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LaRoche plans to play Sunday

Mar 1, 2012, 3:26 PM EDT

Associated Press photo
Adam LaRoche has missed the last two workouts with a minor ankle sprain.

VIERA, Fla. — Hindered by a mild ankle sprain suffered during a baserunning drill, Adam LaRoche is not fully participating in today's workout at Space Coast Stadium, but the Nationals first baseman expects to make his Grapefruit League debut Sunday against the Astros.

LaRoche tweaked his left ankle running the bases Tuesday. X-rays revealed no fracture or structural damage.

"Just some swelling and a mild sprain," he said. "That was the good news."

LaRoche does plan to do some light throwing and swinging today, as he also eases his surgically repaired left shoulder back into game shape. The shoulder continues to feel sore after throwing, but the veteran firstRead more ยป

  1. MicheleS - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Do we need to put him in bubble wrap?

  2. David - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    I 2nd the vote for bubble wrap.

  3. ehay2k - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    The second coming of Nick Johnson. Sigh.

  4. Sec 3, My Sofa - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    Ixnay on the bubble wrap. All that popping will scare the bejabbers out of McCatty.

  5. Wally - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    Well, I admit that I don't know how to think about these reports on LaRoche's shoulder. On the one hand, this seems like a reasonable expectation based on major surgery rehab. Yet, it wasn't the mindset that I had going in to ST with all the 'Laroche is 100% talk during the Fielder chase', so the soreness, the extra tests, etc concern me that he isn't, and won't be, ready when the team breaks camp.It is doubly concerning because I view LaRoche as the most influential player for the team this year. Not the best, certainly, but (a) the swing between his plausible performance expectations (wash-out to career averages) is so wide, that it matters greatly which one shows up and (b) the fall back plan if he is a no go is pretty weak.There is time, obviously, for him to round into playing shape. But I sure would like a better fallback plan.

  6. N. Cognito - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    Anybody who thought LaRoche would be back to full strength this year was either not paying attention or asleep at the wheel.Though possibly 100% healed, it still takes a while to build up the strength in the shoulder.Coming off injury, missing a year and already beginning to decline, I believe LaRoche will be lucky to hit 15 homeruns this year.If my expectations do come to fruition, I would be surprised to see the Nats pick up the option on him for next year.

  7. Section 222 - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    I continue to believe that LaRoche's contribution during the first part of the season will be minimal. The road back from labrum surgery is just too tough, and if he's still feeling pain now, I doubt he'll be 90%, much less 100%, by Opening Day. As many have noted, however, the key thing will be his hitting, not whether he can throw without pain. I'm skeptical, despite all the rosy predictions (and note how they have become less, not more, rosy as time passes) that the still sore shoulder will have no impact on his power. Thankfully, we're about to find out in some real games, and I just hope that DJ and Rizzo have the guts to make him a late inning defensive replacement if necessary, rather than continuing to run him out there as our cleanup batter for two months as Riggleman did last year. We have a perfectly good Plan B for 1B in Morse. They shouldn't wait long to pull that trigger.

  8. Anonymous - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    Thanks for the excellent reporting, Mark.Is there any comparison to be made to Jesus Flores' labrum injury, especially the time needed to heal sufficiently to be an MLB player?Mark in Arlington

  9. bdrube - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    Here's hoping that Tyler Moore gets off to a monster start at Syracuse…

  10. HHover - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    WallyGotta agree with others who say that LaRoche wasn't likely to make a big contribution this year, at least in the first half–and even under full steam, LaRoche is about a 1.5-2 WAR player, which isn't huge. Moving Morse to 1B is the backup, but as you say, it's not ideal. The OF will be weak enough already, at least at the beginning of the season.

  11. Wally - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    Section 222 said …We have a perfectly good Plan B for 1B in Morse.Yeah, ok, but it is the domino affect on the lineup that is the weak plan B, in my view. Trading a healthy Laroche for more ABs by Ankiel, Bernie or even DeRosa is quite a step down.A 4th OF who could play for stretches of time and perform at an average MLB level would be quite valuable for us, and lessen the reliance on Laroche being able to bounce back. Alternatively, finding someone who could fill in at 1B so Morse could stay in the OF may be an easier back up plan. Could be Tyler Moore, I guess. Maybe Derek Lee.

  12. Feel Wood - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    The road back from labrum surgery is just too tough, and if he's still feeling pain now, I doubt he'll be 90%, much less 100%, by Opening Day.Re-read his quotes. He's not feeling pain, he's feeling soreness. Soreness is a good thing when building strength. You know what they say – no pain, no gain. Except it's not pain, it's soreness.

  13. Wally - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    HHover said… Wally Gotta agree with others who say that LaRoche wasn't likely to make a big contribution this yearBut HHover, doesn't it seem like Rizzo thought he would? Because as we all seem to agree, he didn't really put together a back up plan that includes moving Morse to 1B (while making other moves like EJax that implied a sense of 'win now' mentality). At least, that is how it seems to me. Maybe he assumes that he can pick up someone as ST rolls on (which may very well prove true)

  14. Nick Johnson - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    One man's pain is another man's soreness.

  15. Section 222 - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    Feel Wood said… Re-read his quotes. He's not feeling pain, he's feeling soreness. Soreness is a good thing when building strength. You know what they say – no pain, no gain. Except it's not pain, it's soreness.It's totally your right to keep the rosy glasses on. We'll see what his OPS is come April 30. If he's back to the 25 HR/100 RBI guy that everyone has been hoping for for two years, I'll gladly eat my words. If he bombs, I hope you'll do the word eating honors, and join me in calling for DJ to bench him if he hasn't done so already.By the way, any decent physical therapist or personal trainer will tell you that "no pain, no gain" is a load of BS.

  16. Section 222 - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    Wally and HHover — I totally agree that Rizzo needs to be working on a Plan B for the outfield. We are hurting there even if Morse stays in LF. If he has to move to 1B, we're in worse shape. Still, I expect that Bernadina and Ankiel will both produce more than ALR in his weakened condition.

  17. JaneB - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    There's no chance ALR can rehab more on the DL and play in Syracuse for the maximum number of rehab games, so he doesn't come in at 67% strength (or whatever) — is there? It will be interesting to see if they play Morse in the outfield for half a game and then move him over to first, as they did for much of ST last year.

  18. Steve M. - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    A lot of speculation and while some of you can be correct, lets see how he does in games with the bat on Sunday and beyond. Still over a month to Opening Day which is a lot of time.I don't want to think of the alternatives right now.

  19. SCNatsFan - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    Are single game tox availabe? I just got a call from someone who says he has the code.

  20. SCNatFan - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    oops tix available. Fat fingers small phone.

  21. Feel Wood - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    By the way, any decent physical therapist or personal trainer will tell you that "no pain, no gain" is a load of BS.Is that before or after they tell you to "feel the burn"? Because it's a fact that you don't build strength without pushing the envelope, which is going to result in some soreness. The trick is distinguishing that kind of soreness from the kind of soreness/pain that is caused by re-injury. I think LaRoche and the medical staff have a handle on that. If you see him skipping workouts because of pain in his shoulder, then it's time to worry. But that hasn't happened yet.And BTW, just because I say that LaRoche's recovery is on track does not mean I'm predicting he won't start slow. He's a notorious slow starter/second half player even when healthy. But they knew that going in when they signed him to the contract last year. That alone is not going to be enough for them to pull him after two weeks if he's hitting .180.

  22. Anonymous - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    It's totally your right to keep the rosy glasses on. We'll see what his OPS is come April 30. If he's back to the 25 HR/100 RBI guy that everyone has been hoping for for two years, I'll gladly eat my words. If he bombs,LaRoche has always been a late starter that didn't hit his stride until August. He isn't going to scare anyone early in the year and will likely be traded for C level prospect particularly if Tyler Moore has a monster year in Syracuse. Moore isn't a left-handed impact bat which is what they need but he'll have to do … they'll probably just do a swap with Marerro to let Chris get back in baseball shape if he is ready at the end of July …

  23. Anonymous - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    There are other possibilities that will be in Syracuse and Harrisburg and those would fit into the outfield with Morse at first. Hard to say how it will all end up but we do know Johnson wants offense … if its not there then LaRoche will likely be on the bench.

  24. Section 222 - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    And BTW, just because I say that LaRoche's recovery is on track does not mean I'm predicting he won't start slow. He's a notorious slow starter/second half player even when healthy. But they knew that going in when they signed him to the contract last year. That alone is not going to be enough for them to pull him after two weeks if he's hitting .180. Ok, given that he's probably trade bait as of July anyway, just how long do you think we should endure him hitting .180 before making a change? Being a slow starter is a convenient excuse, and it hurt the team last year because Riggleman allowed him to "tough it out" for much longer than he should have. This year, should we give him until May 20 like last year? June 15? The ASG? In my view, we should ignore the slow start stuff altogether this time around. If he's not showing decent power and the ability to get on base as of the end of spring training, then put him on the DL and let him have his slow start in Syracuse on rehab. We can't afford that albatross in the lineup, certainly not batting cleanup or 5th.SteveM — You're right this is all speculation. What else is there to do in the next 35 days! :-)

  25. Get Some Players - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Can LaRoche be 'Pattersoned'? If so the Nats should consider this option.

  26. blovy8 - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    Those AA/AAA outfield possibilities would need to be added to the 40 man roster, and if they're better prospects than DeRosa, Ankiel and Bernadina right now, why burn an option, unless LaRoche is actually out? In any case, this issue could have been foreseen – they spent nothing at all on Plan B for the outfield when there was a depth need and better options available. Michaels, Paul or Teahen for a month? Ugh.

  27. natsfan1a - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    John Patterson was slated to make $850,000 before he was released. After his release, the Nats were on the hook for $212,500 (hat tip to the NJ archives). I believe that LaRoche is slated to make $8 million this year.

  28. Feel Wood - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Ok, given that he's probably trade bait as of July anyway, just how long do you think we should endure him hitting .180 before making a change?Unless he re-injures himself during ST, there really is no other option than to let the situation play itself out. This is exactly the same situation as when Guzman came back in 2007 after a terrible 2005 and being injured all of 2006. Everyone expected the worst, but (surprise!) he was great – until he got hurt again. Will it be the same with LaRoche? There's absolutely no way to know. ST performance means nothing, as we all know, unless it does. But his trade value will be zero if he's not playing at all, so if for no other reason than to establish trade value they will have to run him out there unless his performance is so bad that it makes him less than worthless. Before it gets to that point, they will probably make him a late-inning defensive sub/bat off the bench. And even then, they'd have to consider who is available to replace him. You can say "Well, they should have planned for that contingency!" but that's unrealistic. There just aren't enough good players out there to have one available to jump in and fill the void without having to take a step back for every single thing that might go wrong during the course of a season.

  29. Sec 3, My Sofa - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    Nick Johnson said… One man's pain is another man's soreness.Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  30. Feel Wood - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    Can LaRoche be 'Pattersoned'? If so the Nats should consider this option.I don't think they can do that for a free agent contract like LaRoche is under. It only applies for arbitration contracts. (Not sure if it also applies to arbitration contracts like David Ortiz signed in lieu of free agency, though.)

  31. ehay2k - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    Of course, Rizzo could get REALLY creative and put Lannan at 1B. Two birds with one stone! ;-)

  32. Sec 3, My Sofa - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    Worst-case is a repeat of last year, when they kept running him out there as a "notoriously slow starter" when he wasn't starting at all, he was hurt. If he gets off to a slow start, maybe he's hurt and maybe he isn't, but he will be essentially untradeable unless they eat most of (by that time)$5MM or $6MM and still only get Cutter Dykstra's cousin in return, at which point they might as well just stash him on the DL, send him to Lourdes, and move on.

  33. Sec 3, My Sofa - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    Oh, and LaRoche gets $8MM for this year, with a $1MM buyout (assuming they do so) for 2013, so really they owe him at least $9MM.

  34. Sec 3, My Sofa - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Not sure if the $10MM option for 2013 changes if he's traded, but it's unlikely to go away, so his next team, if he's traded midseason, gets to inherit that.

  35. Steve M. - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:21 PM

    Section 222 said… SteveM — You're right this is all speculation. What else is there to do in the next 35 days! :-) March 01, 2012 12:09 PM I saw people knocking Sean Burnett a few days ago after Morse smashed a monster BP home run off of him.Its just too early to make alarming comments in my opinion and you have to really weigh the situation because it is Spring Training.I think we will have enough eyes on LaRoche in the next 10 days to see what he will look like.You know me, I call it as I see it and I will probably become unglued if LaRoche isn't the 90% he has portrayed himself as.

  36. Cease the Opportunity - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    Good feeling from Strasburg on ESPN980. He mentioned about building a dynasty, which means to me that he wants to be in D.C. for the duration. But we'll see…

  37. Section 222 - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    I saw people knocking Sean Burnett a few days ago after Morse smashed a monster BP home run off of him.Its just too early to make alarming comments in my opinion and you have to really weigh the situation because it is Spring Training.I must have missed the comments knocking Burnett after one gopher ball on the first day of spring training, but of course that's silly. Doesn't seem to me that being concerned about ALR given the steady drumbeat of not so great reports, not to mention the fact that he had very serious surgery, is in the same category. Especially since most of the reports we're getting about other players at this point are of the "he's in the best shape of his life" ilk. At the very least, concerns (and alarming comments) are just as reasonable as continuing to expect that he'll be fine when all indications so far suggest he won't be.

  38. JaneB - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    FeelWood, I forgot about that Guzman history! I'm rooting for THAT option. And I just re-read Mark's title: LaRoche PLAYING. Not "LaRoche Not Playing." Ooof!

  39. Wally - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    I am not saying give up on Laroche. Of course we should let him play and rehab and if he becomes healthy and productive, that is awesome. I am not suggesting panic.But adding a quality 4th OF seems to make sense for so many contingencies that I do not think that they need to wait to see how Laroche does before doing it. I felt have all along they should already have done it (Cody Ross was my suggestion earlier in the offseason). We have a weak 3rd OF as is. We have a 1B who is recovering from an injury and may cause us to move the LF to 1B. We could have a prodigious 19 yr old, maybe, but we would have to play an aging RF in CF. Or one of our two competent OFs could get hurt. Maybe the right combination of the above works out, and if so, great. I just don't think we should plan on them so much that if one fails, we have to give 600 ABs (or more) to a collection of guys that will hit .230/.290/.390.

  40. NatinBeantown - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    Mark, Not getting into the LaRoche prediction wars at all, but who is #2 on the 1B depth chart. Has Davey said who will play 1B on the days LaRoche sits? (In other words, will Morse play 1B occasionally, or does he want to keep him in LF the way he keeps Espi at 2nd even when Desi sits?)

  41. NatinBeantown - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    I second what Wally said. We do seem one bat short on the bench, and it only makes sense that it would be an OF.I think the FO knows this, and that the options are (1) see if DeRosa or other has some magic left, (2) see if an appropriate player gets dropped during ST (some teams like the Angels are loaded in the OF), or (3) see what presents itself in exchange for Lannan. All of these options need a few weeks of ST before they present themselves.

  42. Diz - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    Question for NatsJack:Thing about LaRoche, if he's driving the ball in BP, then he can drive it in the game and should be fine this season.NJ, how's he looking in the cage? If his shoulder is still weak, that's where you'll be able to see it. If he isn't driving balls into the gaps, that's when we should worry. If he is, we should be fine.

  43. Anonymous - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    A lot of grumpiness today. Have a Diet-Pepsi. You'll feel better.

  44. Section 222 - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    Unless he re-injures himself during ST, there really is no other option than to let the situation play itself out…. ST performance means nothing, as we all know, unless it does. But his trade value will be zero if he's not playing at all, so if for no other reason than to establish trade value they will have to run him out there unless his performance is so bad that it makes him less than worthless.Given that he's a free agent after this year, and he has a $10 million option for next year, we're not going to get much more than Cutter Dykstra's cousin at the trade deadline, even if he's playing reasonably well. So the question remains, at what point do you pull the trigger and take him out of the starting lineup (whether he goes on the DL or to the bench) if he's not hitting? I just disagree that we have no choice but to send him out there and see what happens if he hasn't shown in ST that he is truly recovered from the injury and can contribute to the team right from the start. I put him in a different category than Ramos, Espi, Desi, Zim, Morse, and Werth, who will be in the O.D. lineup regardless of how badly they slump in Florida. ALR has something to prove in the next five weeks. If he doesn't show he's ready, we shouldn't give him six more weeks to get it together. Certainly not just on the hope that we can get Aaron Thompson's cousin instead of Cutter Dykstra's.

  45. Cease the Opportunity - Mar 1, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    I feel like I'm Ian Desmond since no one is bashing him today. They're bashing some other guy. Maybe the Nationals are never supposed to have a CF or 1st baseman other than Morse…

  46. Feel Wood - Mar 1, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    Not getting into the LaRoche prediction wars at all, but who is #2 on the 1B depth chart. Has Davey said who will play 1B on the days LaRoche sits?Watch and see who else plays first base during the spring training games and that will tell you. Morse is a possibility, but there are others too, such as DeRosa. One thing you do know is that if there is someone that Davey considers to be part of the first base depth chart, then that guy will log time at the bag during ST. Riggleman would throw someone into a different position out of the blue, but davey doesn't operate that way.And there is entirely too much angst over the "how bad can LaRoche perform before he gets pulled." It may well be a moot point anyway, because when (not if) Harper comes up, they'll be able to move Morse to first against righties without losing a lefthanded bat in the order. Or if LaRoche is hitting, leave him in and keep Morse in left and Harper in right. And it certainly appears that Harper may be up very early in the season (although not on Opening Day).

  47. RPrecupjr - Mar 1, 2012 at 7:42 PM

    It's nice to see that all the points I was going to make in my post have been touched on at one point or another so far:1. He's experiencing soreness AFTER throwing, not DURING, and soreness in a joint that has not been put to full use in almost a year is normal. Pain, however, is not, and is an indicator either of re-injury or something entirely new. I've had four knee surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy and am quite familiar with soreness. The only time I felt PAIN was when I re-injured it.2. Yes, he is a notoriusly slow starter. That's not an excuse, it's a fact. Some players just don't dig the cold, rainy Aprils and Mays, but heat up when June and July roll around. Likewise there are those who are Cy Young/MVP candidates until the ASG and then collapse, year after year. The thing to watch this year is HOW he is hitting, not necessarily the statistical results. If he's hitting .220 in late April, but driving the ball to the gaps and just running into bad luck, the hits will eventually fall. If he's hitting .220 and he's hitting weak popups and slow rollers in the infield and hasn't hit one even to the warning track, then we'll know something is still amiss.3. Plan B is obviously Morse at this point, and he will be the 1B next season, I'm certain ALR's option doesn't get picked up. When ALR was signed, we (as in all of us as well as team people) had no idea Morse would not only be an offensive star, but also be able to step in fairly seamlessly at first. There's no reason to pick up the option. So we see how ALR is doing by the end of April and if Plan B needs to be implemented, that's when you bring up Harper to play left and leave the outfield as it is with Werth in right and "Bum of the Day" (as my dad would say) in center.4. Anyone know if Vlad can play first base? That would be a nice Plan C from an offensive point of view.

  48. Section 222 - Mar 1, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    My guess is that DeRosa is ALR's backup against lefties, but Morse moves to first and Bernadina plays LF against a RHP. FeelWood makes a good point that once Harper is brought up, ALR's condition is less important. I know most people here expect him to be in the majors come April 30 or so. I wouldn't be surprised if they give him some more time to tear up AAA.

  49. jd - Mar 1, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    Section 222,'I wouldn't be surprised if they give him some more time to tear up AAA'. He didn't tear up 'AA'. Why do you think he will tear up 'AAA'? By all accounts he still needs work in recognizing off speed pitches. Why rush him before he is ready?

  50. Anonymous - Mar 1, 2012 at 8:50 PM

    It look like Laroche never saw an injury he didn't like. Hope Morse didn't throw away his 1B glove.

  51. SweetBlues - Mar 1, 2012 at 10:14 PM

    All I know is I've got Opening Day tix – a 22 game plan & a five flex. Whoever is playing, I'm cheering!!

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