OAKLAND -- The ball shot off Eric Chavez's bat like a bullet, soaring high and deep toward the right field seats in the bottom of the 11th inning Monday night at McAfee Coliseum.

Chavez took a step, hesitated briefly to admire his game-winning work against the Boston Red Sox, then started jogging around the bases.

Chavez knew the ball was gone the instant he connected.

"Just the way it came off the bat," Chavez said later that night. "The way I'm swinging the bat lately, I kind of knew it was going to carry a bit."

The real Eric Chavez is apparently back. The one who averaged 30 home runs and 98 RBI from 2000 to 2005. The one who had a powerful, dangerous bat to go with his Gold Glove.

Chavez is healthy for the first time this season and for one of the few times since 2005.

Team trainers and doctors finally have solved the mystery of his sore forearms. It was "a nerve problem," and not the tendinitis of last season, as initially thought, Chavez said before Wednesday night's game against Boston.

"It's been frustrating, not very enjoyable. Now I feel healthy," Chavez said. "Knowing when I go out there I've got a fighting chance of being successful, and if I don't do good, it's on me. I've got nobody to blame but myself."

The A's can only hope that the real Eric Chavez sticks around for the rest of the season. Because if he does, it will be the equivalent of adding a 30-homer, 100-RBI bat to the middle of their order without giving up squat in return.


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Having a healthy, productive Chavez would beat any deadline trade even A's general manager Billy Beane could possibly pull off.

Just consider what Chavez has done this month. Entering Wednesday night's game, he had gone 7-for-18 (.389) with three home runs and four RBI in just five games.

In Monday night's 5-4 A's win, Chavez hit a two-out, solo walkoff homer against Kyle Snyder. During Tuesday night's 2-0 A's victory, he hit a opposite-field solo shot off Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka in the fourth, giving the A's a 1-0 lead.

Then on Wednesday night, Chavez's one-out double off Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield ignited a three-run rally in the fourth. The ball hit first base, bounced high over Kevin Youkilis' head and landed in right field for his only hit of the night in the A's 3-2 victory. Even the bounces are going Chavez's way now.

"As of late he's really picked us up in some tight jams," the A's Nick Swisher said before the game. "He's one of those guys, he's just getting ready for a breakout season and hopefully it's this year."

It's probably too late for Chavez to construct a true breakout season. He entered the game hitting just .242 on the heels of a .186 May.

The A's don't need a breakout year from Chavez. All they need is for Chavez to be a reasonable facsimile of his pre-injury self at the plate and add some much-needed punch to what has been a struggling offense. Well, that and continue to play Gold Glove defense -- he started three double plays Wednesday night.

For his part, Chavez is too busy reveling in his new-found health to worry about putting up monster numbers.

"It's just that for so long my only thing has been getting healthy, getting healthy, getting healthy," Chavez said. "It just seems like it's finally here.

"Just go out and play baseball. If it goes good, if it goes bad, it's on my shoulders. That's all I really care about."

A's first baseman Dan Johnson said Chavez is clearly "having a good time" playing baseball again.

"When you're feeling good, everything else is good. It just kind of snowballs," Johnson said.

"He's hitting some big homers for us. You're starting to see him become his old self."

Chavez is playing with joy and with a decided edge, the product of being booed by some unhappy A's fans while he's struggled at the plate. He's swinging angry. That's a good thing.

"You go out there, play hurt," Chavez said Monday night. "You hear your fans boo. I'm about to the point where I want them to continue to boo."

Hey, whatever works.

Chavez said he hasn't felt this healthy since the end of last season when doctors, trainers and chiropractors finally figured out how to fix what ailed his forearms.

Chavez hit six homers and drove in 14 runs last September. In the previous three months, he hit a combined four homers with 18 RBI.

"I got healthy for about the last month of the season," Chavez said. "Then I thought at spring training everything was going to be fine.

"And for the first week it was. Ever since the first week of spring it's just been downhill."

Chavez said that until recently doctors and trainers thought he had the same type of injury he had last year. So they treated it the same way, with poor results.

Then they pinpointed the problem, switched gears, and the real Eric Chavez returned. The A's can only hope he sticks around for the rest of the season.

Contact Eric Gilmore at egilmore@cctimes.com.