Tuesday, Johnson told LaRoche he wanted to give him either Wednesday or Thursday off, and he let LaRoche pick which game he wanted to play. LaRoche chose Thursday because he wanted to face the pitcher with the harder fastball. Josh Outman throws 95 mph while Edwar Cabrera, Wednesday night’s starter, is up from Class AA. Both are left-handed.
“He said, ‘I’ll take the guy who likes his fastball,’ ” Johnson said. “This other guy is up from Double A.’ He’ll fit right in with DeRosa. He’s been playing in Double A.”
DeRosa actually rehabbed in at Class A Potomac, but that’s beside the point. Johnson said he was not tempted to get LaRoche back in the lineup simply because he smacked two home runs the night before.
“It’s a lot easier to rest sitting on two home runs than an 0-fer,” Johnson said. “When I was hitting a bunch of home runs for the Braves, the manager kept promising me an off day and telling me, ‘Okay, tomorrow I’ll give you off, Johnson.’ I’d say, ‘Great.’ Then I’d hit a home run that night and I was always in the lineup the next night. It wore on me. I didn’t like that. Either give it to me or just say no. So I’m not changing. If I said I’m giving it to you, I’m giving it to you because I knew how upset I got when I wasn’t supposed to play and I made four outs. Not good.”
LaRoche, a classic pull-hitting lefty, had not smashed a home to left field all season. It was not a coincidence that two of them came Tuesday night.
“For whatever reason I wasn’t seeing the ball great,” LaRoche said. “I went into [before the game] and was trying to work on some things and really trying to see it deeper, believe it or not. I was able to see it a little bit longer. I was pulling off some sliders and change-ups and kind of getting out of rhythm. That was my attempt to get back in it and stay on a roll.”
For what it’s worth, LaRoche has pinch-hit twice this season, and he produced a single and a walk. That’s a pretty good weapon for Johnson to have in reserve off the bench.