Had Ryan Zimmerman not blasted a home run in the 16th inning of Tuesday’s marathon win over the Brewers, the next National to pitch would have been Adam LaRoche. The first baseman has yearned for years to pitch in a game, and he came — yet again — mere outs away from getting that chance.
Before he batted in the top of the 16th inning, Manager Matt Williams told LaRoche to go to the batting cages to warm up his arm after his at-bat. Instead, LaRoche singled off Mike Fiers and the next batter, Zimmerman, clobbered a home run. Williams then used closer Rafael Soriano, whom he had been saving, for the bottom of the 16th.
“It’s about the 10th time I’ve been an out or two away from being the next pitcher,” LaRoche said Wednesday morning. “We could’ve saved a lot of time if [Williams] had told me I was going in the 10th or 11th inning because every time we score right before that.”
Last season, in a 15-inning game against the Braves, LaRoche was the next pitcher up, but he hit a home run in the top of the inning to help win the game. “I screwed myself on that one,” he said.
LaRoche, 34, was viewed by some teams as a pitcher when he was drafted in 2000 but he wanted to play first base.He did pitch once for Class AA Greenville when he was a Braves minor leaguer in 2003, throwing two-thirds of inning and allowing no runs. His father, Dave, pitched in the major leagues for 14 years.
“It would be fun,” LaRoche said. “I would have loved to do it pre-arm surgery back when my arm felt really good about four or five years ago. I’d have to be a little crafty now. I can’t blow ’em away like I used to.”
“That’s something he’s wanted to do for the last 11 years,” starter Jordan Zimmermann added with a laugh.
This offseason, LaRoche underwent surgery to have bone chips removed from his left elbow. And in 2011, he has surgery to repair a labrum tear. But even then, he said he could still probably hit 80s on the radar gun. He throws a fastball, change-up and curveball. For his part, Williams wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of using LaRoche in the game.
“That’s a bad feeling,” he said. “Not that he was going to pitch but because he had surgery in the offseason. That’s a rough one for the manager to say, ‘Go out there and pitch,’ after you got cut on recently. It’s okay. He was ready to go. He wants to do it.”
Teammates, however, laughed when told of Williams’ intentions following Tuesday’s game. Ross Detwiler’s pitcher’s glove was even fetched for LaRoche during the game.
“We’ve heard a lot of Rochie’s ability to pitch from Rochie,” reliever Tyler Clippard said. “So if he were to get in there, we would have been all eyes on him. He would have done well, but I’m glad it didn’t get to that point.”
Following Tuesday’s game, reporters joked with Zimmerman that LaRoche would be upset with him for his decisive home run for keeping off the mound.
“I’d rather not see that and go home any day of the week,” Zimmerman said. “I’m sure Rochie is mad at me for hitting that home run. I’ll guess I’ll have to see it some other time.”