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Chavez thrives in Sunday night spotlight

Eric Chavez signed with the Yankees knowing he wouldn’t get much time on the field.

He started for the third time on Sunday night. And Chavez made the most of the opportunity.

Subbing in for an ailing Alex Rodriguez, Chavez drove in the game-winning run with a single in the eighth and ended the ninth with a throw across his body to nail speedy Elvis Andrus at the plate in the Yankees’ 6-5 win.

Chavez finished the night 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI.

“It felt good,” Chavez said of his game-winning hit.

He said he was able to deliver by “not trying to do too much,” an approach that’s worked well thus far.

Chavez is hitting .467 (seven hits in 15 at-bats) with two doubles, three RBI and two runs scored. He is 6-for-12 in his three starts.

The 33-year-old veteran signed with the Yankees as a minor league free-agent on February 10 after playing 12 seasons with the Oakland Athletics.

Chavez was one of the faces of the Athletics’ franchise. He appeared in 1,320 games with the A’s, tenth all-time among players who have played for one franchise. Chavez was limited to 33 games in 2010 due to injury. He said that he considered retirement but instead took a job with the Yankees where he’d be backing up Rodriguez and first baseman Mark Teixeira.

“I’ve been there my whole career and the last few years hadn’t been working. So I needed to change,” he said.

He may be new to the Yankees, but Chavez was plenty familiar with Arthur Rhodes, whom he faced in the eighth inning on Sunday night.

He came up to the plate in the eighth inning thinking slider all the way from Rhodes, whom he’s faced 26 times in his 14 years in the big leagues.

He guessed wrong, but it didn’t matter.

Chavez ripped a fastball up the middle to score Teixeira for what turned into the game-winning run.

He then fielded a chopper from Andrus and made a throw on the run to nail Texas’ No. 2 hitter.

“I bobbled it and I almost decided not to throw it because I was afraid to throw it down the right-field line,” Chavez said. “But as soon as I finally got a grip on it I figured … if I give (Teixeira) a decent throw he will make the play.”

He nailed Chavez by half a step to end the game.

There’s no doubt Chavez took advantage of his opportunity in the spotlight on Sunday night. But he isn’t sure when he’ll see the field next. Rodriguez may return to the lineup as early as Tuesday in Toronto.

Chavez is fine with that.

“When I made the decision to come here, I knew what it was going to be,” Chavez said. “Obviously Alex is going to play a ton of games and when I get in there, I just have to be ready to play.”