Adam LaRoche possesses a laidback temperament, the kind of demeanor that ensures the Nationals will not have to worry about him following their pursuit of Prince Fielder. LaRoche wanted to remain the Nationals’ first baseman, and he’s happy now that he knows with certainty that he will. But he also spent more time this offseason sitting in a deer stand than worrying about the effect Fielder may have on his future.
“I can’t say I cared about it,” LaRoche said. “I didn’t lose any sleep over it. It would have obviously been a disappointment. I think everybody knows we’re turning the corner right now, and I wanted to be a part of that.
“I understand why stuff like that happens. I wouldn’t have any grudges. I would have totally understood the business decision. Then again, it’s fixing to get really exciting in D.C., and I want to be a part of it.”
In his recovery from the labrum surgery that sidelined him for the final 120 or so games of 2011, LaRoche feels almost back to full strength. He has returned to baseball activities and feels his swing returning with no problems. His throwing, he said, has yet to come all the way back to the level it was at before his injury.
“It feels good,” LaRoche said. “I’ve been really excited swinging the bat. It feels a lot stronger than it has in a while. I almost forgot that feeling of it feeling really good swinging. I’m able to hit.
“As far as throwing, it’s coming along. It’s feeling a lot better than it did. It’s not 100 percent. I think it’s just a matter of stretching it back out. As far as being healed, I think it’s there. It’s just not quite in shape, which is okay. It’ll take time.”
LaRoche plans on arriving in Viera, Fla. for spring training earlier than usual to test his left (throwing) shoulder. He figures with all the throwing he’ll do during spring, his shoulder will work its way back to 100 percent by the start of the regular season.
LaRoche felt confident in his labrum, but the Nationals should still be more concerned about LaRoche’s shoulder than his feelings. With his carefree attitude, LaRoche did not worry about the team’s pursuit of Fielder.
While the baseball world buzzed about Fielder, LaRoche spent Tuesday returning from a two-pronged vacation. The first prong requires a bit of explaining: He visited Las Vegas, specifically the 12th Annual Golden Moose Awards show, seen on the Outdoor Channel.
LaRoche is the co-owner of the hunting outfit Buck Commander, which has spawned a television show, Buck Commander Protected by Under Armour. That television show earned two awards at the Golden Moose Awards – Best Sound Design and Best Graphics. “That’s really a credit to our production crew,” LaRoche said.
After the weekend award show in Las Vegas, LaRoche spent a couple days hanging out with his brothers in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Tuesday night, he was driving back home from the airport, to the ranch he owns in Kansas. He was aware of the Fielder talk, sure, but he was not exactly preoccupied.
“It wouldn’t have been the end of the world,” LaRoche said. “It just would have changed my plan, which is to stay in Washington.”
Earlier Tuesday, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman expressed mild disappointment with not landing Fielder, but he also welcomed the idea of having LaRoche next to him.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why we were able to hold our line and not kind of be desperate, because you have a player like Adam LaRoche sitting there,” Zimmerman said. “Adam is one of those players that doesn’t really excite anyone, but at the end of the year, he’s going to play Gold Glove defense and finish with 25 home runs and 85 RBIs. He doesn’t get as much credit as he should. I think our fans will be pleasantly surprised, because they didn’t get a chance to see him because he was hurt last year.”