Pirates Notebook: LaRoche, team face questions

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The Pirates face what some might see as a challenging decision involving first baseman Adam LaRoche this offseason ...

If they tender him a contract through arbitration, his salary is sure to jump up from its current $5 million. From there, if they end up paying, say, $7 million, they have no guarantee that they will receive any value on that investment until, oh, May or June.

On the other hand, if they trade LaRoche, they run the risk of seeing him finally put together two good halves elsewhere.

Or not.

"Zero chance of that," LaRoche said. "I will never change. I will hit like this for the rest of my life, and I'll never be able to tell you why."

He burst out laughing immediately after saying that, a clear sign that his sense of humor again survived another maddening season in which he batted below the Mendoza Line through May 17 but is now up to .269 with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs. Isolating just on the 50 games since the start of July, his average is .328 with 12 home runs, 16 doubles and 41 RBIs.

Same as it has been all through his career, even in the minors.

"I don't know," LaRoche replied when asked anew for an explanation. "I got nothing for you here that's going to make any sense."

What can he change?

"Whatever I change, it has to be mental. It's not like I get out of shape for three months of the season. It has nothing to do with seeing the pitches, the mechanics of my swing, nothing physically. And I don't know mentally what to change. Obviously, it has to change."

Maybe he could do more hitting before the real games begin.

"I'm not going to play every game in spring training. I'm not going to start hitting in November. I'm not doing it because I know for a fact that's not it. If I thought it was, I'd do it. I don't know if my expectations are so high at the beginning that, if I do start slow, I try harder to make up for it. I don't know. I'm going to sit down this winter and think about it, and I'll let you know if I figure something out."

Management does not discuss contract matters, but the Pirates are known to be amenable to broaching an amicable settlement with LaRoche in advance of arbitration, as with all eligible players. If not, they almost surely will tender him an arbitration contract.

LaRoche's take?

"Maybe they can give me a three-year contract that's payable over six years."

Wilson takes a bat

Shortstop Jack Wilson, still aiming to be available to pinch-hit on this homestand, took a few swings in the indoor cage and did some soft-tossing on the field, representing his largest step in recovering from a fractured finger.

If Wilson is traded this offseason, the Sunday finale will be his last game in Pittsburgh.

Buried treasure

• General manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell have begun having one-on-one meetings with players to discuss their performance and future.

Nyjer Morgan started for the fourth time in five games, a clear sign management is satisfied with his showing so far. "He's still learning a lot, but he's taking advantage of his opportunity right now," Russell said. "It's going to be a big offseason for him, a big spring. He wasn't as prepared this past spring as he could have been, and he now needs to put himself into a better position."

• Before the game, Los Angeles manager Joe Torre was presented with the Chuck Tanner Award on behalf of the Pittsburgh Rotary Club, with Tanner participating.


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