LaRoche’s whirlwind summer ends in Atlanta
Here’s a reasonable excuse for first baseman Adam LaRoche(notes) to develop temporary insanity: He’s playing on the same team as his brother, Andy, the first time the Pirates have had brothers together in 50 years, and he comes to the ballpark and discovers he’s been shipped to Boston.
That has its advantages, of course, like going from a team about to become the first franchise in any professional sport to have 17 consecutive losing seasons to a team with a great shot at playing in the postseason. The move becomes even sweeter when he hits a home run in his first start at Fenway Park, and a packed house, a seldom-seen sight in Pittsburgh, shouts his name.
And that’s OK, too, because he started his career with the Atlanta Braves, and Chipper Jones(notes) is one of his best friends. Except when he tries to get from Boston to Atlanta, it takes him the better part of two days. His flight was rescheduled because of bad weather, and the next day the airport was shut down because of a bomb scare.
Imagine yourself in those circumstances. Imagine your family in those circumstances. Can you say, “Hell Week?”
Except that Adam LaRoche doesn’t sweat the small stuff, even when it has a tsunami effect on what had been normalcy just days earlier.
“It’s different for everybody,” he said the other day while the Braves were in Miami to play the Marlins. “But nothing really bothers me. I could care less. We have no say in what happens until down the road, as far as where you go.
“If I get traded 10 times a year, my kids are great with it, my wife’s good. We really don’t care, to be honest. It’s like, ‘All right, let’s roll. Pack up the house.’ ”
LaRoche admits he didn’t see such a drastic shuffle coming. He’d heard rumors while in Pittsburgh that the Braves were interested in reacquiring him – he and Jones talk all the time – but when Boston dealt for him a week before the trading deadline, that seemed to put an end to the Atlanta scenario.
“I know I was one guy who thought it was [over],” LaRoche said. “I thought I’d be in Boston for the rest of the year. But it was obvious the Braves were serious when they came back a week later and got the deal done.
“Boston was great. I loved it the week I was there. To hear I got traded was very disappointing, until I heard where I was going. If I had to leave, that’s probably the best place to go.”
The situation he had in Boston was not ideal from a playing standpoint. The Red Sox got him to be part of a position rotation in which the club had three players for two spots – Kevin Youkilis(notes), Mike Lowell(notes) and LaRoche.
“If I was going to stay there, I was only going to play three or four times a week,” he said. “I wasn’t ready for that. I thought in a few more years, when I really suck, then I’d play just a couple of times a week.”
Even with subtracting him, LaRoche said the Red Sox’s situation remains awkward, with Youkilis, Lowell, Martinez and catcher Jason Varitek(notes), all everyday players, having to divvy up playing time.
“It wasn’t fair to those guys,” he said. “It wouldn’t have been fair to me.”
Funny how much LaRoche was able to squeeze into his six days with the Red Sox. He was reunited with J.D. Drew(notes), a friend and former teammate in Atlanta who had LaRoche stay with his family in Boston.
“I kept his kids up all night playing,” LaRoche said. “And it was good that J.D. and I got a chance to talk some hitting. He’s so laidback. He’s not a guy who shows his emotions and will tell you that something’s bothering him, but it was bothering him, not hitting. It was eating at him, because he knows that he’s a better player than that. Maybe it’s helped him get going.”
“He’s a beauty,” LaRoche said of Papelbon. “But they’ve got some good dudes over there. I don’t think it’s possible to have more fun in a clubhouse than they have over there. It was impressive.”
LaRoche has impressed in his return to Atlanta, though the Braves are now in the midst of a losing streak that could knock them out of the National League wild-card race. He came into play Saturday batting .348 with eight home runs and 20 RBIs in 31 games with Atlanta.
“He’s a J.T. Snow(notes) type defensively at first base,” Jones said, invoking the name of the former Gold Glover for the Giants and Angels, “a guy who can hit down in our lineup in the 6 or 7 hole and provide us instant offense.
“He came up with a lot of these guys. He was not as mature here the first time, but he goes into a situation in Pittsburgh where he was instantly forced into a leadership role and grows up. Now he comes back to an organization he knows, and there’s instant comfortability. He’s played awesome.”
But has he found a home? LaRoche, who is being paid $7.5 million this season, is a free agent this winter. One of Atlanta’s top prospects, Freddie Freeman, is a first baseman. The Braves could move Jones to the other side of the diamond.
This time, it will be LaRoche’s call. And if that means going, he’s got that part down pat. Let’s roll.
Murderer’s row: Here is Derek Jeter’s(notes) to-do list in the next couple of weeks – one, collect seven more hits to break Lou Gehrig’s record for most hits by a Yankee; two, make plans for a post-World Series wedding to Minka Kelly, if the gossips are to be believed; three, hit three more home runs to give the Yankees eight players this season with 20 home runs or more. Jorge Posada(notes) hit his 20th earlier this week, joining Mark Teixeira(notes), Johnny Damon(notes), Alex Rodriguez(notes), Hideki Matsui(notes), Nick Swisher(notes) and Robinson Cano(notes) in the 20-homer fraternity. The Yankees have never had more than six 20-homer hitters in a single season, the number they had in 2004 (Jorge Posada, Gary Sheffield(notes), Jeter, Bernie Williams(notes), Matsui and A-Rod), and in 1961 (Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Bill Skowron, Johnny Blanchard, Yogi Berra and Elston Howard). The original Murderers’ Row in 1927 had two, Babe Ruth (60) and Lou Gehrig (47). And it can’t all be attributed to the homer alley in right-center field in the new Yankee Stadium. The Bombers also lead in home runs hit on the road with 95, including two on Saturday.
Fungo hitting: A name that could potentially surface as a GM candidate in Toronto if the Blue Jays decide not to keep J.P. Ricciardi, as is widely speculated, is Rob Ducey, one of the team’s pro scouts. Ducey is a Toronto native and former big-league outfielder who spent the first five-plus seasons of a 13-year playing career with the Jays. … Braves pitcher Derek Lowe(notes) on Pedro Martinez(notes), whom he played with in Boston: “The best thing Pedro could have done was to take a year off.” … Look for top prospect Jason Heyward to have the inside track on the Braves’ right-field job next season. … You don’t think Brad Penny(notes) still harbors a grudge against the Dodgers, who openly blasted him as lackadaisical and uncaring after he left there last season? Penny, when reminded there would be 42,000 people who hate the Dodgers in AT&T Park when he is scheduled to face them Sept. 13, said, “Forty-two thousand and one.” And while he may not have intended it that way, Penny, in lavishing praise on Giants catcher Eli Whiteside(notes), sure sounded like he was taking a backhanded swipe at Boston catcher Jason Varitek, who caught him with the Red Sox. After throwing eight scoreless innings against the Phillies in his Giants debut, Penny said of Whiteside: “There’s not a guy who has called a better game for me in my career.” … Rumor of the week: That former Padres president Sandy Alderson has designs on the Giants job and would try to bring back Tony La Russa in a reprise of their combo on the other side of the Bay. … Amazing stat out of Minnesota: Twins closer Joe Nathan(notes), who gave up back-to-back home runs to Gordon Beckham(notes) and Paul Konerko(notes) in the ninth inning of what would become Minnesota’s most devastating loss of the season, had had only three months in his five-plus years as Twins closer in which he’d given up two homers.