worked hard to regain the level of durability he showed from 2000-03.

"Most of us nowadays spend so much time in the offseason in the gym, working out, getting ourselves ready for the duration of the season," he said.

While Oakland has seen Swisher, Harden and Crosby return from their respective injuries, its record has improved from 15 games under .500 to just one game away from the break-even mark entering Tuesday's game.

Chavez has been the team's offensive leader, though, pacing Oakland with 11 homers and 46 RBIs through his first 81 games.

Something different: If Oakland manager Ken Macha could plan an ideal roadtrip, he might just cancel any flights headed east. Instead, the A's skipper will alter the team's pregame routine to try and shake off any remaining East Coast jitters.

No players will be allowed inside the Oakland clubhouse until 1 p.m. PT before Wednesday's game at the Rogers Centre. Why the late start? Macha quickly points out the team's performance during the second game of series on the road against East teams.

"We played very poorly in every second game," Macha said. "In Tampa Bay, the second game -- not good. Yankee Stadium, second game -- not good. So, I'm trying something different."

Macha might be on to something. On the road against the Orioles, Devil Rays, Yankees, Red Sox and Nationals, the A's have gone 1-5 in the second game of each series. The May 7 loss to the Yankees led to an eight-game losing streak.

It might be safe to point out that the second game hasn't been the only problem in those series. Oakland is 0-9 in its last three East Coast trips -- Washington, Tampa Bay and Boston all swept the A's.

Asked whether the rule applied to his coaching staff as well, Macha smiled and said, "I don't have any control over my coaches. I'll be here before 4:00."

Welcome back to Canada: Canadian Rich Harden -- originally from Victoria, British Columbia -- was welcomed by a crowd of media members when he stepped onto the Rogers Centre turf.

Harden, who has gone 3-0 since returning from a strained left oblique muscle, was greeted with questions about his recent success and maybe joining the Canadian team in next year's baseball World Cup.

"Yeah, I'm pretty excited for it so far," Harden said. "A chance to represent Canada, it doesn't get much better than that. I've never had an opportunity to do that. ... I think it'd be cool, definitely, to play with Larry Walker -- a guy you watched growing up."

Harden's manager spent some time reminiscing before Tuesday's game about his playing days with Toronto in 1981.

"All the players I was here with and stuff like that, you still run into them from time to time," Macha said. "When you were going through that in '81, well, you're not a very good team, but you look back at it and you had fun, and they were good guys to be playing with."

Quotable: "They're being phenomenal. They don't have to be this good, but if we can find a happy medium -- we were really bad, now we're really good -- if we could just find that middle ground and be a consistent ball team, then who knows what we're playing for?" -- Chavez, on the resurgence of the starting staff

On deck: Oakland sends righty Joe Blanton (5-6, 4.48 ERA) to the mound to face left-hander Ted Lilly (6-8, 5.89 ERA) in the second game of a three-game set in Toronto.

Jordan Bastian is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.