Laroche aching for good health

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather -

AVIERA, FLA. dam Laroche’s left foot hurts. A year ago, it was his left shoul­der. Those two aches pretty much de­fine his Washington Na­tion­als ca­reer — if you can call 43 games a ca­reer. More than any­thing, though, they ex­plain why he “feels like I’ve been run­ning in quick­sand since I’ve been in D.C.” Few things will give a ballplayer That Sink­ing Feel­ing quite like one in­jury piled atop an­other.

Now, of course, it’s even worse. Now if he wants to run in quick­sand, he needs a pinch run­ner. That’s why he’s spend­ing the next sev­eral days with the Na­tion­als’ mi­nor-league club — get­ting some at-bats, jog-

will be for good.

“He’s a spe­cial player,” said Na­tion­als man­ager Davey John­son. “He needs to go down there and do the same thing he’s do­ing. He doesn’t need to change noth­ing for me. He just needs to go play. . . . When Harper does get here, I don’t see any turn­ing back.”

In his brief ca­reer, Harper has shown a ten­dency to need time to ad­just at each level. He strug­gled when he first ar­rived at the Col­lege of South­ern Ne­vada be­fore hit­ting .433 with 31 homers and a .987 slug­ging per­cent­age. He scuf­fled to start last sea­son in Sin­gle-a Hager­stown be­fore putting up near-record num­bers in the South At­lantic League. The same pat­tern fol­lowed him to Dou­ble-a and the Ari­zona Fall League. Each time, he worked his way back to be­ing the type of hit­ter he is.

But the Na­tion­als were leery of him open­ing the sea­son at the ma­jor league level and strug­gling in that man­ner.

“I want to be up there and stay up there,” said Harper, who ap­peared to take the news well. “I don’t want [them to say], ‘Hey, we’re go­ing to start you off in the big leagues, you’re go­ing to go 2-for-20,’ like I do ev­ery­where I go. I don’t want to do that and have them send me down to Triple-a and I go 2-for-20 again and they go ‘What are you do­ing?’

“I didn’t want to break camp and strug­gle . . . and ev­ery­body’s all over me say­ing, ‘He needs a lit­tle more sea­son­ing.’ I just want to go down there and get bet­ter, get on my groove, be called up and hope­fully be a game changer for the Na­tion­als.”

By keep­ing him in the mi­nor leagues — even for a month — the Na­tion­als will also not only con­tinue his de­vel­op­ment but en­sure that he will be on their team dur­ing his age 25 sea­son. If Harper had made the team out of camp and spent the en­tire 2012 sea­son in the big leagues, 2017 would be his final sea­son be­fore free agency.

The move also en­ables them not to push Jayson Werth to play cen­ter field all sea­son, which would have been a beat­ing on his legs that wor­ried John­son. By op­tion­ing Harper to Triple-a, the Na­tion­als get a chance to play some­one else in cen­ter and give John­son the al­ter­na­tive of play­ing Harper there when he ar­rives in the ma­jors. Harper played three games in cen­ter field this spring, start­ing two, and spent 20 games there last sea­son.

In the mean­time, Rick Ankiel, Roger Ber­nad­ina, Brett Car­roll and Ja­son Michaels will com­pete for the re­main­ing out­field and bench spots.

The Na­tion­als have lit­tle chance of retaining any of the four if they’re not on the Open­ing Day ros­ter and by al­low­ing them­selves one more ros­ter spot in which to keep one more of them, the Na­tion­als also en­sured they could keep more out­field depth in the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“The tim­ing’s just not quite there [for Harper to be on the team],” John­son said. “Com­bined with the things that we need to do at this level with what we have, to add him to the mix, it’s just not quite there in my opin­ion.”

Note: The Na­tion­als signed veteran ut­l­ity man Xavier Nady to a mi­nor league deal Sun­day. Nady will not be in ma­jor league camp and will start the sea­son in Triple-a as he works his way back into shape.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Washington out­fielder Bryce Harper shows his dis­plea­sure af­ter one of his four strike­outs dur­ing Sun­day’s game against Detroit. Harper, 19, dou­bled in his last at-bat Sun­day to fin­ish the spring 8-for-28 for a .286 av­er­age. He was op­tioned to Triple-a Syra­cuse af­ter the game.

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