Washington Nationals introduce new 1B Adam LaRoche

At the news conference introducing him as the Washington
Nationals’ first baseman, Adam LaRoche tried on a red cap with the
curly white ”W,” and it felt a little big. So he checked inside
and, sure enough, saw it was the wrong size – 7 3/4 instead of his
usual 7 3/8.

Then, as is customary at such events, LaRoche donned his new
team’s jersey, a white No. 25, but flubbed the buttons, missing the
top one. When the first question from a reporter came, LaRoche
paused before answering and adjusted the buttons, saying, ”Hang on
one second. Sorry. Having some issues today.”

Friday’s wardrobe problems aside, the Nationals are sure they
found the right match in LaRoche, a free agent who agreed last week
to a two-year deal with a mutual option for 2013. The contract
reportedly guarantees him $16 million.

General manager Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman described
LaRoche as someone who will improve Washington’s defense and its
versatility on offense, two goals this offseason.

LaRoche is ”a player that we identified early in the process as
a guy that fit perfectly for our ballclub – offensively,
defensively, left side of the plate, great character on and off the
field, good in the dugout, good in the clubhouse, good in the
community,” Rizzo said.

Riggleman praised LaRoche as ”outstanding” defensively and
said he probably will hit fourth or fifth in the lineup, with third
baseman Ryan Zimmerman at No. 3, and new right fielder Jayson Werth
– he of the $126 million, seven-year contract – filling another
3-4-5 spot.

LaRoche, who has a .995 career fielding percentage, takes over
at first base for Adam Dunn, who left to sign with the Chicago
White Sox.

”I don’t compare myself to Adam. I think we’re two different
players, other than that we play the same position,” LaRoche said.
”I’m not going to come in and put pressure on myself to try to do
what he did and match his numbers, good or bad, defense,
offense.”

The 31-year-old LaRoche hit .261 with 25 homers and a
career-high 100 RBIs for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, when
he struck out 172 times. He has a career .271 average with 161
homers and 569 RBIs during seven major league seasons with four
clubs.

LaRoche acknowledged he’s looked forward to facing the
last-place Nationals in the past – and he hopes to help change the
way opponents view the team.

”I can tell you how I saw it playing against these guys for a
few years – and that was pretty comfortable, coming in here to play
a series,” he said.

Additions such as Werth are part of what can start changing
that, LaRoche noted.

”I think I can speak for everybody here: They’re just tired of
losing. And that’s why a lot of these moves are taking place,
moving in a positive direction,” he said. ”As far as the respect
from other teams and getting teams to come in here and actually be
nervous, and not looking forward to playing the Nationals –
(that’s) the ultimate goal.”

NOTES: Years ago, LaRoche spoke publicly about dealing with
attention-deficit disorder; he was asked about it Friday, and said
he takes medicine daily. … Rizzo said RHP Stephen Strasburg will
be in Florida when Nationals pitchers and catchers arrive – they’re
due to report Feb. 15 – and ”he’ll begin his throwing program.”
Strasburg, who had reconstructive elbow surgery in September,
”will throw off the mound when the doctors tell him he’s going to
throw off the mound – and not a moment sooner,” Rizzo said. …
The GM also said C Jesus Flores, 2B Danny Espinosa and RHPs Garrett
Mock and J.D. Martin are expected to be ready for the start of
spring training.