Pirates Notebook: Andy LaRoche calls showing 'embarrassing'
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SAN DIEGO -- Among the many traits Andy LaRoche shares with big brother Adam:
1. He knows how it feels to experience an excruciating two-month slump.
2. He hates it.
"It's disappointing," the Pirates' new third baseman said yesterday after a 2-for-4 left him with a .166 average -- four doubles, three home runs -- in 160 at-bats since the July 31 trade. "I got here, got my chance -- and just couldn't get anything going. It was frustrating. Nothing shy of embarrassing. I feel like I let down my teammates, my coaches, the people in Pittsburgh -- I just need to put this behind me and come out strong next year."
This much is certain about LaRoche, who turned 25 two weeks ago: If the Pirates were wrong about him, then so were many others. He has been universally considered an elite prospect, including being rated No. 2 in the Los Angeles system entering this season. But a torn thumb ligament and surgery this spring quashed his chance to break through with the Dodgers, and he obviously has done little so far with the chance in Pittsburgh.
Did the thumb issue linger?
"No, I can't say that," he said. "It took a while to come back, and I was a little scared to get jammed when I did. But that hasn't affected me since I've been here."
So, something else?
"I've got no excuse. I switched up my stance, tried this and that, and it was one storm after another. I just need to get stronger, to get right and be ready next spring."
To that end, he will follow a prescribed training regimen that includes two visits to hitting coach Don Long, as well as visits to Pittsburgh for conditioning purposes.
"The kid's talented, and we all know that," manager John Russell said. "It's up to all of us to bring that out of him."
Russell's first season is in the books with a poor record, but he expressed hope that, in addition to some of his players improving, he did, as well.
"It's the same thing I tell the players: The day you stop learning, you're not going to be very good," Russell said. "Yeah, I think I've learned a lot this year. Little things. How to manage my time. How to have the attention to detail I want during a game. It'll be a growing process for me until the day I retire. When we start winning 90-plus games, there are still things I'll want to make better. I've always been that way. I've never been complacent."
• General manager Neal Huntington's meetings with the coaching staff -- some of whom had two-year contracts that included this season, some expiring after this season -- in the coming week. All are expected to be retained, but that is not firm.
• Huntington will fly to Bradenton, Fla., next week to check out Pedro Alvarez and other players in the Florida Instructional League.
• The reason Marino Salas has pitched so sparingly this month: The coaching staff has been adding a higher leg kick to get him to release from a higher and more consistent angle, bullpen coach Luis Dorante said. Salas will play the entire Dominican winter season to practice. "I'll be much better next spring," he said.
• The Pirates added to their Latin American 16-year-old class by yesterday signing right-handed pitcher Mario Zapari out of Mexico.
First Published September 29, 2008 12:00 am