Adam LaRoche's season-long slump just won't end.
The White Sox designated hitter/first baseman was back on the bench for Tuesday night's game against the Angels, replaced as the DH by Melky Cabrera, who made his first start there as a member of the White Sox, while Trayce Thompson started in left field.
LaRoche is batting just .213 on the season, more than 20 points lower than his previous career-low mark in a full season. Same goes for his .304 on-base percentage and his nightmarishly low .344 slugging percentage, the fifth-lowest among qualified hitters in the American League. He had just 15 hits in July, four of which came in one game. He's homered once in his past 36 games.
Manager Robin Ventura has hope that LaRoche will turn things around at some point, and with his 2015 output nowhere near his career numbers, you'd have to think that something's got to click eventually.
"There's definitely frustration on his part," Ventura said. "But I thought last night he had a couple good at-bats, didn't really get anything out of it. It's frustrating. I know what it feels like. It's not always fun to go through that. But knowing him and what he does every day, you like the fact that he's probably been through some rough patches before, so he can withstand it and deep down know he can help us."
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But hope or no hope, this is the second time in three games that LaRoche hasn't started. With Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn proclaiming this season not yet over and still focusing on a potential late surge to reach the postseason, will the desire to play the best lineup force LaRoche to the bench on a more regular basis? Is LaRoche still an everyday player?
Ventura didn't have a definite answer, saying instead that some of the team's reserves, such as the young Thompson, allow for mixing and matching of lineups.
"I think right now you can match it up because we have Trayce here," Ventura said. "If we have (J.B.) Shuck back, it might be a little bit different. If (Emilio Bonifacio) comes back, it might be a little bit different. But having Trayce, I think we can put him in there, we can get Melky time as a DH, get him a little bit of rest. So we can move Trayce around in the outfield."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of LaRoche's everyday credentials, but Ventura is still hoping that LaRoche will turn things around and be the bat Hahn envisioned when he signed him as a free agent this past offseason.
"At this point, you're looking at what's happening from now to the end of the year, and you're not necessarily looking at what's behind them and those numbers or anything like that," the manager said. "You want them to feel good and be productive and help you from this point going forward. So that's what you focus on."