"I definitely figured it couldn't get any worse than last year," Chavez said Tuesday before the finale of a two-game set against the Orioles at Camden Yards.
Yet the 2007 A's are on pace to eclipse last year's injury-related totals. Rich Harden (shoulder) and outfielder Milton Bradley (hamstring) were placed on the DL on Monday, joining Kotsay (back) righty Esteban Loaiza (neck) and first baseman Dan Johnson (hip).
Including Tuesday's game, the DL has cost the five regulars a combined total of 69 games, and then there's the six games Bradley missed before being DL'd, the handful of games second baseman Mark Ellis missed after being hit by a pitch, and the two games rookie outfielder Travis Buck has missed with sore wrists.
"It's definitely the most frequent since I've been here, these past couple years," said Chavez, who broke into the big leagues in 1999. "It's like it's contagious. Or maybe just bad luck, I don't know."
Whatever is it, you won't find anyone in green and gold seeking sympathy. They'll point out that injuries are part of the game, and Chavez suggested that persevering through last year's wave on the way to the American League Championship Series serves as a helpful reminder that goals remain reachable even for teams at less than full strength.
The A's entered Tuesday in sole possession of first place in the AL West.
"Last year was pretty amazing," he said. "Maybe I feel a little more comfortable because of that. We have a good team on paper, and we've always been able to kind of stay afloat, so if we can keep doing that for the next month -- month and a half -- hopefully we'll have Kotsay and Milton and Rich and everyone else back by then and put that [on-paper] team on the field.
Added manager Bob Geren: "In Spring Training, we talked about needing everyone to win, and we've definitely needed everyone. The guys have been very selfless, willing to change roles, and there's been a great team attitude.
"We've been pretty good about fighting through things, and we're doing it right now."
Less than two hours after Chavez and Geren spoke on the subject, outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher, who had singled, strained his left hamstring while trying to stop after rounding third base and had to be removed from the game.
Et tu, Ronnie Mac? Before the game, a reporter asked Geren who would handle center field should something happen to Swisher, who had been manning the position in the absence of Bradley, who was moved over from right field when Kotsay underwent surgery during Spring Training.
Geren said he'd be comfortable with left fielder Shannon Stewart in center and noted that rookie Danny Putnam, called up from Double-A Midland on Monday to start in right field for Buck, had played well there in instructional league. When Swisher left the game, Putnam took over in center and Marco Scutaro moved into right.
Why Scutaro? Fourth outfielder Bobby Kielty has been dealing with a calf strain for about a week and a half, which explains why he wasn't in the lineup Monday against O's lefty Erik Bedard despite being one of Oakland's best hitters against southpaws.
Kielty's unavailability had not been disclosed to the media.
Dribblers: Johnson played seven innings and went 1-for-2 with a single and two walks in the first game of his rehab stint with Triple-A Sacramento on Monday and said he felt 100 percent. Geren said Johnson could be back with the A's in "anywhere from two days to five to a week," and when asked if Johnson would return as the starting first baseman, the skipper didn't hesitate: "Yes." ... Buck said his wrists felt quite a bit better Tuesday and is hoping to be back in the lineup Wednesday. ... Rookie lefty Dallas Braden, making his big-league debut Tuesday, extended Oakland's season-long streak of not allowing a run in the first inning. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the A's are the first team in history to go 20 consecutive innings without giving up a first-inning run.
Up next: A's righty Joe Blanton (2-0, 4.13 ERA) will get the ball Wednesday opposite Mariners righty Miguel Batista (1-2, 8.83 ERA) in the opener of a two-game set at McAfee Coliseum. The first pitch of Oakland's five-game homestand is set for 7:05 p.m. PT.