A's invite Durazo to Spring Training
Slugger returning to Oakland, will compete for roster spot
OAKLAND -- Erubiel Durazo, whom A's general manager Billy Beane called his personal "Holy Grail" after acquiring him in a three-team trade at the 2002 Winter Meetings, will be back in green and gold come spring.
Currently starring for Hermasillo of the Mexican Winter League, Durazo on Tuesday told a Mexican radio station -- after hitting three home runs in a game -- that he was rejoining the A's.
Asked to confirm Durazo's announcement, Oakland assistant GM David Forst, responding to a voicemail from MLB.com while traveling late Wednesday, promptly did so with a brief text message.
"On a plane," Forst wrote. "Minor League deal for Ruby. Invite to camp."
Durazo, who in 2004 set the Oakland record for batting average as a designated hitter (.324), was let go after missing much of the 2005 season with an elbow injury. He was picked up by the Rangers and played for Team Mexico in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, but he ended up splitting the 2006 season at Triple-A with three organizations -- the Rangers, Yankees and Twins -- and batted a combined .286 with five homers, 25 RBIs and a .389 on-base percentage in 58 games.
"I loved it in Oakland," Durazo said during the Classic. "I wanted to go back, but they had other plans."
The plan now is to bring Durazo to Spring Training, where he might get a look at first base. He was primarily a DH during his three seasons with Oakland, but the A's recently signed Mike Piazza to fill that role for 2007. Durazo broke into the big leagues as a first baseman with the D-backs in 1999 and has played there in 236 of the 624 big-league games in which he's appeared.
Nick Swisher was Oakland's main first baseman in 2006, playing in 90 games there, but he could be moved to left field full-time in the wake of the departure of free-agent outfielder Jay Payton, leaving first base to Durazo or Dan Johnson, who was a unanimous selection to the 2005 Topps All-Rookie team but struggled in 2006 and spent much of the second half of the season at Triple-A Sacramento.
Coaching staff complete: The A's on Thursday named Tye Waller as their first-base coach, rounding out the staff that will support first-year manager Bob Geren.
Waller, who was the Padres' first-base coach in 2006, also has worked as San Diego's coordinator of Minor League instruction and director of player development, and he started his professional coaching career at rookie-level Spokane in 1988. Geren played for the Padres in 1993.
Waller, 49, played professionally for 11 seasons from 1977-87, including big-league stops with the Cardinals, Cubs and Astros. He saw his most extensive playing time with the Cubs in 1981, batting .268 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 30 games.
Also newcomers to the A's coaching staff under Geren in 2007 will be Ty Van Burkleo (hitting) and Bob Schaefer (bench). The returning coaches are Curt Young (pitching), Rene Lachemann (third base) and Brad Fischer (bullpen).
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.