In 2002, Billy Beane obtained, in a typically Beane-like four-way deal, what he had been calling his “holy grail”.
Of course, I’m talking about none other than Erubiel Durazo, aka “Alligator Arms”, aka “The Grail”.
Like the Grail of old, he was lost for a time. In 2005 and 2006, Durazo effectively vanished from the face of the baseball world.
2005 was a down year, as the Grail posted a meager .673 OPS, and then tore ligaments in his elbow that required Tommy John surgery; odd for a DH.
Durazo spent 2006 shuffling between the minor league affiliates of the Rangers, Twins and Yankees. He found moderate success, but not enough to stick with a team, or warrant a call-up.
The recovery from Tommy John took a while, sapping his power and limiting him to just 5 home runs. His plate discipline was still there, though, as he hit .286 and posted an on-base percentage of .389.
This winter, in the Mexican League, Durazo has impressed. His line of .345/.454/.641 with 17 HR through 57 games looks very good.
So, he’s been invited to spring training with the A’s.
So what does this mean, assuming Durazo reverts to form?
The A’s aren’t about to sit their newly signed future-Hall-of-Famer against righties, but I’ve got to think that they would like to get Durazo’s bat, if he still has it, in there against the right handers.
So the likely lineups against a right hander would see Durazo at DH, Piazza at 1B, and Nick Swisher in the outfield.
And against left handers, Piazza would DH, Swisher would play first, and Bobby Kielty would play outfield.
So where does Dan Johnson fit in to all of this?
He’s going to have to beat out Durazo to earn his place on the team.
One of the advantages that Johnson has is that he’s an average to above average fielding first-baseman, while Durazo is about as useful in the field as Frank Thomas. Which is to say, pretty much useless. In fact, Durazo originally hurt his elbow while trying to throw a ball in preparation for interleague play.
Of course, there’s the possibility that Swisher moves to left field full time, with Jay Payton vacating the position. That would leave first base open to Johnson or Durazo. I’d have to assume that in that case, Johnson would split 1B time with Piazza, while Piazza and Durazo would split the DH duties. I don’t want to see Erubiel anywhere near a glove. He may have experience there, but it’s the kind of experience I’d rather not see repeated.
The best part of the story doesn’t even involve Durazo, though. After Erubiel announced on a Mexican radio station that he’d be returning to the A’s, Oakland Assistant GM David Forst was contacted to confirm the news.
He replied in a text message, “On a plane. Minor League deal for Ruby. Invite to camp.”
I’m not sure why, but that’s just fantastic.
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