LaRoche's health carries significant weight in Nats' chances this season

First baseman Adam LaRoche battled through 152 games in 2013 for the Nationals, but would be the first to admit he wasn't 100 percent healthy the entire season.

Whether it was his elbow or attempting to maintain his weight, LaRoche struggled with his consistency at the plate. His .237 batting average was the lowest in his career in a season where he played at least 150 games. His previous low was .259 in 141 games for the Braves in 2005.

LaRoche went through surgery to remove loose bodies in his left elbow during the offseason, and hopes he will be able to maintain his weight and strength throughout the 2014 season.

He also felt that the medication he was taking for attention deficit disorder played a part in suppressing his appetite and losing weight.

At the beginning of this season he is healthy, felt good in spring training and is ready to go. He began the season in fine fashion, driving in the Nationals' first runs of the campaign with a home run against Dillon Gee on Monday.

"I feel great right now," LaRoche said before Monday's game. "You keep your fingers crossed. The fight is not necessarily opening day, it is four months from now, how we are all feeling, so if we can keep everybody intact.

"But I feel great. I probably feel the best I have felt in a few years as far as leaving spring training. Physically, mentally, I was able to put on some weight this winter. Fight to keep it on all year. Do whatever I can. I like our position."

Of course, the Nationals have already reportedly lost their starting catcher Wilson Ramos for at least a month or two, so LaRoche's words ring true. But if LaRoche can maintain his health for the summer, that will be crucial to the Nationals' offensive balance in the battle for the National League East.

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