In a minor move that could have major implications for the Oakland A's 25-man roster, the A's inked Erubiel Durazo to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. The left-handed slugger was last with the team in 2005, when he injured his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery. Durazo's recovery from the surgery was a slow one, and he struggled in the minor leagues in 2006.
Durazo is currently playing for his hometown team, the Hermosillo Orange Growers, and if his numbers are any indication, it appears that Durazo may finally be healthy again. He is hitting .345 with 17 homeruns and 51 RBIs in only 57 games for Hermosillo, while getting on-base at close to a .500 clip.
The addition of Durazo could mean the end of Dan Johnson on the A's roster. Although Durazo has been a DH for the A's, he was a first-baseman with the Arizona Diamondbacks at the start of his career. With Mike Piazza signed to be the A's DH, Durazo would likely only make the A's roster if he proves that he can play first base. The A's aren't likely to carry both Durazo and Johnson, as their roles would be redundant.
If Durazo were to make the A's roster, he would give Oakland a potentially potent platoon at first-base, DH and left-field. Against left-handed pitchers, the A's could go with Piazza at DH, switch-hitter Nick Swisher at first and switch-hitter Bobby Kielty in left. Against tough right-handed pitchers, the A's could have Durazo spell either Piazza or Kielty, with Swisher moving to left-field if Durazo were at first.
In his last non-injury interrupted season with Oakland (2004), Durazo hit .321 with 22 homers and 88 RBIs in 142 games. He also walked 100 times in 2003, his first season in Oakland. Durazo may be best known for driving-in the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning with two-outs against Alan Embree (now a teammate in Oakland) in Game 1 of the 2003 ALDS against the Red Sox. The A's would later go on to win that game in extra-innings on a walk-off bunt by Ramon Hernandez.
Durazo won a World Series with Arizona in 2001.
A's Round-Out Coaching Staff
Despite speculation that long-time A's minor league manager Tony DeFrancesco would get the position, the A's named former San Diego Padres coach Tye Waller as the team's first base coach for the 2007 season. Waller will replace Rene Lachemann as the A's first base coach. Lach is moving to the third base coaching box, which was occupied by Ron Washington last season.
Waller is one of three new coaches for the A's. Bob Schaefer is the team's new bench coach and Ty Van Burkleo is the team's new hitting coach. Curt Young will stay-on as the team's pitching coach and Brad Fischer will remain in the bullpen. Bob Geren will be in his first season as the A's manager.
DeFrancesco has been the River Cats' manager since 2003. He won PCL championships in 2003 and 2004 and made the playoffs in 2005. The River Cats missed the playoffs for the first time since 2001 this past season.