Pirates Notebook: Concussions prompt LaRoche's start at 2B
Ryan Doumit celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run against the Cubs in the fifth inning Tuesday at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
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CHICAGO -- The third starter in five nights entered the Bermuda Triangle that is the area behind and to the right of Pirates' second base armed with a precautionary plan.
"If the ball goes up," Andy LaRoche kidded, "I'm just losing it."
Making his Pirates debut where Neil Walker (Friday) and Bobby Crosby (Monday) each sustained concussions after collisions with the right fielder, LaRoche stepped into territory Tuesday that was somewhat unfamiliar to him on major league fields. It was his third major league start at second, his first since the Los Angeles Dodgers placed him there June 26 and July 6, 2008. He had a record of competency there, too: three games, nine chances, zero errors, a 1.000 fielding percentage and three double plays.
LaRoche manned that position for eight games earlier in 2008 with the Dodgers' Class AAA club in Las Vegas, and at Fort Scott High.
LaRoche had been the Pirates' regular third baseman since arriving from the Dodgers at the end of July 2008 through two weeks ago, when Pedro Alvarez arrived. LaRoche, who also has played outfield and first base in the majors and practiced around the infield for the Pirates lately, said he has grown comfortable recently at second.
"He's worked awfully hard at it," manager John Russell said of LaRoche. "The situation we've been put into, with two of our second basemen going down. ... with the left-handed pitcher [Ted Lilly starting Tuesday], I think it's time. He's still got some things obviously he's going to have to learn. Some of the basic things, I think, he's doing OK with. You never know until you get in game situations. Is he 100-percent ready? He's close.
"Neil Walker went through the same thing. You do it in practice, and it looks pretty good. But, when you are out there and the guy's coming down at you, it's a different story. He should be fine. He's got good instincts, same as Neil, of being an infielder. The good thing about Andy is he's quick, especially his arm."
LaRoche snagged a soft, Ryan Theriot liner in the first and a Derrek Lee popup in the third as he settled in.
"Obviously, I'd much rather be out there playing, doing something," said LaRoche, who was given six pinch-hit at-bats and a Sunday start in Oakland in the two weeks since Alvarez's arrival.
"It feels weird over there [in the dugout]. You kind of get bored. You want to go do something: go over to the cage and hit, or go throw. You stay ready. Whatever they want you to do."
Walker may return this weekend, and Crosby possibly Thursday. So went the report Tuesday on the Pirates' second basemen.
Walker ran into Ryan Church chasing a foul popup in Oakland Friday and Crosby smacked into Lastings Milledge sprinting for a fair ball just inside the line at almost the same point Monday in Chicago.
"That's amazing, isn't it?" Russell said of the repetition. .
Russell said if Walker is not over concussion symptoms and working out by the weekend, the Pirates could put him on the disabled list retroactive to Friday -- and that would enable them to promote a Class AAA player for maybe eight, nine days.
Crosby admitted to a slight headache Tuesday while aiming to play today, but Russell said, "we're probably looking more at Thursday" for his return.
"I've seen collisions. I've seen that collision. But not the severity of it two times in five or six days. That's just ... " Russell said. "We're running out of second basemen."
First Published June 30, 2010 12:00 am