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Chavez fine with reduced role

The Yankees' Eric Chavez, left, is tagged out

The Yankees' Eric Chavez, left, is tagged out by Red Sox relief pitcher Tim Wakefield in the ninth inning at Fenway Park. (Apr. 9, 2011) Credit: AP

BOSTON -- Eric Chavez had three hits in his first start of the season Saturday -- which earned him a spot on the bench in Joe Girardi's original starting lineup Sunday night .

And Chavez was fine with that. It's what he signed up for.

"I know I'm not going to play a whole lot,'' said Chavez, who wound up in the lineup after Alex Rodriguez came down with flu-like symptoms. "But whenever I do, I'll just try to do my best.''

That certainly has been the case for Chavez, 33, who started at third base Sunday night and batted eighth.

On Saturday, Chavez went the opposite way on the first pitch he saw from Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, lining it off the Green Monster for an RBI double in the second inning. He doubled off the Monster again in the fourth and singled to right in the fifth.

Chavez, who singled off Josh Beckett in his first at-bat Sunday night, was supposed to start Wednesday against the Twins. That would have been his first start of the season but the game was rained out, something he called "kind of a bummer.''

Nick Swisher, who played with Chavez in Oakland from 2004-07, said he was thrilled about the backup infielder's successful debut Saturday.

"I could not be more happy for him,'' Swisher said. "I know he was geared up for [Saturday] and, man, he went out there and got that first pitch and went right after it.

"If you look at it, at-bats can be kind of thin. We have so much depth and so many great hitters in this lineup, when those guys get a chance to come in there and produce, it's great. We were all so happy for him in the dugout because he's one of those guys who has busted his ---- in spring training and showed everybody that he deserved to be on this team.''

Swisher mentioned the team's depth, something Chavez knows is likely to limit his playing time. Had Rodriguez not become ill, Chavez would have been back on the bench the day after his standout afternoon.

Staying in a rhythm while not playing, Chavez said, doesn't impact his preparation.

"I have the same approach. My approach is never going to change,'' he said. "The only thing you have to do is make sure I'm seeing pitches. There's no batting cage here, but when I'm in New York, I'm in the batting cage like every three innings, so I'm just going to stay ready like that.''

Chavez hit between 26 and 34 home runs and had four seasons with at least 100 RBIs between 2000 and 2005 -- averaging 30 homers and 98 RBIs a year in that span -- but was limited to a total of 64 games the previous three seasons because of various injuries.

Girardi said that although he'll keep an eye on Chavez because of his injury history, if circumstances dictate it, he'll be comfortable playing the veteran more.

"If someone went down, I wouldn't have a problem playing Chavy on a regular basis,'' Girardi said. "If you had a Tex [Mark Teixeira] go down or an Alex go down, I think Chavy could play pretty regularly. I think you'd have to manage him somewhat where you play him three, four days in a row and then you give him a day off. But I think he's a guy that could play a substantial amount of games.''

Shortly after signing with the Yankees in early February, Chavez, speaking one morning at the team's minor-league complex, said his primary goal in spring training was to simply "stay healthy'' and let things sort out from there.

One thing he never doubted was that he still had the ability to play.

"I answered that for myself in the spring,'' Chavez said. "I just felt really good. Some of the balls I hit, I know it's in there.''

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