When he returned last night with another monster game, going 2 for 3 with a home run, a walk and three RBI, Adam LaRoche proved his sore right oblique muscle was a short-term nuisance, not a long-term issue. Before the season, who would have guessed that could qualify as one of the most crucial developments of the Nationals’ season?
The Nationals, flatly, need LaRoche. In the season’s first month, LaRoche has been the Nationals’ most valuable player. While playing standout defense at first base, he has hit .323/.406/.548 with five home runs, including the two-run blast last night that put the Nationals ahead in the ninth inning. If they chose the all-star team today, LaRoche would probably be the third first baseman chosen behind Bryan LaHair and Joey Votto.
It is early to start thinking about this, but LaRoche could change the Nationals’ immediate future plans at first base. If he continues to hit like he has, the team would have to take a long, hard look at exercising its $10 million on LaRoche for the 2013 season. After he struggled through 43 games with a torn labrum in 2011, it seemed like a foregone conclusion LaRoche would become a free agent. Not anymore.
“People underestimate him because of what they saw last year when he tried to play hurt,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “It’s not easy to play through things like that. He gave it a shot. Unfortunately he couldn’t do it, and so that’s what a lot of people think of him as a player. Adam’s a good hitter. He’s a very underrated player.”
The Nationals, already without Jayson Werth and Michael Morse, had to contemplate life without LaRoche. When he first felt his sore oblique, he worried he could be out for weeks, if not months, with a tear. He received an MRI exam over the weekend, which revealed a bruise and not a strain. He still worried about a tear, but after a half-hour batting practice session Monday, those concerns faded.
“We got that answer,” LaRoche said. “I think it’s not on the verge of tearing. They said everything structurally looks great. It shouldn’t be a one wrong swing and this thing goes and I’m out for a while, otherwise we wouldn’t be trying it right now. That was great news, to get that off the MRI.”
LaRoche wrapped his side in ice after last night’s game. “It’s still there,” he said of the soreness, but he’s also confident “it’s superficial.” It was a relief to LaRoche. And maybe a bigger relief to the Nationals.
FROM THE POST
In the Nationals’ 5-4 loss the Pirates, Henry Rodriguez allowed a walk-off homer after he lost control.
Jason Reid writes Mike Rizzo sent a message with his tough talk about Cole Hamels.
Andy Feffer asseses Take Back the Park in an interview with Steinberg.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 4, Durham 2 (Game 1): Zach Duke allowed two runs in seven innings on three hits and a walk, striking out five. Xavier Paul went 1 for 3 with a home run.
Durham 2, Syracuse 1 (Game 2): Mitch Atkins allowed two runs in five innings on four hits and two walks, striking out four. Brett Carroll went 1 for 3 with a strikeout.
Harrisburg was postponed.
Potomac was suspended.
Augusta 8, Hagerstown 1: Kylin Turnbull allowed two runs in three innings on two hits and three walks, striking out one. Jason Martinson went 1 for 3.