PHILADELPHIA — Adam LaRoche returned to the Nationals lineup Wednesday, confident the minor back injury that sidelined him Tuesday won’t be a major long-term problem.
“I’ve had it before, and it’s not something where if I go play it can get much worse,” he said. “I know that from experience. I don’t have any fear that I’m going to go out there and do some damage. As of right now, it’s similar to what I’ve dealt with all these years.”
LaRoche said he played with some discomfort for a few days at the end of the Nationals’ homestand and then again Monday night in their series opener against the Phillies, when it felt worse. He thinks the delayed-by-traffic bus ride from D.C. to Philadelphia on Sunday night didn’t help matters.
“I felt it for a couple days, just a little bit of stiffness,” he said. “And then the bus ride just got me. I can loosen it up and it feels good. … Standing is the worst on it, for sure. If I’m moving or swinging or whatever, if I’m active with it, it stays pretty loose. But standing around it stiffens up.”
LaRoche was held out of Tuesday’s lineup but was able to come off the bench and pinch-hit in the ninth inning against Jonathan Papelbon. He popped out to end the game and seal the Nationals’ 4-3 loss.
Prior to Tuesday, LaRoche had played every inning in 24 consecutive games, maintaining his offensive production throughout. The 34-year-old has played in 114 games this season, missing only two weeks in May with a strained quadriceps muscle, and has managed to maintain an .826 OPS that surpasses his career mark of .812.
“He’s held up well,” manager Matt Williams said. “We’ve tried to give him some days, and certainly the off-days mixed in there help. But he’s been producing. He’s playing well. His legs feel good. The little back issue is not a huge deal. He’s had it before. Every once in awhile it gets a little cranky and we have to give him a day if we can.”