First baseman Adam LaRoche stayed out of the Nationals lineup Tuesday night as he tried to relieve stiffness in his lower back, which forced him from the Nationals’ victory Monday night in the seventh inning.
LaRoche had been dealing with pain for the entirety of the Nationals’ road trip, but he felt improvement Tuesday after he took a muscle relaxer. “It actually feels a little bit better,” LaRoche said.
He planned to receive treatment throughout Tuesday evening. LaRoche has endured the back pain in previous season, and from experience he felt “very confident” that his current issue would not lead to an extended drought.
Manager Matt Williams expects LaRoche to also miss Wednesday’s matinee. Given that the Nationals are off Thursday, that would give him three consecutive days of rest.
When LaRoche returns may be less of a question than how well he’ll play. LaRoche has been having a productive season, but since his back pain surfaced on this trip he has struggled, going 1 for 23 with six strikeouts. LaRoche insisted his pain wasn’t the cause for the slump.
“I’ve felt it this whole road trip,” LaRoche said. “The last two days is really the only time I’ve felt it swinging and felt it in the box. Before that, I could feel it on defense, just standing around.”
With LaRoche out against Dodgers superstar Clayton Kershaw, the Nationals shuffled their lineup. Manager Matt Williams also gave center field Denard Span a day off.
Teammates teased Span that he had a case of “Kershitis.” But Williams and Span discussed the plan to give him a day off before Monday’s game, when he hit two homers. Span could rest at night before a noon game Wednesday, and not facing Kershaw isn’t the worst idea for a left-handed hitter. Span’s not dealing with any lingering injuries; it’s just a good time to give him a break, in Williams’s mind.
With Span out, Bryce Harper played center field for the first time he returned from thumb surgery – and then declared he wanted to play center field. “I can’t wait,” Harper said. Harper also played center field at Dodger Stadium in the second game of his career, back in 2012, crashing into the wall make a catch.