Even though Adam LaRoche’s strained quad is improving, he will serve as the team’s designated hitter in Friday’s lineup against Oakland left-handed starter Tommy Milone. Kevin Frandsen, who started 35 games at first base last season with Philadelphia, will make his first start at first base this season. Nationals Manager Matt Williams wants to get LaRoche, the Natioanls’ best hitter this season, off his feet yet keep his potent bat in the lineup.
LaRoche was concerned that by not being in the field, his quad could tighten between at-bats with him on the bench. Williams and LaRoche spoke before batting practice on Friday and devised a plan. LaRoche, who leads the team with a .324 average and .941 OPS, will use a hot pad and lightly ride a stationary bike in between at-bats.
“It could be actually be good,” LaRoche said. “It’s cool outside.”
Thursday’s off-day helped LaRoche’s injury. He said before Friday’s game that the knot in the muscle isn’t as big as before, which he considered a good sign. Earlier in the week, LaRoche limped out of the batter’s box after hits. Extended rest would be the ideal solution but that’s not considered an option with the Nationals still lacking two regular starters in Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper.
“It’s day to day,” LaRoche said. “Some days I’ve got to move a lot more on it and gets way more sore after those game. But in all, we’re on the side of getting it fixed.”
After Wednesday’s game, the Nationals optioned LaRoche’s back-up, Tyler Moore, to Class AAA Syracuse, a curious move given LaRoche’s mobility. The Nationals instead chose to carry three catchers because Williams said the Nationals wanted insurance as catcher Wilson Ramos returns from hamate bone surgery. With the return of outfielder Scott Hairston from an oblique strain and Frandsen’s versatility, Moore was the odd man out.
“We have to make sure that [Ramos is] good,” Williams said. “Franny has got lots of experience playing first base. With Scott back in left field, it doesn’t really bode well with Tyler’s at-bats. …. He needs at-bats. When he comes back, we want him to have a lot of them and be hot.”
Williams doesn’t expect LaRoche to be the team’s designated hitter for the entire series. With right-hander Sonny Gray expected to start on Saturday, Williams mentioned Ramos and Jayson Werth as possibilities to DH, with LaRoche at first base. Williams said he expects outfielder Nate McLouth to play Saturday, a match-up of a left-handed hitter against a right-handed pitcher. LaRoche could be back as a designated hitter on Sunday with left-handed starter Scott Kazmir slated to start.