Pirates Notebook: GM shows confidence in Andy LaRoche
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The Andy LaRoche situation looks bad for the Pirates on a lot of levels, and general manager Neal Huntington knows it.
The team's everyday third baseman, a key part of the Jason Bay trade, is batting .175 even after a 3-for-4 breakout yesterday from a hitless streak of 21 at-bats. In the field, he has eight errors. Moreover, this regular duty comes in a setting in which Huntington has declared "no more scholarships" for any players.
Still, Huntington does not sound as if he is about to give up.
"Andy LaRoche, statistically, is hitting .175 and has made some errors, but I think there are signs that this is going to be a very good major league player," Huntington said. "He gives us a quality at-bat, works the count, does the thing we're looking for our hitters to do. Yeah, the average isn't showing the results anybody wants. But the breakdown indicates he's had some bad luck, hit a lot of balls right at people and, yes, chased some fastballs up out of the zone. So, we do have work to do with him."
About those "scholarships:" Huntington was asked if LaRoche was getting special treatment because he was acquired in the Bay trade.
"The scholarship is more about not putting the work in and if we're not doing everything we need to get the most of our abilities. It's not just about performance," he replied. "In Andy's case, if he doesn't do what he needs to do this offseason, if he doesn't improve the body, improve the agility, all the things that we need him to do, then he won't be our third baseman next year. But that's not just Andy. That's all of our guys."
As evidence that the Pirates' confidence in LaRoche is well-founded, Huntington mentioned that no fewer than six teams have called in recent weeks to inquire about trading for LaRoche, largely because the team also has Neil Walker and, possibly, Pedro Alvarez on the way at the same position.
Yesterday, LaRoche's three hits all went to right field, part of what he described as "finally relaxing" with the new approach Long is instilling. The coaching staff's primary focus has been addressing a timing issue between LaRoche's upper and lower body.
"We've been tinkering with just about everything, and I've been going up there all stiff trying to keep everything in place," LaRoche said. "Today, I just made up my mind to stop thinking. Just relax. Get comfortable. Go with the pitch you get."
Huntington will have to deal with eight arbitration-eligible players this offseason -- first baseman Adam LaRoche, outfielder Nate McLouth, catcher Ryan Doumit and pitchers Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, John Grabow, Denny Bautista and Tyler Yates -- and LaRoche could be be plenty expensive, with a current salary of $5 million and a raise guaranteed by the process.
Any issues anticipated on any of those fronts?
"That will come down to the conversations we have with the agents," Huntington said. "If we have people who are realistic when asked, then we'll have some easy decisions. If we have people who fail to recognize performance levels and production, then we might have some tough decisions."
• Catcher Robinzon Diaz has a sprained right ankle and is day to day.
• Although the Pirates are exploring options for both of their Class A affiliates, Lynchburg and Hickory, their first choice for high A is to remain in Lynchburg.
• The Pirates have lost the rights to one of their seven Latin American signings for the summer's period for 16-year-olds because he falsely identified himself in an attempt to show he was younger. He was a left-handed Dominican pitcher who went by Yoldi Sierra.
• The final two players to complete that now-six-player class will be Mexican right-handed pitchers Mario Zapari and Remberto Romo.
First Published September 15, 2008 12:00 am