He has never figured out why he struggles in April, but Adam LaRoche at least has an idea how to handle himself.
The White Sox designated hitter/first baseman’s .716 career OPS for April is 76 points lower than his next lowest month (June) and 95 below his overall .811.
While he’s frustrated, LaRoche, whose homer Saturday is only his second hit in 17 at-bats this season, knows he needs to slow down the process, that ramping it up can only do more damage. He hopes his teammates can shake off their early struggles as well and let their ability take over.
“When you struggle and you’re losing games, it makes it really tough,” LaRoche said. “If you’re struggling and you’re still winning games, you can get through that and it’s fine. But when you have a chance to help the team out and not do it — just as a group we need to relax and realize how good we are and let it happen.”
Whether it was the flu or a sore back, LaRoche missed a fair amount of time in spring training. He finished with 46 official at-bats but also played a few minor league games to get up to speed. While LaRoche has hit three balls hard, one resulted in a double and the other robbed by Lorenzo Cain, he’s still trying to get his feel at the plate.
He’s also acclimating to his new DH role, something that is an adjustment but one he expects to make. Having indoor cages at his disposal helps, too.
“It’s different but I’ll get used to it,” LaRoche said. “It’s a lot easier here. Spring training you can’t go anywhere. Here you’ve got a cage down here and you can move around, go get some swings in between at-bats. It’ll be a little break-in period here but I’ll be fine.”
Manager Robin Ventura knows how much of an adjustment it is to go from the field to DH. Players have to find a way to stay busy and keep themselves focused. Though it has only been a few days, Ventura likes how LaRoche has handled it.
“You don't feel like you're really in the game as much as you do when you've always been a guy on the field,” Ventura said. “It can become an uncomfortable thing for some guys. He's getting better at it. He has some good guys to lean on and try to kind of get that feeling back. He's done well with it so far. He's not a guy for excuses.”
LaRoche also isn’t a guy who panics. He has been down that road before during his 11-year career and knows self-inflicted damage is the worst kind. The experience gives him confidence he’s due for a hot streak.
“This is nothing I haven’t been through before,” LaRoche said. “I’ve had a lot of years where it has taken me a minute to get going. The bright side there is I’ve been through it before. A younger me would get really frustrated, but I know that doesn’t help accomplish anything.”