CINCINNATI -- Hampered for several days by a stiff back that tightened up worse during last night's blowout loss to the Reds, first baseman Adam LaRoche is out of the Nationals' lineup this afternoon and may miss tomorrow's series finale at Great American Ball Park as well.
LaRoche, who came out of last night's game in the seventh inning when he felt tight trying to swing in his third at-bat, hoped he could be back in the lineup today after getting treatment. But the veteran (who has opened the season 0-for-13) was still moving around tentatively this morning in the Nationals' clubhouse and proclaimed himself unable to start.
"I don't need it to be totally gone to be able to go play and be productive," he said. "I just need to be able to move around a little bit. Right now, it's tough to bend over and get back up."
LaRoche said no MRI or other medical tests have been planned for now, because the injury appears to be nothing more than a tight muscle in the middle of his back. That leaves him encouraged this isn't something that will be a long-term concern.
"If they thought it was in a spot where it could be more than that, I'm sure they would [give him an MRI]," he said. "That was the good news."
LaRoche is receiving heat and ice treatment and is taking a muscle relaxer. He first noticed the problem after Wednesday night's game in Washington -- played on a windy, 45-degree night -- but it wasn't until late in last night's game when he felt it hampered his ability to play.
"That's when I said: 'I've had enough,'" he said. "Up til then, it was tight and I could get on-deck and get loose at least enough to climb in the box. But as soon as I started to feel it while I was hitting, I said: 'I've got to shut it down.'"
Though LaRoche hopes the condition will improve enough to allow him to return to the lineup for tomorrow's series finale, manager Davey Johnson suggested he's likely to give the veteran another two days to rest (Monday is an off-day).
"That's a good possibility," Johnson said. "But knowing Adam, no matter what, he's going to come in and say: 'I'm ready.'"
With his regular first baseman sidelined, Johnson had the option of starting either Chad Tracy or Tyler Moore in his place today. The manager decided to go with Tracy's left-handed bat against Reds right-hsnder Mike Leake, though Moore could enter later in the game if Cincinnati brings in a lefty reliever.
"Either way I go, I'm pretty good," Johnson said.