LaRoche is out of the Nationals' lineup today after starting 42 and playing 43 of the Nationals' first 45 games. He was diagnosed with a torn labrum in spring training when he reported problems throwing the ball, but doctors said it would only affect him on defense and wouldn't be detrimental to his swing, since it's his top hand and isn't responsible for most of the power in his swing.
In the first six weeks of the season, though, things have gone the opposite direction for LaRoche. He's played, in manager Jim Riggleman's opinion, Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base, not making an error in 43 games and scooping nine throws, several of which saved errors for other Nationals infielders.
But he's only hitting .172 with three homers, and even for the notoriously slow starter, his lack of production this year has been out of the ordinary.
Michael Morse is at first base for the Nationals today, and could get extended playing time there if LaRoche has to go on the disabled list. The Nationals also have Chris Marrero, their top pick in the 2006 draft, at Triple-A Syracuse. He was one of the last players cut in spring training after showing up in better shape and impressing team officials with his improvement on defense.
UPDATE AT 5:42 P.M.: LaRoche left after the game to see a doctor in New York. He said he will fly to Milwaukee to join the Nationals after that. Manager Jim Riggleman said LaRoche's availability tomorrow will be determined by what the doctor says.
"I feel bad for him, because this guy makes no excuses. He's a total professional," Riggleman said. "He's playing great defense. The struggles that he's had at the plate, he's never taken it to the field. He comes in here with a smile on his face every day. He's working hard. He's a great teammate. I'm hoping the news is good, but you've got to get him checked out."