Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche has been playing through back pain for a while, reports Adam Lewis of MLB.com, and was scratched from Tuesday's game against the Phillies. The veteran said he's dealt with the issue "on and off" for years and expects to be available as the Nats visit the Seattle Mariners.
The left-handed La Roche is slugging .263/.369 .450 (OPS+ 126) with 19 homers and 69 RBI. Although he's been in an 8 for 44 (.182) slump over the last two weeks, he's still managed to hit two homers and collect seven RBI. The Nats could use LaRoche as DH in the AL series, with Kevin Frandsen at first base.
LaRoche, an 11-year veteran (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Boston, Arizona, and four years with Washington), was a big part of the Nationals' 98-win 2012 season, especially in April and May when the Nats dealt with a rash of injuries just as they have in 2014. He won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards that year, and garnered MVP votes. A famously streaky hitter, prone to month-long slumps even in his good years, LaRoche was never able to get going in 2013 (.237/.332/.403 with only 19 home runs). He attributed his lack of production to weight loss resulting from adjustments to his ADD medication.
Now in his age-34 season, LaRoche was selected in the 29th round of the 2000 draft by the Atlanta Braves, making his major league debut on April 7, 2004. In January 2007, Atlanta traded him with Jamie Romak (minors) to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Mike Gonzalez and Brent Lillibridge. He gave the Pirates two solid years, but a mediocre 2009 led them to trade him to the Boston Red Sox for Hunter Strickland (minors) and Argenis Diaz in July. The Red Sox then flipped him to the Atlanta Braves for Casey Kotchman.
As a free agent, LaRoche signed for one year with the Arizona Diamondbacks (2010), and then for two years (2011-12) with the Washington Nationals. He lost 2011 to a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder. The Nationals made him a Qualifying Offer at the end of 2012, and then re-signed him for 2013-14 (2015 mutual option) at $24 million.
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