“Let’s just put this behind us,” LaRoche told Johnson. “I feel like this is over with. Let’s move on and rock and roll for the season.”
In his first major league game since March 15, LaRoche showed little rust, going 1 for 2 with a walk and convincing himself and Johnson he will be a full participant come opening day. LaRoche plans on playing tomorrow, too, confident enough to test his foot and ankle.
“I’d like to keep going until – hopefully it doesn’t happen – but until I feel something,” LaRoche said. “If I feel something, okay, let’s take a day. This is a good time to test it. We’ve taken the 10 days. It’s had plenty of time to rest. Let’s push it a little bit and see how it’s going to bounce back, back-to-back days. But I don’t have any worries right now.”
After grounding in his first at-bat, LaRoche smoked a single up the middle off left-hander Mike Minor. Johnson had told LaRoche he plans to play him in a platoon at first base with Mark DeRosa, giving DeRosa, a right-handed hitter, the starts against lefty pitchers.
“If he’s going to hit left-handers like that,” Johnson said, “I may revisit the platoon thing.”
The most promising sign for LaRoche came when he rounded the base. Yesterday, he had sprinted around the bases on a backfield under the watch of a trainer. Now he had a test in a real game.
“I kind of went out a little bit just to test it,” LaRoche said. “It felt great.”
LaRoche is a notoriously slow starter, having hit .208/.303/.385 during April in his career. The time away, then, may not bode for the season’s opening weeks. But LaRoche has been taking ample at-bats in minor league games, tracking pitches and trying to keep fresh.
“I’m not where I want to be, but definitely I jump-started it going over there,” LaRoche said. “Even though I didn’t do much over there, just seeing pitches helps. I don’t know if I’m not mentally tough enough, it’s just tough to hit down there for some reason. I don’t feel as locked in, as intense. I really wanted to come up here, be on the field with these guys and see some pitches on the big field. All went well.”