GLENDALE, Ariz. — It isn’t yet official, but Adam LaRoche is prepared to retire and leave behind a $13 million salary.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday afternoon he would wait to receive official word only hours after the veteran first baseman made the surprising announcement to teammates during a morning meeting.
In a last-ditch effort to keep him on the roster, the White Sox have asked LaRoche to reconsider his choice overnight. But manager Robin Ventura conceded that LaRoche, whom he spoke to on Monday night, isn’t one to make a rash decision. Were he to make it official, LaRoche would walk away from all of the $13 million he was set to earn in the final season of a two-year deal with the White Sox.
“It’s not a knee-jerk reaction for him,” Ventura said. “He thinks things out well in advance, and you give him time to be able to do that. I wish we could still give him time to be able to do that. Any time you’re trying to talk to a guy in that situation, you want to make sure he’s thought it all the way through. You give him as much time as he needs to be able to do it. He thinks things out.”
All signs are present that another night won’t convince LaRoche to stay.
Several hours after he informed his teammates of the news, LaRoche sent out a Tweet: “Thank u Lord for the game of baseball and for giving me way more than I ever deserved! #Family First”
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The slugger’s son, Drake, a fixture in the clubhouse the past season, also left signed versions of his jersey in the stalls of John Danks and Chris Sale to thank them for their friendship.
Even though Hahn said the back spasms that have sidelined LaRoche for more than a week this spring have improved, shortstop Jimmy Rollins wondered if health played a factor.
LaRoche, 36, missed the last few weeks of a dismal 2015 campaign with patella tendonitis. Earlier in the season he was bothered by a wrist injury, and he also occasionally wore an ice pack on his lower back.
“Once a guy makes his mind up, it’s made up,” Rollins said. “If you can get to him before that point your job is just to listen.
“When you get the whole speech it’s like ‘Wow, this is really happening.’ Usually that decision is made before spring training or at the end of the season. He was going to come and give himself a chance. And he’s dealing with back issues again, you start weighing those things out.”
LaRoche briefly spoke to reporters from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times and identified a personal issue he wanted to keep “between me and the guys” as the primary reason for the decision. LaRoche intends to explain further why he wants to retire after he takes another day or two.
But LaRoche also sounds comfortable in his decision.
“I’m confident I am stepping away from baseball,” LaRoche told reporters. “My teammates have asked me for an hour (to reconsider). I’ve tried to convince them I am convinced, but I will do them that and give it a day or two and then come back in and finish the story.
“I didn’t come in (Monday) because I wanted to make sure it was the right move and not make an emotional decision. But I’m confident it is.”
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Teammates said they are stunned by the news.
Todd Frazier sits in the stall next to LaRoche and didn’t have a clue he would call it quits. Frazier sounded both respectful and disappointed that he wouldn’t play next to LaRoche, who has a strong reputation in the clubhouse.
“I’m going to miss him,” Frazier said. “It’s his decision. He decided what he wants to do. Really good guy. You’ve got to respect his decision. Love the guy to death. Known him for almost a month now, he’s going to be missed.
“I didn’t hear anything about it. Came in today and said he was going to retire. That was about it.
“Guy that caliber — he has been around for a long time. Shoot, we want him to be on this squad. We want him to go with us, and he just made his own decision.”
Hahn won’t rule out a return until he’s told the decision is final. But same as LaRoche, he sounds as if he expects LaRoche won’t change his mind.
“After extensive conversations with him, between us, him and the coaches and his teammates, you have to be respectful of the guy and understand his perspective and where he’s coming from,” Hahn said. “We’ll make adjustments and move on.
“At this point it’s simply too early to know how it’s going to play out exactly.”