On Sunday, first baseman Adam LaRoche made a play that suggested the slight labrum tear in his left shoulder is getting worse, not better. But that’s not the case, LaRoche said today, and there was an explanation behind the lollipop throw he made on a force out at second base.
With a man on first, LaRoche fielded a sharp groundball. He turned to second, hesitated for a moment and lobbed the ball submarine-style to second base. Ian Desmond’s return throw arrived a moment too late for a 3-6-3 double play. LaRoche’s soft toss to second just looked painful.
But the arm motion and easy throw had nothing to do with the fitness of LaRoche’s shoulder. Manager Jim Riggleman asked LaRoche in the dugout if he had hurt his arm, and LaRoche insisted he felt no pain at all. Instead, LaRoche had to find a way to get the ball to second base without plunking the base runner.
“Strictly the runner,” LaRoche said. “I had to throw a grenade over his head.”
LaRoche feels much less pain in his shoulder than he did about 10 days ago in New York, when Manager Jim Riggleman gave him a day off. It’s hard for him to gauge exactly how strong his arm is – “It’s been so long since I let it go, I don’t know what 100 percent is anymore,” he said.
LaRoche is focused less on returning his arm to full strength than on ensuring he does no further structural damage. He is not taking pills or injections to mask the pain, which could lead to him to throwing harder and further tearing his labrum “to where I could really screw something up for further down the road this season,” he said. But he is seeing progress.
“It feels better,” LaRoche said. “On the other hand, it was feeling really good before I let it go. So I still feel like I’m at the point where if I let one go, I could go back and have this pain again. That’s what sucks. I don’t know that line, when I can start letting it go again, whether it’s a week or it’s two months.”
LaRoche has also dealt with a left groin strain already this year. He still wraps a bandage around it during games and takes other precautions, but feels as though the biggest threat is behind him.
“I’m glad it never got to the point to where I was really hurting,” LaRoche said. “It’s doing better.”
Despite fighting injuries, LaRoche, for the first two weeks of the season, has delivered the defensive improvement the Nationals expected when they signed him to a two-year, $16 million contract this winter. “He’s a really good defensive player,” Riggleman said. LaRoche has made no errors, several diving stops and has scooped every ball in the dirt infielders have thrown his way.
“It’s been alright,” LaRoche said. “It’s really early. It’s one of those things, you get complacent with it … I’m not really ever satisfied with it, to be honest with you. I’m pleased with it, yeah. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly where I want it to be. As long as I can help these guys out, help the pitchers out and help the infielders out, then great.”