Friday, March 25, 2011, 3:04 p.m.
By Mark Zuckerman
VIERA, Fla. -- Adam LaRoche is being shut down from throwing at full velocity the next two or three days to rest the sore left shoulder that has bothered him since the start of spring training, but the Washington Nationals first baseman insists he has no worries about being ready to play in Thursday's season opener.
"Not at all, no," he said. "If it felt as bad as it did when I first got here to spring training, I would still play Opening Day. And it's gotten a lot better since then. I don't think it's going to be 100 percent anytime soon, but hopefully I can get it up a little bit from what it is now."
LaRoche first noticed discomfort in his shoulder early in camp. The Nationals had him shut down throwing activities for several days, and he was restricted to DH duties through the first week of the Grapefruit League schedule.
The injury hasn't hindered LaRoche at the plate; he's batting .366 this spring with 10 RBI. And he's been able to make throws in the field, just not cutting loose with full effort, particularly on relay throws to the plate.
"I still can't let it go," he said. "So if that's something we can clean up these next couple days, that would be ideal to start the season off. Not that I have to throw a lot at my position, but it's nice to have it when you need it."
LaRoche, who said he's never dealt with any kind of arm injury in his career, underwent an MRI on Wednesday, the results of which are not yet known. He's hoping the injury is merely a pinched nerve, not something structural within his shoulder.
The veteran first baseman said the shoulder feels better now than it did when camp first began, and that he would play through this if the regular season had already begun. For what it's worth, he played catch with his 9-year-old son, Drake, before Friday's game (though Drake threw the ball harder than his father).
"If this was the pain I felt during the season, this wouldn't even be a question," LaRoche said. "I probably wouldn't even bring it up. I'd go out there and play, and it would hinder me from throwing a little bit, but no big deal."
Manager Jim Riggleman, who got third baseman Ryan Zimmerman back in the lineup Friday after missing 11 days with a sore groin, hopes LaRoche will return Monday and be able to play in the Nationals' final two exhibition games before heading north.
"He's swinging very well. He's playing a great first base," Riggleman said. "The throwing is not a real big issue at first base, but it is a weapon that he has when he throws right, and we want to see if we can get it right."
Mark Zuckerman also blogs about the Nationals at natsinsider.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.