Strong spring starts from LaRoche and Span (with note)

VIERA, Fla. - Neither Adam LaRoche nor Denard Span had the type of 2013 season he was hoping for.

LaRoche hit just .237 with a lowly .735 OPS, which, if you exclude his injury-plagued 2011 season, was the lowest on-base plus slugging percentage the veteran first baseman has posted in his career.

Span finished the season really strongly, hitting .338/.375/.459 over his final 39 games, but was slow to adjust to a new team and a new league, and it took him 4 1/2 months to find a groove.

Now, spring training performance and statistics only tell you so much, of course, but the good news for the Nationals so far this camp is that both LaRoche and Span seem to be in a good place offensively.

laroche-swinging-red-with-bat-long-sidebar.jpgLaRoche went 3-for-3 in yesterday’s loss to the Mets, boosting his average to .348 in nine spring games with two homers and four RBIs. Small sample size, yes, and the three-hit day will do a lot to elevate your average when you’ve gotten limited at-bats. But it’s obviously a good sign that LaRoche has come out swinging a fairly hot bat.

Another good sign, in the eyes of manager Matt Williams - two of LaRoche’s singles yesterday were to left, indicating that he’s using the whole field.

“I’m encouraged by him hitting the ball back through the middle right now,” Williams said. “He can pull the ball and lift a ball back to his pull side. I’m encouraged with how he’s staying on it. Kinda taking what they’re giving him, which he’s gonna have to do during the course of the year. He looks good. Looks good to me.”

Span led off the game with a double into the right field corner yesterday, giving him four extra-base hits in eight spring games. He’s now batting a robust .417, having gone 10-for-24 so far.

Both Span and LaRoche also had stolen bases yesterday - Span’s a steal of third after his double and LaRoche’s a surprise swipe of second in the second inning.

“Sneak attack,” Williams said with a smile. “(LaRoche) does that every once in a while. ... If they’re going to give it to you, we might as well take advantage of it. That’s not the first time he’s done it.”

LaRoche has just 10 career stolen bases in 10 major league seasons, so he doesn’t do it too often, but he did steal four bags last year.

Maybe the legs are getting looser with age.

Span is now 3-for-4 in stolen base attempts this spring, Ian Desmond is 4-for-4, and as a team, the Nats have 17 stolen bases, fourth-most in spring training action.

We’re getting a good look at Williams’ aggressive mentality, all right.

“If the opportunity presents itself, then we want to take a hard look at it and then advance a base,” Williams said. “I thought it was really good. And it’s going to continue to be the motto.”

Quick note: I’m leaving behind the Florida sunshine, heading back home for few days to remind my friends and family members that I’m still alive.

Pete Kerzel will be filling in for me during my brief absence, so all the Nats happenings will still be covered here on I’ll check back in with you guys next week. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Today’s quote of the day, written atop the daily schedule sheet: “There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happens.”

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