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Posted at 07:40 PM ET, 05/23/2011

Nationals place Adam LaRoche on disabled list

Michael Morse, starting at first base tonight, is Manager Jim Riggleman’s first choice to replace LaRoche, but the Nationals will consider other options. Alex Cora and Matt Stairs could also see time at first, and even Ankiel will start taking groundballs at first base, Riggleman said.

LaRoche left the Nationals yesterday in order to receive more tests on his shoulder, which began hurting the very first day of spring training, from a specialist in New York. For now, LaRoche will rest his shoulder and hope to return in a matter of weeks. Both he and the Nationals still hope to avoid surgery, which could knock him out for the season.

If the initial rest does not help LaRoche, “I don’t if the answer is more rest or something more drastic,” Riggleman said. “The doctors and trainers will make that decision, and Adam himself.

“Right now, Adam is saying, ‘It doesn’t hurt, but I can’t believe I’m missing these pitches,’ ” Riggleman said. “We’ve got to explore that to see if no throwing activities, no lifting, no swinging will let him calm down to the point where maybe he can build it back up. It’s just unfortunate that he’s got to go through this.”

LaRoche has lived up to his reputation as an excellent defensive first baseman – “as good as I’ve ever seen over there,” Riggleman said – but his injured shoulder reduced him to one of the worst everyday offensive players in the league. He’s hitting .172/.288/.258, and among National League players only Miguel Tejada has an OPS lower than LaRoche’s .546.

“I feel for him, because he hasn’t been able to display what he’s capable of doing,” Riggleman said. “Adam is a good offensive player, and I still feel he’s going to be a good offensive player for us this year.”

The Nationals, having already lost Ryan Zimmerman for nearly 40 games and Ankiel for three weeks, will now play without the first baseman they signed to a two-year contract worth $16 million this winter to replace Adam Dunn.

“I think our replacements have done a great job,” Riggleman said. “It’s the way it is. We’re hit by it a little bit, but no more than other clubs. [Chase] Utley has been down. Josh Johnson is down. Everybody is missing some parts. That’s the nature of it. Mike’s getting an opportunity over there ate first, and we’ll see how that goes.”

Morse, who began the season as the Nationals’ everyday left fielder before Laynce Nix usurped him, has started 15 games in his career at first base. He regularly takes groundballs at first before games, part of his routine to stay sharp at all four corner positions he can play. This year, Morse is hitting .267/.294/.356.

“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing,” Morse said. “If my name’s in the lineup, I’m going to play. I’m not going to change anything.”

The Nationals, having already lost Ryan Zimmerman for nearly 40 games and Ankiel for three weeks, will now play without the first baseman they signed to a two-year contract worth $16 million this winter to replace Adam Dunn.

“I think our replacements have done a great job,” Riggleman said. “It’s the way it is. We’re hit by it a little bit, but no more than other clubs. [Chase] Utley has been down. Josh Johnson is down. Everybody is missing some parts. That’s the nature of it.”

For what it’s worth, LaRoche’s absence will remove one of the veteran compasses from the Nationals’ clubhouse. Few, if any, Nationals players are more respected by their teammates than LaRoche.

“He is really a pleasure to manage,” Riggleman said. “I think the world of that guy. As I often say, your character is tested in bad times, not good times. He’s had a lot of bad times at the plate so far. But he certainly passes the character test.”

By  |  07:40 PM ET, 05/23/2011

 
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