First baseman Adam LaRoche, who played 43 games with a torn labrum in his left shoulder before shutting things down last month, will have season-ending shoulder surgery on Thursday morning, general manager Mike Rizzo said after the game.
LaRoche and his agent, Mike Milchin, met with Rizzo, manager Jim Riggleman and the Nationals' medical staff on Tuesday afternoon, and decided to have surgery. It ends his season almost four months to the day after he started feeling shoulder pain while throwing in spring training. Doctors told him then he could play through the season with the injury, and it would mostly affect his throwing, not his hitting. But when he found himself unable to drive pitches he could normally hit against the Mets in May, LaRoche decided to weigh his options.
LaRoche was hitting .172 when he got a second opinion on his shoulder last month from Dr. David Altchek in New York. After he spent three weeks resting his shoulder without any improvement, LaRoche will have surgery for the first time in his life.
Team doctor Wiemi Douoguih will perform the operation, and LaRoche will stay in Washington to rehab with the team. LaRoche said a MRI in spring training showed a small tear in his shoulder. When doctors looked at it again in May, it showed a large tear.
Douoguih said if the procedure is only a cleanup of LaRoche's labrum, it would be a three- to four-month process. If it's a complete repair of the labrum, LaRoche would need six months to recover. But in either case, he should be ready for spring training.
"Obviously, we were hoping it'd go the other direction. It didn't," LaRoche said. "I'm confident we've done everything we could possibly do to find out if it needs surgery or not. I'm comfortable with it now. I took two weeks of nothing, rehab every day on my shoulder. I came back, tried to do both (hitting and throwing) and it felt the same. When I felt that, it was in a position that it was time to get it taken care of."
While LaRoche certainly could have had surgery when he first found out about the injury, he decided to try and work through it, rather than missing the first part of the year with an operation. That decision turned out to yield only two frustrating months of little offensive production, but LaRoche said he had no regrets about trying to play through the injury.
"I would be (sorry about it) if I was stubborn about it, and I was getting advice to rehab it or go get it taken care of. That wasn't the case," LaRoche said. "The bad part is, where it's located in the labrum, it's tough to get to, and everybody reacts differently, according to all the doctors we've talked to. I think it was well worth it at the time to give it a shot. I told the guys in spring training, if it hurts to throw, I can live with that. If it doesn't affect my swing, I don't mind going the whole year with it. It started out OK, and that just wasn't the case."
Said Douoguih: "I think everything we did was to try to safely get Adam out there and produce this season. As soon as we recognized this was something more problematic, we did a standard program where we shut him down, put him on anti-inflammatory (medication) and then progressed to an injection. We shut him down after that and gradually tried to work him back in. Everything we did was gradual and really textbook. Unfortunately, he just wasn't able to get through that, and it's now requiring surgery."
The Nationals signed LaRoche to a two-year, $16 million deal with a mutual option for 2013, planning for him to the successor to Adam Dunn in their new defense-first plan. And in that part of the game, LaRoche shined, playing without an error and saving a handful of low throws with scoops at first base. But Michael Morse has filled in capably at first, and he'll likely man the position for the rest of the year.
"Just like when (LaRoche) and Zim (Ryan Zimmerman) were out of the lineup, other guys are going to have to pick it up," outfielder Jayson Werth said. "'Mikey Mo' is doing a great job over there, and he's really turning first base into his own. Hopefully he can keep it going, and keep swinging it, and hopefully lessen the blow of losing a player like Adam LaRoche."