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.