First baseman Adam LaRoche said he was “shocked” at how good his ailing right quadriceps muscle felt Friday after light stretching and exercises, a promising development that has him shooting for a minimum stay on the disabled list.
The Nationals placed LaRoche on the 15-day disabled list May 10, meaning he could return May 25. LaRoche performed exercises in a pool Friday afternoon. After five days of rest, he could bend his right knee and push it back without pain.
“I was really shocked when I stretched it to the point where it was killing me before and to not feel anything now,” LaRoche said. “I figured it would be better, but I thought I would feel it. So to not feel it at all, that’s why I would think when I’m eligible to come off, I’ll be ready.”
Even playing through injury, LaRoche became the Nationals’ best hitter so far this season, blasting five homers with a .319/.421/.504 slash line. For more than a week, LaRoche asked into the lineup even as his quad prevented him from much more than a light jog on the bases and limited his range at first.
LaRoche said he and the Nationals “probably” did not handle his injury optimally. But given the Nationals’ many injuries and his prominence in the lineup, he has no regrets trying to play through the injury.
“I feel the best about it, because I gave it a shot,” LaRoche said. “The smartest thing is, when you know it’s pulled, you shut it down and get it right. And any other position on the field, I would’ve had to do that. But I’m glad we gave it a shot and gave it a chance to heal while I was playing on it. I gave it a good, eight-to-10 day shot. But then it was crystal clear I had to shut down for two weeks.”
At one point before he landed on the disabled list, LaRoche said, he told Manager Matt Williams, “This is going to cost us a game, just so we’re all clear on that.” As his injury worsened, LaRoche worried he would miss a ball at first base or fail to advance on the bases at a crucial time. Shortly after that conversation, he stopped playing.
The nature of LaRoche’s injury should allow him to stay sharp. He can still take batting practice and stand in for bullpen sessions. Unlike Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, who are dealing with hand injuries, “I can at least see an arm,” LaRoche said.
With LaRoche on the disabled list, Tyler Moore has buoyed the Nationals’ lineup. In five games, Moore is 5 for 17 with a home run and a walk.
In his career, Moore has excelled when starting at first base. In 38 starts at his natural position, he has hit .356 and slugged a ridiculous 1.018. He hasn’t been able to adapt to a bench role, hitting .164 in his career. But as an everyday player, including the outfield, he’s hit one homer every 19.7 at-bats.
“It’s great to have Tyler,” Manager Matt Williams said. “It’s hard, when Adam is playing so well, to get him at-bats at first. He’s strictly off the bench until that point. But we’ve seen with Tyler, when he gets consistent at-bats, he’s productive. And a couple years ago, you guys saw that a lot.”