Chavez happy to be with Yankees again

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Eric Chavez spent the offseason wondering where — and if — he might play again.

There was only one place he really had in mind.

Chavez was back with the New York Yankees on Thursday after agreeing to a $900,000, one-year deal. The 34-year-old Chavez said retirement was a possibility, but he was happy to return to the Yankees after playing 58 games with them last season.

“If there was no interest at all, in my mind I was probably going to shut it down,” Chavez said. “I wouldn’t say `here or nowhere’ — but this was obviously coming back to a place I was familiar with. … I knew this was going to be a good team, obviously a team that was going to have an opportunity to go back to the playoffs.”

Once a centerpiece in Oakland, Chavez was already considering retirement after the 2010 season, his 13th with the Athletics. He ended up signing a minor league deal with New York and was able to work his way into a part-time role for the Yankees.

Chavez hit .263 with two homers and 26 RBIs last year, starting 33 games at third base and also playing a bit at first.

“He adds depth to our club, and if you give Alex (Rodriguez) a day off, this guy’s a player,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You know he’s going to catch it. He’s got very good hands.”

Chavez is a six-time Gold Glove winner, but he broke a bone in his left foot on May 5 after just 17 games and didn’t return until July 26.

That was part of a disturbing pattern for Chavez, who has played only 122 games over the last four seasons. He’s also had shoulder and back problems.

“I actually felt that when he got hurt we missed him,” Girardi said. “He was playing really well for us. He plays an excellent third base, swings the bat. The big thing about Chavvy is keeping him healthy. Last year was kind of a freaky thing that he had. We hope that he’s beyond the freaky things, but you don’t know.”

Chavez played in the postseason five times with Oakland. He didn’t play much for the Yankees in last year’s Division Series loss to Detroit, striking out in a Game 2 loss in his only at-bat of the series.

New York’s status as a perennial World Series contender made it an attractive franchise for Chavez.

“It’s the winning, it’s the way everybody goes about their business here — it’s very professional — and it became too appealing for me not to come back again,” he said. “It took a long time, but I’m happy the way things worked out. The team looks fantastic. It looks like it’s in good position to win a lot of ballgames again.”

Chavez said he found out in recent weeks that it might be realistic to come back to the Yankees.

“There was a few other teams. I don’t know how serious it was. I don’t even know how serious it was an interest on my part,” Chavez said. “This was the spot that — if I was going to come back — I wanted it to be.”

NOTES: Right-hander Phil Hughes is part of a logjam of starting rotation candidates after New York acquired Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda in the offseason. Hughes went 18-8 in 2010, but that’s the only season he’s thrown more than 86 innings since making his big league debut in 2007. He was limited last year by an inflamed right shoulder and a herniated disk in his back. “I think it got a little sidetracked in `08 because he got hurt, `09 it got sidetracked because we threw him in the bullpen,” Girardi said. “He kind of blew us away with what he did, so that threw kind of a little confusion into the pot. And then he comes out and wins 18 games in 2010, and you say, `Well, he’s a starter.’ And then he has 2011.” … Girardi said Hughes’ ability to pitch out of the bullpen shouldn’t work against him in the competition for a rotation spot. “I think that your first responsibility is putting out what you feel are the best five starters, and then you go from there,” Girardi said.