Pirates Notebook: LaRoche's plunge precipitous

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Andy LaRoche might not have projected to be an All-Star when the Pirates acquired him as part of the Jason Bay trade, but neither could most have foreseen that he would plummet to a .206 batting average with one hit in his past 24 at-bats, 11 in his past 90.

Older brother Adam LaRoche, now with Arizona, pointed mostly to Andy's lack of playing time: He has started only three games since the Fourth of July.

"I can't relate to what's happening to Andy in the sense that he's getting three or four at-bats a week," Adam LaRoche said Sunday. "I don't know the answer. I've told him to hang in there. What can you do? Hopefully, sooner than later, get a change of scenery and kind of have a fresh start."

Andy LaRoche is eligible for arbitration, and it appears highly unlikely the Pirates would tender him, though the team's current stance is that it intends to tender all eligible players. Either way, his plan is to play winter ball in Venezuela for some extra at-bats.

"He needs that for himself," Adam LaRoche said. "He needs to go prove to himself that he can still play this game and that other teams can still benefit from having him."

Neal Huntington, the Pirates' general manager, must decide this winter whether or not to tender an arbitration offer to Andy LaRoche, though that seems unlikely.

"Obviously, when we traded for Andy, we expected more," Huntington said. "It's tough to go from playing regularly to a bench role, and it can take time to get used to it. Some never get used to it. We've talked a lot about quantity of quality. We need to have a number of good prospects at every position. Andy LaRoche has a good chance to bounce back. You see guys like this in the All-Star Game every year. But, to this point, Andy is one example of why you can't count on just that one prospect. They don't always make it."

Altoona's ascent

One aspect of Class AA Altoona's Eastern League championship Saturday night that apparently is appreciated most by management is that many of those same players won the previous year with high Class A Lynchburg. Those include starters Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson, as well as the full infield of Matt Hague, Chase d'Arnaud, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer.

"It's good to see a group grow together and win together," Huntington said. "Hopefully, it continues as they move forward. It doesn't mean they'll stay together as they progress individually, but it's a good group. They push each other, challenge each other."

Huntington declined to say which players might make the jump to Class AAA Indianapolis to open next season, though Owens and Morris are virtual locks.

"I think there is a good number of those guys, actually, who can get to Indy next year if they take care of themselves this offseason," Huntington said.

Buried treasure

• Outfielder Lastings Milledge's strained oblique is "not the show-stopping type you typically get but more of a dull ache," Huntington said, adding, "It's not day to day, but it's not season-ending yet."

• First baseman Garrett Jones missed a second consecutive start to a sore right shoulder, but he pinch-hit -- and struck out -- in the eighth inning.

• Catcher Ryan Doumit registered his first caught-stealing since June 29 when he threw out Arizona's Stephen Drew leaning away from first base.

• On the Pirates' off day today, the players have been invited to Seven Springs by owner Bob Nutting for a sporting clays shoot.

Dejan Kovacevic: dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Find more at PBC Blog .


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