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New-look LaRoche ready to put 2013 behind him

Feb 17, 2014, 3:41 PM EST


VIERA, Fla. — On the heels of a hugely disappointing season, Adam LaRoche has plenty of reason to approach the upcoming year as a fresh start. In his case, that apparently also includes a thick, lustrous beard that might make his pals from Duck Dynasty jealous.

“I just didn’t shave it for a while,” LaRoche explained. “And then I didn’t shave it for a while longer. And then I just never shaved. Plus, the crew I hang out with, I’m the odd man out if I don’t have a beard.”

The 34-year-old first baseman reported to camp on Monday — 12-year-old son Drake in tow, of course — and began the process of putting a forgettable 2013 behind him. His first step: surgery to remove a couple of bone chips in his left elbow.

LaRoche said he never experienced any discomfort in the elbow until the final two days of the season, when he felt something while trying to swing in a batting tunnel at Arizona’s Chase Field. An MRI late revealed the bone chips, which were removed via arthroscopic surgery in October.

LaRoche wouldn’t attribute any of his season-long struggles — he hit .237 with 20 homers, 62 RBI and a .735 OPS — to the injury.

“No. Because I never felt it,” he said. “I didn’t feel it until that last series. And it could’ve happened the day before, two years before, who knows?”

The surgery wasn’t considered major, but the two-month recovery did prevent LaRoche from getting an early jump on his biggest offseason priority: gaining weight. He dropped all the way down to 190 pounds last summer, the lightest he’s been since college, and believes it was a byproduct of his ADD medication. He made a switch during the All-Star break and saw better results, but he still entered the offseason wanting to gain back 15-to-20 pounds. He said he has about five more pounds to go after his post-surgery re-start.

“The surgery set me back a couple of months from being able to do anything, really,” he said. “It was frustrating, but I had to do it. I had to get those bone chips taken out. Thankfully it was just a scope and not a major deal. But after two months, I was able to start working on it again.”

LaRoche now reunites with Matt Williams, who was his first base coach with the Diamondbacks in 2010 and who he described as “awesome.” Since being named the Nationals’ manager in November, Williams has spoken with his veteran first baseman several times and emerged confident he will bounce back from his disappointing season.

“I just think he’s too good a player,” Williams said. “Sometimes, there are years like that. There’s no rhyme or reason for it. I think he’s healthy and I think he feels good. He’ll be a big part of it, because we need him. And he’ll play a lot over there.”

LaRoche has been in a similar situation; he entered 2012 wanting to rebound from an injury-plagued and unproductive inaugural season in Washington. His motivation entering 2014, though, is less about redeeming himself and more about helping the Nationals take a significant leap forward after a collectively disappointing 2013.

“We totally underachieved last year,” he said. “No excuse there. Offensively terrible for the first three months or whatever it was. You try to come back and pinpoint that and what we can do to correct it and get off to a better start.”

  1. David Proctor - Feb 17, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    He’s also playing for a contract.

    • veejh - Feb 17, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      This is a good thing.

  2. veejh - Feb 17, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    Just make Drake the bat boy for the season, and Adam will hit around .350.

  3. Another_Sam - Feb 17, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    Man, this is great stuff. Spring training, and we’re all on the verge of career years. I know I am. I’m going to set a career high for number of games attended in one season. I can feel it. I’ve trained all winter; I’m ready.

  4. David Proctor - Feb 17, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    FWIW, Adam’s OPS by month:

    April: .473
    May: 1.024
    June: .807
    July: .511
    August: .737
    September: .811

    3 months he was great, 1 month he was mediocre to below average, 2 months he was awful. The season was lost in July, by far our worst month, with a 11-16 record. LaRoche was one of the main culprits, along with Anthony Rendon who had a .556 OPS in that month. LaRoche is a streaky player, we have to live with that. But, in 2012, his worst OPS was .691 in August. In 2013, as you can see, .473. We need to minimize the damage during his lows.

    • Hiram Hover - Feb 17, 2014 at 5:35 PM

      I would question calling a .800-810 OPS “great” for a 1B. Last year, median for 24 qualifying 1B was .811.

      So really, ALR had one great month, a couple of mediocre months, and several execrable ones.

      • David Proctor - Feb 17, 2014 at 5:40 PM

        Fair enough. But still, you’re definitely not getting hurt by an .800 OPS. LaRoche really killed us in April and July, but otherwise was not the problem. If he was just bad in April and July, we may have been able to overcome it. Instead, he was absolutely terrible (and to add to matters, Rendon was awful in one of those months too).

        So like I said, it’s about preventing the lows from getting too low. I would gladly take an .800 OPS from him this year.

      • nats128 - Feb 17, 2014 at 7:31 PM

        I agree with you Hiram. A .800 OPS is the minimum you would want to see out of a top 1st baseman. The Top 12 1st baseman were .830 or over last year. The Top 16 were .801 or above. Adam Laroche was 28th of 1st baseman with 200 BAs or more.

    • letswin3 - Feb 17, 2014 at 7:29 PM

      David, please remember that Danny was at second base until early June, and his OPS for the SEASON was 465. It just felt like you were singling out Rendon for his weak one month, while Danny stunk the joint up for over two …without comment. And I also feel that Rendon should get cut a little slack for the sudden call up. And he probably was feeling many of the same butterflies that virtually all rookies feel.

      • David Proctor - Feb 17, 2014 at 7:34 PM

        I’m not singling out Rendon or attacking him at all. I’m one of Rendon’s biggest fans here.

    • Joe Seamhead - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:59 AM

      As great of a year that Ian Desmond had he had a grand total of 5, count ’em, 5 RBI’s in July 2013. Pinning the Nat’s crappy July on ALR is not entirely fair.

  5. lphboston - Feb 17, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    LaRoche is a notoriously slow starter, and it will be interesting to see how long Williams goes with him if he struggles early again. Could be the first tough decision for the new boss. Might be a a good idea to have a Plan B ready.

    • nats128 - Feb 17, 2014 at 7:32 PM

      That has been proven false time and time again. Its an old wives tale.

  6. sunshinebobby - Feb 17, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    I love the guy, but he’ll still be hitting .180 come May 15. Then, when the weather heats up, watch him explode.

  7. ArVAFan - Feb 17, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    One more thought from today’s spring training: overheard at the fence. One of the non-main-rotation pitchers asking another “which was harder to say goodbye to-your girlfriend or your dog?”

    • Doc - Feb 17, 2014 at 6:33 PM

      That’s a reasonable question, and it’s very difficult to answer.

      I mean a dog, is your very best unconditionally positively regarding friend, no matter how good your girlfriend is.

      Hopefully, all three meet up soon!!!

      • natsfan1a - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:34 AM

        I have a cat, not a dog, but t I’d vote for the pet, because the human has a better concept of elapsed time (on a weekly/monthly scale) and knows when you’ll be back. As far as the pet knows, you’ve been eaten by wolves any time you’re away overnight. :-)

    • Doc - Feb 17, 2014 at 7:38 PM

      That’s a cute human interest question, and it’s very hard to answer.

      I mean a dog, is your very best unconditionally positively regarding friend, no matter how good your girlfriend is.

      Hopefully, all three meet up soon!!!

  8. Theophilus T.S. - Feb 17, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    You people act like LaRoche took food from your children’s mouths.

    • nats128 - Feb 17, 2014 at 7:38 PM

      I dont think anyone is saying that here however I guess if you bet on the Nats to win it all then may be you did lose food money on this team. If you paid for tickets and felt you were short changed then may be you can feel short-changed but Laroche alone was not the root cause of not making the postseason, he was just part of the problem.

    • Hiram Hover - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:21 PM

      If so, there’s a good chance some of it is trapped somewhere in that beard.

  9. nats128 - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:30 PM

    “We totally underachieved last year,” LaRoche said. “No excuse there. Offensively terrible for the first three months or whatever it was. You try to come back and pinpoint that and what we can do to correct it and get off to a better start.”

    What is this “WE” crap? Bryce Harper had a 1.150 OPS in April. Wilson Ramos had a .868 OPS in April. Desmond had a .842 OPS in April.

    Oh, you want to compare the 1st 3 months of the season, still 6 players were above a .800 OPS from Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos, Werth, Desmond, Rendon and RZ.

    • naterialguy - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:36 PM

      Even those with 800+ ops’s were stranding runners at third. We stunk until mid August. No ifs ands or butts

      • Nats128 - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:20 AM

        All 6 of those players had BAs with RISP above league average. We can argue clutch and we can place blame however these players weren’t the offensive culprits in the 1st half of the season.





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