Adam LaRoche emerged from the Nationals dugout during batting practice on Tuesday afternoon with his batting gloves on and a bat in hand. For the past month, LaRoche has generally skipped batting practice. LaRoche is hitting .234 with a .728 OPS and 18 homers in a streaky-but-mostly-down season at the plate, so batting practice would seem like a useful way to snap out of the slump.
Part of the issue, however, has been the weight loss caused by the medicine he takes to combat ADD (attention deficit disorder). LaRoche is so desperate to keep on as much weight as possible that batting practice outside on a warm day is counterproductive.
“You come back in and you’re soaking wet on a humid day and I can literally see the weight falling off,” he said. “I got way too light.”
During the season, LaRoche’s weight has been around 200 pounds, about 10 to 15 pounds less than he would prefer. Teammates have joked about how he looks like he is missing the other half of his body. Since 2006, he has taken Ritalin to combat ADD. He needs it focus but it also suppresses his hunger and causes weight loss.
Those weight make a difference. “I need that extra 10 pounds to feel better and feel stronger,” he said. At one point, he dropped to the low 190’s, his playing weight in high school. Even when he feels mildly hungry, it’s a fleeting feeling and he has to force himself to eat. “That’s the part that stinks,” he said.
LaRoche has been so bothered by the weight loss that he switched the medication during the all-star break. The medicine he was using during the first half of the season was different than the one he used during his 30-homer, 100-RBI and Gold Glove 2012 season. The side effects are different in each person, and the medicine he used earlier this season had a stronger impact than expected.
LaRoche has begun drinking more protein shakes and hopes that the combination of that and the new medicine will help. “I’m starting to climb a little bit,” he said.
LaRoche also vows to address the issue again in the offseason so it doesn’t affect him as much next season. “Whether in the heat of the summer I don’t go outside until the game starts,” he said. “I’m not gonna let this happen again.”
At the plate, LaRoche has struggled to pinpoint his struggles. Over his career, he is traditionally a second-half hitter, surging during the summer and over the final months of the season.
He hit only .159 with two home runs in July and .233 with four home runs in August. He snapped an 0 for 18 skid on Monday night, and improved on Tuesday with a 1 for 2 and three-walk performance. He feels like he has hit the ball well enough, but hasn’t produced the results. The season has been too streaky and it frustrates him.
“You can’t remember any of the ups,” he said. “Been pretty much down on a team level and on a personal level. It’s just one of those years where nothing seems right. Chalk it up to whatever you want to. What’s done is done. We’ve still got life left. We’ve got until they tell we’re out of it. It gets old. Streaks where I felt decent at the plate, where I may hit two balls on the screws and then I’m 0 for 4 and I look up and I’m 0 for 15. Sad part is that after you hit [the ball] can’t control anything from there.”