Pregame notes on Moore, Storen, Harper

CHICAGO - Adam LaRoche is making the most of his day off today, as the first baseman spent part of batting practice getting some ground balls at shortstop, rotating in with Ian Desmond.

LaRoche was casually scooping grounders with his first baseman’s mitt and then whipping the ball across the diamond to first. It’s a bit weird seeing a left-hander on the left side of the infield, I’ll tell you that.

The day off for LaRoche comes as a result of Davey Johnson wanting to get Tyler Moore into the lineup more. Johnson has said multiple times over the last few days that he’s looking to get Moore some additional playing time, and with LaRoche batting just .188/.240/.313 off left-handed pitching this season, Moore will play first base tonight as the Nats face Cubs lefty Chris Rusin.

“I may play him at first base, I may play him in the outfield. I might even start him against some right-handers,” Johnson said. “He just needs to get some at-bats up here and get it going like he did last year. He’s a big part of our future.”

Moore came up from Triple-A Syracuse just two days after Drew Storen was brought back from Syracuse. Storen has worked three games since his promotion and has been dominant, working three scoreless frames with just one hit allowed, no walks and five strikeouts.

“He’s been great,” Johnson said. “He seems to be more relaxed with the leg kick instead of that stiff front leg. He’s quick to the plate and I think his stuff has been real crisp. So it’s good to have him back.”

Storen has been starting at-bats with more fastballs lately, getting ahead in counts and then working in his slider and changeup. Johnson has chided Storen in the past for overthinking things and not attacking hitters and just letting his stuff do the work. Lately, it appears Storen has been doing that.

“His command has been a lot better that way,” Johnson said. “It’s always been, no matter what you throw, get ahead. And he’s done that a heck of a lot better than he did in the first part of the season. But it doesn’t matter to me whether he throws the breaking ball or the fastball first. They need to set up each other and they’re both great pitches.

“It’s all about command for him and going after hitters and locating the ball better than he has in the past. That’s outstanding.”

The one left-handed hitter that the Nats have in their lineup today is Bryce Harper, who is leading off and playing center field. Harper has really struggled against left-handed pitching this season, hitting .174/.294/.283 off southpaws, compared to .308/.398/.597 against righties.

This comes after Harper hit .240/.300/.415 against southpaws last season as a rookie.

“I think he sometimes is a lot like (Ian) Desmond where when a lot of other guys aren’t hitting, he expands the zone and also tries to hit it harder,” Johnson said. “That’s a tendency to try and make something happen. But he needs to stay within himself and stay within your zone and not chase and pick up pitches. Sometimes when you try to really hit it too hard, you can’t pick up the breaking ball as well, and I think he goes through spells like that, trying to do too much. And last year, he got in a better groove. He hit left-handers better last year.

“But he’s still very young. He’s in the learning curve. And he’s making good adjustments. He’s going to play every day. He missed 31 games or something like that (while on the disabled list), and that set back his development. But I like where he’s at and I like what he’s working with.”

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