Pirates Notebook: Adam LaRoche is Mr. April?
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More than just the summery weather feels un-April-like in Pittsburgh: How about Adam LaRoche batting .294?
Another strong showing yesterday in the Pirates' 6-3 loss to the Houston Astros -- 2 for 4 with two doubles to deep center field -- continued the first baseman's tear that includes three home runs in the previous four games.
Not bad for a guy with a .186 career average in April.
"That's a story for you guys, not for us," manager John Russell told reporters. "We talked with Adam back before spring training that we weren't going to talk about that or focus on it. We just wanted him to be Adam, to be himself, the hitter we know he can be. That's what you're seeing right now."
LaRoche, true to that talk, is declining to discuss his annual early-season travails, but he does acknowledge some confidence at the plate.
"I feel really good up there, to be honest with you," he said. "My approach is good. I'm waiting on the ball, seeing the ball and driving it."
Six of LaRoche's 10 hits have gone for extra bases.
Andy LaRoche finally got a hit, sending a single into right field in the sixth inning off Chris Sampson to end his season-opening hitless drought at 18 at-bats. That brought quite the cheer from the crowd of 13,877.
It hardly was a breakout day, though: LaRoche went 1 for 4, striking out and grounding into a double play.
Andy LaRoche knows new outfielder Delwyn Young -- expected to join the team today -- better than anyone with the Pirates, having risen through the Los Angeles Dodgers' system as his perennial roommate.
"He's kind of quiet, so he's not easy to get to know," LaRoche said. "But he's a great hitter. For kind of a small guy, he has surprising pop. It's just that he never was going to get much of a chance where he was."
Backup catcher Jason Jaramillo finally made his major league debut, spelling Ryan Doumit and getting his first hit as part of a 1-for-3 day.
Russell reiterated that he would like to have Doumit catch "140-plus games, if we could. He's going to get banged up, with foul tips and other things, and he's a big guy. But I think he can do it. He's in great shape."
Russell also acknowledged the terribly obvious, which is that the Pirates' lineup changes significantly when Doumit is out.
"We still have some good hitters," he said. "It's just a matter of having other people step up."
Jaramillo had family watching in St. Louis last week, but they never saw him get into a game. That could change next week in his native Milwaukee.
"I'm just excited to get my chance," he said. "And it felt great to get the hit, like a monkey off my back."
• Shortstop Jack Wilson, a late scratch Wednesday night because of a bruised finger on his left hand, was cleared to play yesterday after batting practice.
• Closer Matt Capps, idle since April 8 because of a lack of save situations, pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
• The Atlanta Braves, the Pirates' weekend opponent beginning tonight, are expected to be without star third baseman Chipper Jones for the entire series because of a jammed left thumb.
First Published April 16, 2009 9:46 pm