VIERA, Fla. - A week of rest has apparently benefited Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, who says that both his surgically repaired left shoulder and his injured left foot are feeling strong after getting a handful of days off.
“I feel better,” LaRoche said moments ago in the Nats’ clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium. “Last couple days, I feel a lot better. Just one of those little frustrating things that came out of nowhere and has kind of lingered a little bit. Fortunately it’s early, and hopefully I can knock it out the next couple days and start playing and not have to worry about it again.”
LaRoche’s left shoulder was one of the Nats’ biggest concerns entering camp. The veteran was limited to just 43 games last season because of a torn labrum, and the Nationals are counting on LaRoche to come back healthy, lock down first base and add some left-handed pop to their lineup. And so far, the shoulder appears to be checking out just fine, with the exception of some minor soreness in there early in spring.
Turns out, it’s a sprained left foot, not the shoulder, which is setting LaRoche back. (Previous reports said it was a sprained ankle bothering LaRoche, but he said it’s actually a sprained foot which is the issue.) The 32-year-old says there’s still some swelling in the middle of his foot off to the side, but he’s been able to work that out by running a bit every day.
“Shoulder feels really good. Shoulder feels great,” LaRoche said. “And actually, these last few days have probably been good for the shoulder, just to be able to throw a bunch, take a day off, throw a bunch and be on a little rotation. The foot - just that foot sprain. It’s fine running straight, but as soon as I go to turn or break anywhere, I feel it.
“Again, if this was in-season, no problem, play through it. Since it’s early in spring, just take it easy and try and calm it down so it doesn’t keep flaring up on us.”
LaRoche says he had hoped to get into a minor league game today, but the Nationals didn’t have any intrasquad games at their complex scheduled for this afternoon. The first baseman will take some batting practice today and then hopes to get in a few at-bats during the Nats’ Grapefruit League game at home against the Cardinals tomorrow afternoon.
One plus out of all this is that LaRoche’s shoulder appears to be in good shape as he prepares to see some game action.
“That was obviously the biggest concern coming into spring: Is it going to be good enough to go?” LaRoche said. “And the first couple days it was so-so, but a week or two into it now, it feels really good. Swinging feels great and throwing’s getting stronger. So, last thing I need is a little foot thing holding me back now with just getting past the shoulder.”
Update: LaRoche might be ready to play tomorrow, but manager Davey Johnson isn’t ready to put the first baseman in the Nats’ lineup just yet.
Speaking to reporters prior to this afternoon’s game against the Braves, Johnson said that he’s going to play things safe with LaRoche and “more than likely” will hold him out until Thursday’s game against the Astros.
“When they’re been down (injured), I like to see them go through a workout, then go,” Johnson said. “It’s a long spring. We’ve got time. I’m not worried about him not having enough playing time. I’m more concerned about him being all right when he goes out there.
“What’s the rush?”
Dan Kolko was named MASNsports.com’s Nationals beat writer after spending the last four years covering the Baltimore Ravens for MASN and also serving as the Web site’s deputy managing editor. A University of Delaware graduate originally from Silver Spring, Md., Dan grew up a die-hard baseball fan and is thrilled for the opportunity to cover the Nationals. Before joining MASN, Dan worked in production at Comcast SportsNet in Bethesda, Md., and also interned at the “George Michael Sports Machine” in Washington, D.C.
Follow Dan Kolko on Twitter: @DanKolko